previews\ Jun 9, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Toy Story 3 Preview


Andy is grown up and is headed to college, which is no place for a toy to be so he donates his collection of plastic companions to a daycare center. That is the basis for the video-game adaptation of Toy Story 3, a game that is split into two separate modes - Story and Toy Box.

Story mode follows the plot of the new movie, and the adventures of everyone's favorite toys. The human world wasn't built with the needs of six-inch action figures in mind. Simple tasks, such as opening a door or scaling the treacherous heights of counter tops, become monumental endeavors to escape the horrors of careless, drooling toddlers. Over the course of nine levels, the game slips between reality and the realm of fantasy in which Buzz really is an intergalactic hero capable of flying through the infinite cosmos while blasting evil-doers with lasers.

While Story mode is a straightforward adventure, Toy Box mode is an open world ready to become your personal playground. I stood in the dusty square of an old western town unsure of what to do, so I moseyed over to a horse and saddled up. An option for a race popped up in front of me and I eagerly entered. The track twisted and turned through cacti and canyons as I valiantly rode my plastic steed to victory.

I barely had time to celebrate my victory before a pop-up announced that the town's bank was being robbed. I turned my horse around and raced back in time to see a masked outlaw trying to make off with a bag of stolen cash. I dismounted, selected the rubber balls from my inventory, and pelted him into submission. I picked up the bandit and threw him into the jail. Unfortunately, two of his friends escaped, and took some of my money with them.

Money is an important feature of Toy Box mode that allows you to customize the landscape as you see fit. You can change the colors and the themes of buildings, and you can purchase new outfits for the LEGO-esque citizens. If you see a fashion disaster walk by, pick him up and throw him into the nearest clothing store for a wardrobe change, or the barber shop for a haircut. You can even use the Goo Machine to make things shrink and grow. Go ahead and try it on the horse. Afterward, it's like watching a sumo wrestler trying to ride a chihuahua.

There are missions to complete and villains to battle in Toy Box mode, if you so choose. Using the town as a hub, you can travel to toy-inspired environments, including a racetrack, the spaceport, and the enchanted glen. I ventured into a haunted house, where gargoyles with wheels for legs tried to hunt me down as I navigated a maze of trap doors and secret rooms. The goals were simple and quick to keep any threat of boredom at bay while spinning and twisting platforms provided just enough challenge to keep me on my toes.

Too often games geared towards kids, especially those based on movies and TV shows, aspire to be little more than meaningless filler with recognizable characters. Instead, Avalanche is giving Toy Story 3 the attention it deserves, and more importantly, giving kids the sandbox-style gameplay that the big kids have.

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