Licensed games have always had a chequered past but one franchise that has always seemingly done better than others is the Toy Story games. That could just be me looking through rose-tinted glasses – particularly with the first and second instalments – but the third one definitely rose above other licensed games.
It is just tough to stomach the fact that Toy Story 3 is ten years old. When it first released, most fans were only children when the first two released, and now here we were as young adults excited to see what these characters we’d grown up with were doing with themselves. That was ten years ago, and I can no longer call myself a young adult.
Toy Story 3: The Video Game launched in the United States on 15th June 2010 to coincide with the release of the film of the same name. It launched a month later in the UK on 16th July. Predominantly a platformer game, there were two distinct game modes: story mode, which was based loosely around the events of the film, and Toy Box mode, which is perhaps what the game is more well-known for.
The story mode was very run of the mill: levels were based around certain sections of the film, including the runaway train from the opening scenes, the prison break and the incinerator (though the game version of this scene was far less heartbreaking). Once a level was completed it could be replayed at any time by choosing it from the select menu, which was represented as a board game not unlike The Game of Life, with each level represented by a building along the path.
Having the level select was useful, as specific levels had bonus objectives to complete which granted players achievements. One in particular that will forever stand out in my head is the achievement called Sneaky Sneaky. For this, you had to complete the Prison Break level without tripping any alarms. For a platformer to contain a stealth section is always going to trigger a red flag in my mind, but this was something else.
This level started with Woody being told his friends are locked up in various places inside Sunnyside Daycare, and that they would need to avoid the spotlights and evil Buzz Lightyear who was patrolling the ground.
Jessie could be quickly rescued, allowing you to control her – alongside Woody and Jessie you could also control Buzz Lightyear. All of these characters had unique abilities – but once you were in the main area things got tricky. Tables could be used to rise above the patrolling vehicles that all had a set pattern, but the patrolling evil Buzz – who you couldn’t control in this level – was usually the one who got you. It felt like his patrol route was completely random; one moment he could be on the other side of the map out of sight and then next thing you know is he’s caught you, and you must restart the level if you wanted the achievement.
There were some spotlights on the walls, and as you clung to various shelves or picture frames, awkwardly timed jumps meant a restart if things went wrong. It was tough but worth it, as Toy Story 3 became my third ever 1000G completion.
The other mode – that of the Toy Box – was far more in-depth. This was much more open-ended than the story missions and acted like a little mini open-world. The only problem when you started was that it needed populating with buildings and residents. You didn’t start with much in this mode but through completing errands for the residents you would unlock parts and areas in Toy Box mode. There were also unique items that could only be earned in the story mode, for use here.
At the start of Toy Box mode there was only a small Western town where Sheriff Woody was in charge. It quickly built up with several additions, including a race track, a spaceport for Emperor Zurg, and tons more. By completing missions and errands you earned gold to buy new buildings and areas from the world-famous Al’s Toy Barn.
Once you started to unlock extra areas you could really start to explore the surroundings. Toy Box mode was chock-a-block with things to do and hidden items, and not just from Toy Story. Other Pixar franchises were present including Finding Nemo, WALL-E, The Incredibles and Monsters, Inc. For me and many others, this was the main mode of Toy Story 3; the story mode felt rushed and like a last-minute addition in comparison.
The real beauty of Toy Box mode was that you felt like you were building your own sandbox to explore. Most other open-worlds would give you the tools in a fully built world, but here you got to see the world-building first hand.
To seal the deal, both story mode and Toy Box mode featured drop-in/drop-out local multiplayer, which was great for kids and parents to play together.
For those that missed it when first released – and subsequently when given away as part of the Xbox Games with Gold scheme – Toy Story 3 is available as part of the Backwards Compatibility programme at the price of £8.99, allowing you to not just play on Xbox 360, but also on Xbox One. Much like the previous Toy Story games, they are by far better than most licensed games. It is therefore a shame that the latest Toy Story 4 film didn’t get a tie-in video game on consoles (though the less said about that film the better, in my humble opinion).
Toy Story 3 was a game that both big and little kids could enjoy. The story mode didn’t take longer than six hours to complete, but the real meat of the game – and most fun – was in Toy Box mode. It is a game that will stick with me throughout the rest of my gaming career, not just for the bloody annoying Sneaky Sneaky achievement, but for the sheer amount of joy to be had exploring this open-world, playing the part of Woody riding on the back of Bullseye.
What are your memories of Toy Story 3? Head to the comments section and let’s talk. After all: you’ve got a friend in me!