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Next Best Thing to the Actual Ride
on September 16, 2009
At Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World, the manic, wildly entertaining Toy Story Mania ride opened in 2008 to rave reviews, long lines and a lot of ecstatic, happy customers. When Disney announced production of a home version for the Nintendo Wii, fans rejoiced, but with a touch of skepticism: Could a home version possibly do justice to the amazing ride? Turns out, the answer is....yessss.....mostly....
Toy Story Mania (the Wii game) is a polished, beautifully crafted game that captures the ride's most important element--the pace and feel of the target games--perfectly. The plate-smashing, balloon-popping, hoop-tossing fun arrives intact. What's missing, of course are the giddy spinning of the ride vehicles, state-of-the-art 3D, water spray and air blasts...And the half hour waiting lines.
Writing as an adult fan of the ride, let me answer the question other theme park fans want to know: Is the home version worth a purchase?
Yes. Just keep your expectations realistic. This is, at its heart, a mini-game collection based around the themes and characters of Toy Story. All the games from the ride are represented (including the pie toss practice round), but not as they appear at the parks: That would be impossible to replicate. Instead, each of the ride's five main games are each represented by three separate, smaller shooting galleries, each filled with goals and secrets. The home version is padded out with additional carnival-style games that range from fun (skeeball and basketball hoops) to average (simon-says waggle fests). In addition to a front-and-center story mode that roughly follows the ride's progression, there are 5 additional story modes--one for each theme (Space, Western, Army, Barnyard and Bo Beep). By playing through each themed story mode, you encounter each theme's 3 shooting galleries and 2 to 3 additional games. Once you unlock each game (through goal achievements or prize tickets), you can head to the game creator area and make your own version of the game to play through. I imagine most players will immediately line up all the shooting galleries and never look at the other mini games again.
Here's the heart of the matter: The shooting galleries are pure gold. No question, they are the reason to consider buying this game. Aiming and firing with the Wii remote feels great--I recommend turning off the cursor for a truer-to-the-ride experience.
The presentation starts off beautifully, with a fully animated intro in which the toys set up the game you're about to play. This is the backstory of the ride, and it's great fun to see it finally brought to life with dazzling Pixar animation. It's right about here, however that you'll also notice one big disappointing aspect of this game: The compete lack of actual music from the films. The game's music score is pleasant (and actually very effective in the army and space sequences), but it's a bit disheartening to find that, with all the care and attention to detail that went into this game, the Powers That Be couldn't fork over a bit of extra cash to license "You've Got a Friend In Me." Cue the old hag from Princess Bride: "BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!" One other beef: Most shooting galleries end by asking you to shake the remote for extra points. Note to all game producers: Shaking the Wii's remote over and over is not fun. It's never been fun. It never will be fun. No more shaking!
Back to the positives: The character animation throughout is superb. The visual style of the shooting galleries is perfect. The voice work (by almost the entire original cast) is great, though there should be more (you'll hear the same gags repeated before the round in progress ends. R. Lee Ermy is his usual awesome self in the army sequences.
The game includes six 3D renditions of select shooting galleries which must be unlocked and played using the included 3D glasses. Do not expect the same 3D you get on the ride. This is the red/blue style that drains away the color. It does provide an effective, fun sensation that you're actually firing into your television screen. After a few 3D rounds, however, I came away with a headache. Still, it's a nice bonus feature. Ride-themed Wiimote faceplates are also included.
All in all, it's a fun, good-humored, visually dazzling home version of the ride. With the do-it-yourself game sequencer, you can eliminate the extra mini games and simply play the awesome shooting galleries.
Not bad at all. I recommend it for fans of the ride and anyone looking for a fun party game.