Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day and when a package arrived the other day containing review copies of Disney Interactive’s Toy Story 3 video game, it was a reminder that I had a small stack of games in various stages of testing completion. With Toy Story 3 obviously being a movie tie-in, and a few more of those in the house, I thought I’d go for a quick round up of three games based on recently released movies: Iron Man 2, Alice in Wonderland and Toy Story 3. Of the three, one held firmly to the generalization that movie adaptation games tend to disappoint, while the other two were a pleasant surprise.
Sega’s Iron Man 2 for the DS was eagerly seized upon by my 7 year olds, Jon and Aidan, on its arrival. The excitement lasted for roughly an hour each before wearing off, then Iron Man 2 was popped out and replaced with Mario Kart, never to be picked up again. Not a good sign. I sat down with a DSi XL on loan from Nintendo and gave the game a whirl myself. The training sessions went well enough, but the controls were probably a bit much for the boys to master which was likely part of their rapid indifference. In addition, Iron Man could be quickly taken out by enemies, while War Machine was clumsy; it was often busy with projectiles coming from all directions and with iffy graphics and too much taking place at once on a little screen, the game could become overwhelming at times. The big issues I had with the side scroller were a sense a detachment (it really didn’t feel as though I was piloting Iron Man, as opposed to any generic flying guy) and a quick onset of repetition. I also found the DS graphics a little underwhelming and, with the exception of cut scenes, noticeably pixelated, probably because the attempt to create the sense of a large environment with a gaggle of moving armored opponents and a recognizable character is asking a bit much of the system. On the DSi XL, it looked even worse compared to the kids’ DS Lites. For most players, I’d say you’ll probably want to pass on this one. Outside of the movie connection, there’s nothing particularly compelling about it and the shortcomings can quickly become frustrating. If you have mobile Iron Man fans in the house, I wouldn’t necessarily call this one a waste of money, but you might want to pick up a copy when it goes on sale.
Iron Man 2
Rated T for Teen
I don’t think the kids were sure about what to make of Disney Interactive’s version of Alice in Wonderland for the DS. Instead of following the usual path of trying to emulate the visuals of the movie it’s based upon, the game designers went with stylized, two dimensional animated illustration-style versions. Anyone expecting to fire this game up and see Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter is going to be in for a shock, but I think it was a great decision. Freed up from trying to replicate the movie (the only real visual cues from the film are found in some of the obviously Tim Burton-esque backgrounds), the characters are delightfully animated and the game’s visual style -2 dimensional side scrolling with minimalist gray graphics and only the occasional splash of color- looks great. The limited use of color is put to good use in effects like crimson and black bad guys, creeping green fog and dispersing beams of purple light. Alice in Wonderland is comprised of a series of puzzles and quests as the player seeks to re-assemble Underland (which the Queen of Hearts has torn to pieces), with each of the playable characters (McTwisp the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat, Absolem the Caterpillar and the Mad Hatter) possessing unique abilities needed to progress. For example, McTwist can manipulate time, allowing him to get past a gaping chasm by speeding up plant growth nearby, creating a natural bridge. Each of the characters is also tasked with leading Alice through Underland and if they forget to prod her along, it’s not long before a vortex appears dumping playing card red knights who will abduct her if the player doesn’t rush back and fend them off. Speaking of the card knights, one nice touch is the ability to have your character hit them, causing their armor to fall off, then blow into the DS microphone to send them floating away. A sense of humor is evident throughout the game and present in even the littlest details. When I first started the game, I wanted to adjust the sound and when I went to the settings screen, McTwist and Alice were dancing beneath the arch created by an over sized set of art deco headphones. Very nice. Once again, my boys passed on this one, but they aren’t big on puzzles. My 10 year old daughter spent quite a bit of time on it, however. I found myself playing around with it for an hour or so one day with no clear objective in mind, just enjoying the visuals. Subsequently, I got hooked on the game itself. I’m happy to recommend Alice in Wonderland. Although it may not appeal to fans of shoot-em-ups, anyone with an appreciation for puzzles, platformers and polished visuals will get a lot out of this one.
Alice in Wonderland for DS
Rated E for Everyone
Finally comes the game that kick started this catch-up exercise, Toy Story 3, also by Disney Interactive. I played the PS3 version and once again came away unexpectedly impressed: a movie-based video game that stands on its own and is fun to play! Actually, the developers took a split path on this one. There is a familiar story mode that’s loosely based on elements of the movie plot. Not much to say on this, other than the graphics were pretty much bang on (which is kind of expected when the source material is animated to start with and a PS3 is driving the visuals) and most of the original movie voice actors are represented. I ran into a few glitches, mostly with cut scenes skipping or stuttering on occasion and the controls -especially the camera- can be slightly wonky, but nothing that brought gameplay to a halt. That aside, the Story Mode made for a decent platformer, with multiple levels and the ability to play as Woody, Jessie or Buzz Lightyear. In the opening mission, playing with Woody involves racing Bullseye, running across a speeding train while dodging obstacles, throwing balls at LGMs, rescuing orphans and avoiding the blasts from evil Dr. Pork Chop’s spaceship; there are a half dozen or so other scenarios. On its own, Story Mode would probably meet expectations for a game based on a movie, although it’s rather short. What lifts it above and into the category of a really good game is its Toy Box Mode, which abandons the movie premise and drops the characters into a large, open, Western-themed environment where players can wander around at will. With split screen 2-player capability, an extra player can pop in or out at will and, unlike some games in our collection (Lego Star Wars for the Wii comes to mind), the two players can roam around independently -they aren’t tethered in any way, which helps to significantly cut the squabbles. The world is populated by characters who are always happy to provide quests consisting of various mini games that earn the gold players can use to purchase additional toys, buildings and characters to populate the world. Or they can wander around, pick up LGMs and toss them at will, paint buildings, mine gold deposits, accumulate customization options for toy characters (hair styles, hats, and outfits including Incredibles costumes and other Disney-themed gear) and generally use their imagination playing with stuff. As in the Story Mode, you can play as Woody, Jessie, or Buzz Lightyear, but PS3 owners have the option of unlocking Zurg as a playable character as well and can tear around in his car complete with his infamous ball-shooting cannon. Toy Box Mode makes the game, and while there are limits on what can be done, it definitely adds immensely to the replay value and is a great addition for kids who like to explore and just have fun rather than progress through a scripted series of missions. If you have young kids who are video gamers or Toy Story fans, Toy Story 3 is definitely worth picking up.
Toy Story 3 The Video Game
Rated E for Everyone