Buzz Lightyear and the gang are back in this fast-action family game, which is inspired by the Disney/Pixar feature film Toy Story 2
. Your mission is to keep Woody the Cowboy from falling into the hands of a toy collector. Film favorites Hamm the pig, Rex the dinosaur, and Slinky the dog are back to help you save your friend in this 3-D-based action game.
While movie-based games are always a hit-or-miss venture, this title does look promising. A quick peek at this game reveals that it succeeds in preserving the charm and humor that characterizes the hit film. The cute, colorful design of the various game levels does not come at the expense of gameplay. You'll have to travel through 15 levels and five nasty bosses, including the evil Zurg, to get to the end of this graphically impressive game. Fortunately, you'll have several special weapons to help your cause, including rocket jet boots, an arm laser, moon spring boots, and a grappling hook. Young and old Disney fans will definitely want to give this game a try.
The N64 version of Toy Story 2 surprisingly doesn't win any graphics competitions against the PlayStation game, and actually falls short of the 32-bit companion. The gameplay, however, salvages what the visual side is lacking. Unfortunately, the lack of animated cutscenes from the film is sorely missed. Part of what makes the Toy Story 2 game experience fun is that it's like interacting with the movie. Still screens with oversimplified text just doesn't seem the Pixar way. Toy Story 2 is something like n-Space's Rugrats: Search for Reptar in that it has mission-based levels set off a hub, which, in both cases, is a house, and that it follows the film's scenarios to a T. Toy Story 2 is larger, with about 15 levels (three levels within five zones) you can play through them either as quickly and easily or as difficultly as you wish. By picking up all the items and solving all the puzzles, Toy Story 2 has a bit more complexity than Rugrats, which probably exists more in the "good for kids" category. Toy Story 2 wants to appeal to a broad range of gamers, not just kids, and this is obvious in its level design. In each of the levels you have several objectives. You have puzzles to solve, tokens to collect, enemies to fight, and items to find - in addition to a boss fight at the end of zone. However, once you complete one objective, you have the option to move on, fight the boss, and work your way to the next zone. It's usually easy to acquire 50 tokens in a level, as they're scattered about the environment, often lending clues as to which obstacles you can jump on, and so forth. You can also pick up tokens from dead toys you've destroyed with your Buzz Lightyear laser. Eventually you must go back and replay levels, if you haven't picked up all the goods, as you'll need a decent-sized stash of Pizza Planet tokens to advance toward the final stages. But as in any game, you learn certain skills as you progress that will make stages that had seemed difficult in the beginning much easier. The graphics, however, were disappointing. Not bad, but not what you'd hope for from the N64 - given what developers started out with in the Toy Story motif. With movie license games, it's easy to assume that the PlayStation/N64 trade-off, should both versions exist, will be graphics for the N64 and sound and fmv for the PlayStation. This is not the case. The PlayStation version actually has both, and the N64 offering was pretty weak. Without scenes from the film, the movie's energy is gone. The look and feel is there, but the mood is not. The environments are colorful; they're mostly easy to get around in and free of depth perception. But the color seemed a little flat on the N64, even with the same nice touches found in the PlayStation version, such as Buzz's reflection being visible from inside his space helmet when you're in targeting or close-up mode. The cameras presented a bit of a problem. You could choose passive or active cameras, with either you in charge of the camera or the camera in charge of itself. You decide. What's good is that you can change between active and passive cameras on the fly during gameplay. You'll probably find yourself doing this quite often in the beginning. When the active camera is agreeable, it's suspiciously good. But then, seconds later, you'll find yourself cornered in an alley, pushing a box next to a chair that you must jump on to leap onto a scale that will in turn send you soaring into the air. This isn't fun with a camera whipping around you like a mosquito, yet you've too much going on to manage your camera while you navigate your jumps, grabs, and leaps. This becomes a problem far too often, dragging the game's overall score down a bit. It's certainly not the worst camera system out there, and you will get used to it and probably settle on the active camera at some point, cursing your way through the game. It proves the game to be yet another notch away from being a kid's game. For a movie with generous voice-over already in the can, you'd expect an overload of catch phrases and one-liners in the licensed game. This is not the case, and Crystal Dynamics could learn a thing or two for Gex from this one. It's a simple model: Less is more. The voices from the film are intact, but they're not out of hand, at least Buzz's voice isn't. It does get a bit annoying when Hamm whines, "Buzz, come 'ere" the entire time you're in his territory. And Sarge's pep talk gets old pretty fast. But for the most part, the catch phrases are few and far between - just enough to make it interesting without driving you to the brink. And the music? Toy Story music. 'Nuff said.--Lauren Fielder
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