Based on the attraction of the same name at Disney theme parks, and featuring characters from the Disney/Pixar films, Toy Story Mania! is a multiplayer mini-game collection, available exclusively for the Wii. While many of the games are entertaining enough and the graphical presentation is top notch, even Buzz Lightyear can’t save Toy Story Mania! from a sometimes frustrating user experience.
With its player demographics, less muscular technical specs and motion controller, the Wii tends to attract mini-game offerings like no other platform. Developers seem to like this format as well and one reason is that putting together a collection of relatively simple games in a package is usually cheaper (and quicker) than producing a full-featured game. The reality is that there are only so many variations on most mini games, but Disney Interactive has the advantage of a popular movie franchise with characters that most kids know and love, so they’re able to dress up the games we’ve seen before, re-skin them with Toy Story visuals, and make them much more appealing than they might otherwise be. So we have 30 variations on classics like pie throwing (with Buzz and Woody ducking the cream pies), throwing darts in Bo-Peep’s pasture and target shooting in a Western town with Jessie introducing the game. Then there are games that use the Wii’s motion controller, like guiding a marble through a maze (with the Green Army Men), a ring toss, or pumping the controller up and down to launch a rocket full of the squeeze toy Little Green Men. As I mentioned on opening, many of the games are entertaining enough with the bright graphics, animations and character involvement adding . As a bonus, some levels that can be unlocked are in 3D (two pairs of cardboard 3D glasses are included in the game case).
It all sounds reasonably good so far. Disney Interactive sent a review copy and I cracked it open with the kids (ages 7, 7 and 9, by the way). They were excited about the game itself -caught up in Toy Story mania, so to speak- and they liked the animated introduction, but I quickly had to step to help with the navigation. Even simple things like choosing the number of players frequently ended in multiple trips back to the start screen (we’re talking five or six times); I don’t know if there was a system glitch or they continually hit the wrong button after selecting the number of players, but an incorrect button at this stage should either be ignored or trigger a prompt, not kick you back to start over. Selecting anything involves maneuvering a claw around the screen to grasp controls and that also caused some confusion. If you want to play a quick game, the Pie Toss is the only one available until you play through in story mode to unlock others. Pie Toss was fun enough for a few minutes, but at the end of the game, no matter how many pies hit the bullseyes, everyone’s score was always zero; it seemed stuck in practice mode. We tried this multiple times until the boys got bored and wandered away. I unlocked more games in story mode, which helped rekindle interest somewhat, but it would be nice to have a more intuitive start to things. Annoyances frequently affected game play. For example, the targeting ring would sometimes flicker off and on in the midst of a shooting game, while at other times Buzz or another character will pop up to warn you times is running out, but block your view of targets while doing so. To make matters worse, I had system crashes including a spectacular one I’ve never experienced on the Wii before that locked the screen accompanied by a piercing sound like a smoke detector going off. Resetting the Wii wouldn’t clear this one and I had to turn the system off to restore order.
I haven’t been able to garner sufficient player interest to reach the point of unlocking the 3D games, so I can’t comment on how successful they are. It seems to me as though the game was rushed through QA to coincide with the 3D re-release of Toy Story last month, but it definitely could have used a few more weeks in development.
Toy Story Mania! from Disney Interactive Studios
Wired: Bright and colorful graphics add visual appeal, games are often entertaining, most kids know and love the Toy Story characters.
Tired: Navigation system can be befuddling, we’ve seen most of these mini games before, scoring system can confuse kids (and the odd adult), game is glitchy and prone to crashes.