The overwhelming trend for movie tie-in games is that they are terrible. It's even worse for kid movie games. Some of the worst examples of games you'll find are those shoved onto shelves to coincide with an overhyped movie release. Only a very few games really buck this trend, and it's a pleasant surprise that the Toy Story 3 video game is one of them.
The game is divided into two major parts. The first is a series of levels loosely based on sequences from the movie. In one level, Woody rides his faithful steed Bullseye through the desert after a runaway train. Iron-jawed Buzz Lightyear stars (ahem) in an outer space flying level, which includes some light platforming sections. A more puzzle-based approach is needed for the landfill level, where the aforementioned duo team up with Jessie to free their friends from a deadly conveyor belt ride. Each of these recall scenes taken straight from the movies.
A couple levels are more imaginative, as befits toys owned by a bright, fun-loving little girl. In one, Woody must grind on rainbow-hued rails in a trippy outer space base that looks very much like the board game Mouse Trap. Buzz and Woody take on a witch who has taken over a haunted bakery, and must use enormous cannons to defeat the evil doll's pastry minions. Sound odd? You bet, but they are also very nicely executed, and add considerably to the sense of variety found in the game.
Though there are a few unlockables that can best be obtained by replaying these levels, you'll only spend a handful of hours completing them, in most cases. When you get stuck, the game will give you hints, or even show you outright what to do. That's a nice feature for younger players, and ensures that kids won't get frustrated as they play. Unfortunately it also makes what's already a short game even shorter, as there is little challenge and nothing to get "stuck" on.
Never fear, though; the other major section of the game is far longer, full or replay value, and is where Toy Story 3 shines the most. Toy Box mode puts the player in the role of Woody, Jessie, or Buzz as the sheriff of a wild west town populated by characters from the movies. Toy Box is totally open world, and it's quite easy to spend hours doing all manner of things with total freedom. There are quests that can be taken on, which adds more people to the town's population, giving more quests, etc. It feels very much like "World of Toycraft, and the effect Toy Box mode has on youngsters is not unlike Warcraft's pull on older gamers.
As far as co-op goes, there's nothing truly groundbreaking, but what is here is very well done. Two players can team up locally, and can drop in or out at any point with just a few button pushes. The action is presented in split screen. Playing in co-op is a real boon for some levels, especially the timed puzzles in the garbage level, where two of the three available characters can be controlled at once. Toy Box mode allows both players to explore as they wish, unfettered by the desires of the other player. It's just two player couch co-op, and there's little in the way of actual teamwork, but it's very thoughtfully implemented.
My son and I were both pleasantly surprised by Toy Story 3. The beloved characters, above average variety in level design, and most especially Toy Box mode are excellent, far better than other movie-based games. Adding in two-player co-op makes it that much better. After all, why decide between Woody and Buzz, when you can simply choose both?