Game Review: Toy Story

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Let’s take a trip back to 1996 tonight and look at one of the famous Disney games on the Sega Genesis. Now if you’re not familiar with the Disney games from those days, they were notorious for being some of the best (albeit notoriously difficult) platformers of their time. Today we’re going to go back to Toy Story on the Sega Genesis and see if we should take these toys out of the toy box once again or put them away in the attic for good.

I’m going to come out and say this right away, Toy Story is my favourite Disney movie of all time. There’s no story quite like the one we follow with Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the toys. Much like most of these Disney games from that era, this game can appeal to both children and adults alike with the increasing difficulty and instantly recognizable characters from the movie. The great thing about Toy Story is that it doesn’t just put itself into one category, there are many different types of stages that will keep you guessing at every turn and keep you playing on until you finally reach the end.

The story follows the movie very closely often tying the gameplay together with storyboards between levels and even incorporating the deleted scene, Nightmare Buzz, into a boss fight. When you first pop the Toy Story cartridge into your console, you quickly find some fairly simple platforming levels. You control Woody the cowboy as you try and make your way through Andy’s room, the first level serves more as a feeling out level than anything. After you make it through the first couple, things start coming at you harder and faster and you begin to lose some of your lives which become very precious as time goes on.

A lot of characters from the movie are represented in the game.

The game consists of 17 levels on the Genesis version and of those levels, there are at least 5 different types of levels all with different gameplay that really keep you on your toes. The platforming levels with Woody are fairly straight forward and very nicely put together. Woody has a lasso that can latch on to hook and temporarily trap enemies in rope. It makes it easier to get by enemies but, that’s about the extent of weaponry in this game which is disappointing but, it’s as you would expect with a Disney game. Woody has many different types of objectives in his different levels such as putting the toys back in the toy box in the allotted time, racing Buzz(although it’s not much of a race), and even riding to the end of the level on Rex and Roller Bob. There are other types of levels in the game where you play as RC and try to get to the end of the level before running out of batteries which either pop out of Buzz (in the first level you play as him) or are found on the ground along you way. There’s a great level where you have to utilize some stealth elements to pass through Pizza Planet without being noticed with both Buzz and Woody being under a cup and burger case. You also have to watch out for falling food! That’s easily one of the most hilarious levels I’ve ever seen in a game.

Storyboards piece together each level.

As you move further into the game it gets much harder than most people would envision. The claw machine was easily the most frustrating part of the entire game for me when I first played this when I was younger. As you make your way through the platforming stage of the claw machine, you are taking to a level that reminds me of Wolfenstein 3D finding aliens and putting them back into the machine. After that your goal is to get the Claw machine to leave Buzz which is extremely tough and time consuming, the level is complete when Sid runs out of coins. You then find yourself at another platforming stage in Sid’s room which is just a ridiculously difficult stage if you can get through it but it ends with Woody using some karate chop action with Buzz to fend off the toys.

Remind you of Wolfenstein 3D? It sure does to me.

The end of the game is less about the platforming aspect and more about the other types of gameplay involved. After Sid’s room, you find yourself on Roller Bob going through the house all the while trying to stay away from Scud, Sid’s dog. After that it’s a race back to Andy’s house to pick up Buzz with Wood on RC. This level plays like OutRun with the added difficulty of grabbing the batteries to make sure that RC keeps going. That level is exclusive to the Genesis version. The next level is the top down perspective of driving RC and is one of the more confusing levels I’ve played. It just doesn’t have any pattern to follow and the power depletes so quickly that if you miss more than one you pretty much have to start over. The last level is a flying level where you fly in and out of traffic attempting to get back to Andy’s van. That level is very generic and quite a let down from the other more inspired levels in the game.

Some levels require you to navigate through obstacles while riding on Roller Bob or Rex.

There are a couple different boss battles in the game that are actually pretty enjoyable and are based on deleted scenes and regular scenes from the movie. The first boss battle is Nightmare Buzz in which you have to defeat Buzz with your lasso in a dream sequence. The second battle is against the real Buzz at the gas station before Pizza Planet where you have to trap him in a tire to defeat him. The problem I had with the bosses in this one is that there should have been a lot more near the end of the game like when Woody was trying to get back on the moving truck in the movie. It seems like at the end of the game they just mailed it in and created some really generic and downright boring levels compared to the start and middle of the game. I really feel like the developers just ran out of time at the end and tried to complete it as quickly as possible.

This is the last level and, in my opinion, the most uninspired in the game.

Graphically, this game is a two-faced demon. I love how the characters look in Toy Story, I liken it to Donkey Kong Country which is another one of my favourites but, it’s not that consistent. Some levels have brilliant design and can stand up to the best looking Genesis games while others are among the worst looking Genesis games. The last level looked absolutely terrible in my opinion and was a really sour ending to what was a really good game for the most part. The other bad sequence that I wish was left out was the Wolfenstein-esque level that just didn’t compute with the Genesis hardware.

Obviously, this was a very ambitious game that probably would have been better suited for an attempt on the Saturn. Despite that, Toy Story is still one of my favourites on the Genesis with a lot of diverse levels and a lot of different ways to play. It’s definitely more than a standard platformer and certainly deserves a playthrough if you haven’t already but, expect a difficult time because this is not a game that let’s you fly through it. This game WILL frustrate you but, if you give it a chance you’ll find it’s one of the better Disney games out there.

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