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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Wii of the weekend: ‘Toy Story Mania!’

Well, this is a huge letdown. A Toy Story game? How could that be less than awesome, I thought. And yet it’s not only disappointingly mundane and simplistic, it also has just about nothing to do with Toy Story. I was hoping for, I dunno, maybe a chance to explore Andy’s room, maybe have to figure out how to get his toys to work together to solve some puzzles or rescue Slinky or Mr. Potato Head from the mean kid next door. You know, something that feels like Toy Story.

Instead, there’s nothing here but a collection of midway games, ring tosses and balloon popping and such. Woody and Buzz and the gang “host” the games, and offer encouragements while you’re playing, but that’s it. It could just as easily be Donald Duck and Bugs Bunny hosting the games. Apparently the game is inspired by a ride at Disney World — which also, frankly, doesn’t look like it has much to do with the movies either — that folks say is a lot of fun. It’s been 20 years since I was at Disney World, though I don’t doubt that the attraction is a blast — the Disney rides are enormously entertaining. But I’d never have guessed from the game that it’s based on a theme-park attraction.
I’m sure Toy Story Mania! would be great for little kids, but I found the gameplay unchallenging — it was ridiculously simple to get through levels — and yet hugely frustrating: even though the game asked me for a name (you don’t use a Mii here) and was saving my progress, if I quit the game and came back later, I had to start all over again. I couldn’t even skip over the practice level, which was really annoying. And I did have to quit a couple of times because the game either crashed or the Wii remote wasn’t responding correctly. (I thought this might be a problem with my remote, that it needed to be recalibrated or that the batteries were running down, but neither of those seemed to be at issue: something about the game appeared to be lacking in the proper sensitivity needed to play.)

I’ve played other games that are good for the whole family, that little kids and experienced grownup players can have equal fun with, but this ain’t one of them. Good thing I only rented it from GameFly…

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  • Jurgan

    Ah, you’re growing up as a gamer: you’ve just experienced your first movie license let-down. There are exceptions, but about nine times out of ten you can count on movie licensed games to suck. I don’t think I need to explain the reasons to someone who’s observed the entertainment industry as thoroughly as you have, but I will say that there’s been a change in the way movie tie-ins have been made since I was a kid. It used to be that you’d make a kids’ movie and then, if it was a hit, you’d make a game based on it. These days, the game is released with the movie, as part of a synergistic strategy to cash in while the hype is still high. Maybe I’m remembering wrong, but I don’t think it used to be this way.

    even though the game asked me for a name (you don’t use a Mii here) and was saving my progress, if I quit the game and came back later, I had to start all over again.

    Really? Well, that’s just weird. That’s like back in the 8-bit days.

  • amanohyo

    If it’s a min-game collection, and it’s not made by Nintendo, stay away (most “harcore” gamers will tell you to stay away from mini-games period, but they harbor a secret love for Wii Sports).

    Here is a comprehensive list of movie-based games on the Wii that do not suck:

    Lego Star Wars
    Lego Indiana Jones

    We hope you’ve enjoyed movie-based games on the Wii that do not suck. Tune in next week for the thrilling conclusion: game-based movies that are actually kind of watchable…sort of… if you’re with a group of friends and you lower your expectations accordingly… and you can turn your brain off… with alcohol.

    Sneak preview: the list begins with Poke and ends with Mon.

  • Mo

    Yeah, unless you hear lots of rave reviews that a movie tie in game is incredible and better than anything else ever, stay away. There’s better stuff out there.

  • Macman

    Honestly the ride isn’t much of a ride either. Really they just move you from screen to screen, so you can play the midway games. It’s kind of like being on a conveyor belt through an arcade.

  • Psyclone

    I was hoping for, I dunno, maybe a chance to explore Andy’s room, maybe have to figure out how to get his toys to work together to solve some puzzles or rescue Slinky or Mr. Potato Head from the mean kid next door. You know, something that feels like Toy Story.

    The Toy Story game for the SNES and the Toy Story 2 game for the PSX both covered that territory pretty well. Of course, I was younger back then so my memories may be a bit skewed by the nostalgia filter, but even looking back at them they look substantially better than most licensed shovelware that comes out these days.

