Toy Story Mania Review
By Gaetano Prestia
Toy Story Mania is a game you might feel obligated to love. Whether you’re a minor or an adult, it’s hard not to recognize and appreciate Pixar characters and themes, of which there are plenty throughout this title. Developer Papaya Studios have created a visually impressive offering that, when coupled with some accessible and fun mini-games, make for a decent family experience. While it offers nothing original to the party game genre, there is enough charm and Toy Story nostalgia to make this a worthy buy for younger gamers.
Toy Story Mania is based off of a ride of the same name at Disney theme parks around the world. While definitely aimed a younger crowd (one that wouldn’t normally be allowed onto larger rides) it has received critical acclaim for its high production values and thrill. You basically sit in a moving cart and move through Toy Story-themed areas with moving targets, helping distinguish the ride as a crossover between a rollercoaster and shooting gallery.
The Wii game essentially follows the exact same path, minus the moving cart. Most of the shooting gallery areas from the ride are supposedly in the game, having been converted over to the Wii to make use of the Wii-mote. Basing an entire game off a ride that lasts only a few minutes would be lacking in theory, so thankfully a whole bunch of other mini-games including the Toy Story characters have been included for your enjoyment.
The gameplay is good, with great physics and animations to make the areas look alive. It’s not a challenging experience by any means, but there is fun to be had in throwing pies at Woody and Buzz, or shooting baseballs at flying plates. Many of the Toy Story characters have been implemented into the mini-games well and there is the occasional cut-scene involving Woody and Buzz that is a nice breakup from the gameplay.
The obvious difference between the game and the actual ride is that the Wii game doesn’t give you the sensation that you’re actually on a track and moving from side-to-side, which kind of defeats the purpose of the experience. The ride has you pitted up against a friend in the same cart as you move through Toy Story-themed areas. But with Toy Story Mania on Wii, you just move from mini-game to mini-game without any real sense of progression. This unfortunately moves the title into generic mini-game country.
Excluding the visuals, which are great, the rest of the presentation is way off. The game is difficult to navigate through because you’re never really told what to do, and it’s hard to distinguish between the different modes at the main menu. Funnily enough, there’s too much of a focus on the Toy Story theme when it comes to the opening screen, as the toy eye-view and Andy’s room make for a confusing menu, one that makes it difficult to choose which game mode you actually want to play.
There’s also a Story Mode that has absolutely no story whatsoever, but is instead just a collection of mini-games, which is really no different to any of the other modes. There is a custom mode that lets you put together a collection of your own mini-games, and you’ll probably find yourself playing this mode the most so as to choose your favourite games together.
The multiplayer is a letdown, too. You can play up to four-players, but for whatever reason, the game only allows two players to play at any one time. We can only assume that this was to make the experience feel more like the ride, where only two people can move through at any one time, but considering the fact that there is no sensation of moving between areas in a cart like in the ride, surely they could have bypassed the restriction of only two simultaneous gamers at one point.
The Final Verdict
Toy Story Mania is a nice-looking title with good gameplay that ultimately fails to distance itself from other party games. There’s no originality in the gameplay, as fun as it can be, and the poor menu presentation and lacking multiplayer hinder the experience. There’s a lot more that could have been done to make this a good game, but it falls at the last hurdle, leaving it stranded with countless other decent party games on Wii. Still, it's great visuals and strong Toy Story theme make it a decent purchase for younger games who like the source material.