    Jurgan pretty much hit the nail on the head as to why this happens: the main objective during the development process of licensed games is “have released along with the movie” as opposed to “make a decent game”. Even if the game isn’t tied in to a movie developers usually half ass the product anyway correctly guessing that people will buy it simply due to the license. Nevertheless, RARE exceptions can emerge: the most recent one being Batman: Arkham Asylum, where the developers focused on making a “Batman game” as opposed to “A action/beat-em-up starring Batman”

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Yeah, what you got there is really a bit of a cash grab. Macman described the ride well: an arcade on a conveyor belt. Of course, it’s also IN 3-D!!!!! They give you polarized glasses and everything. Now, the queue house is set up at “toy’s eye perspective”. And the Disneyland (Disney’s California Adventure, actually) version has a 6-foot Mr. Potato Head “barker” out front. He’s reasonably amusing. But it’s an odd concept for a ride. Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters (or whatever they call it in Florida) is also essentially a video game you ride. But it at least has the classic “dark ride” trappings – black lights, animatronic stuff, the semblance of a plot.

  • JoshDM

    Welcome to your first experience with what we call “Shovelware”.

    Avoid movie licensed games unless Metacritic says it’s OK.

    The best licensed games for the Wii are “Hulk : Ultimate Destruction” for GameCube, and probably the Lego games (which are all too similar in scope, so just pick one). And I think one of the Spider-Man games for GameCube, but I can’t remember which.

    Otherwise, avoid, avoid, avoid.

    Best licensed game I ever played that I can remember fondly was “Ducktales” for the original NES. That is heralded as one of the best platformers (Super Mario-style side-scrolling 2D game) ever.

  • JoshDM

    Ah, found it.

    Spider-Man 2

    Not to be confused with GameCube’s
    Ultimate Spider-Man
    Spider-Man the Movie
    which are both OK games, but inferior to Spider-Man 2.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Oooooooo, Spider-Man 2. That’s an interesting game.

    On the up side, the horizontally-condensed-but-vertically-to-scale map of Manhattan the game takes place on is great; the GTA-style “sandbox” game design I always appreciate for the freedom; but the best part is the physics engine used for web-swinging throughout the city, which is Out-Fucking-Standing.

    On the down side, the bulk of the “sandbox” missions are exceedingly repetative (there’ only like 6, but the game offers you one every few minutes, wherever in Manhattan you are); the plot-based missions are weak at best (except for the second encounter with a villain not seen in the movie – that one is spectacular).

    But seriously, the sheer joy of web-swinging from Battery Park to mid-town to Harlem and back, totally worth tracking this game down.

  • CB

    SpiderMan 2 was very nice. You basically got all its strengths (swinging around Manhatten) and weaknesses (everything else, sadly).

    There are a number of very good Star Wars games for various systems.

    And there was a good Batman game or two loosely based on batman movies.

    And… I think that about covers it for good movie->game conversions!

  • Psyclone

    I think I may be one of the few people on Earth that thought that the Spider-man 2 game sucked: The graphics were terrible (though it’s somewhat understandable due to the open world environment), the combat repetitive and worst of all, the sheer amount of side mission grinding needed to progress (how many f***ing BALLOONS do I have to collect! I’m a frigging SUPERHERO! Why am I wasting my time with this crap?).

    A list of good licensed games (and bad ones as well) can be found here:


  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Psyclone, everyone thought Spiderman 2 sucked, for exactly the reasons you mentioned. And yet, many people (myself included) played it to 100% completion. Because, eventually, you finish the stoyline, and can start to ignore the side missions, and just swing around the city looking for easter eggs.

    Dangit, now I need to hit up a Gamestop or sumsuch, find a used GC or Xbox copy, and see if it’ll run on my Wii or 360. >.

  • CB

    Actually, I started ignoring the missions well before I got to 100%.

    The entirety of Manhattan is unlocked at the beginning (a big step up from GTA where you *have* to complete missions to unlock areas), so why bother with the stupid missions?

    I still like swinging around from time to time. The view from the top of the Empire State Building spire is nice.

    BTW the GC version does play in the Wii.

  • Jurgan

    Can you swing from webs when there are no buildings around? I still remember in Spider-Man (the game of the first movie) fighting an extended battle against the Green Goblin while webslinging in an area with no buildings anywhere nearby- it might have been over Central Park, or some other wide-open location. I guess I was hanging from the camera crew’s copter?

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