Published on July 27th, 2012 | by Nichomaxwell0
A Review of Toy Story: You’re My (LEAST) Favorite Deputy!
Year: 1995 // System: SNES, Sega Genesis // Publisher: Disney Interactive // Developer: Traveler’s Tales // Genre: Platformer
>>> NOW I understand why this game was the bane of my childhood! As a kid, I was in love with the Toy Story film from the moment it hit the theaters running, so it wasn’t a surprise when, for my ninth birthday, my aunt bought me the game for the Sega Genesis. I was excited…I mean, who wouldn’t want to peruse the world of toys that come alive through the plastic eyes of Woody…well, save a handful of people that I know?
But even back then, I was aware of what game reviewers had to say about the overall quality of releases and what-not. Unfortunately, by the time I had gotten my Sega Genesis (1997), video game magazines had moved on to the higher-resolution systems, namely the PlayStation and the N64. No store in my vicinity would possess the three or four year old magazines I needed to check for the quality of the Genesis games that I received as gifts. Indeed, my aunt gave me my favorite game for the Genesis (The Lost Vikings), and I’d accidentally discovered my second favorite in the rental store (Zombies Ate My Neighbors), but overall, it was all a gamble. If it was good, I rented it twice. If not, smell ya’ later!
But as for Toy Story, there were three reasons that prompted me to play it (aside from the fact that I owned it): the 3-D graphics, the world of the first film, and…
…the fact that I had to keep on playing because I could…never…BEAT IT! In fact, I had only made it as far as the twelfth level (a.k.a. third boss battle with “THE CLAW”). In the end, I never figured out how to beat the game before I was allowed to play my father’s PlayStation, and from that point on, never again did I look back.
That is…not until about fourteen years later, when I discovered the game again, but for the Super Nintendo. To my nostalgic satisfaction, the game looked, played, and progressed in the exact same fashion as the Genesis version. This time, after my prolonged experience with some of the hardest and most brutal games out there (here’s looking at you, Battletoads!), I rolled through all of the levels that tormented me, that gave me Hell as a child, that made me feel absolutely miserable for sucking at a kid’s game!
But before you knew it, I ended up hitting a roadblock. Guess where it was?
Yup, you guessed it…I was dead-ended by the claw.
The scary thing, however, is that I discovered it didn’t really have to do with how I was playing the game, but in fact this segment revealed to me how poorly designed that some of the key elements of the game’s structure really were. What I’m about to reveal is a mediocre licensed title that could have been pretty decent if not for some crippling flaws.
For one, I like that each level is presented as a mission, and it’s fitting for a kid’s game. Etch (a Sketch) tells you up front what your objective is for each level, and in the upper left hand corner he materializes and draws an arrow that points you in the right direction. Looking back, the objectives are rather simple when, back in the day, riding on the back of a T-Rex, or launching toys into the toy chest, or even tying up sharks jumping through the air, came off to me as magical innovations. And yes, you’re right…I didn’t play many Sega games back in the day…
The music is absolutely underrated and extremely fitting for each level. I loved the Jaws throwback that underlined your race against Buzz through a room where the rubber sharks jumped through the air to try and take you down.
The theming for each level was spectacular, and it’s amazing how smoothly that the game developers were able to tie the whole story into each and every single level.
You were pretty much playing the story, and the accuracy was quite stunning. Sure, sure, we never actually got to see Woody inside the mechanical workings of the claw machine, and there was no nightmare sequence starring Buzz in the movie…plus, in the game, we never got the chance to drive the truck across town from the gas station to Pizza Planet. But the game did show Woody and Buzz’s trek through pizza planet, and the whole top-down driving sequence where you steered R.C. after Buzz to knock him behind the dresser was both a nice attempt at an alternate playing style and a major part of the film’s plot.
The game even tried something new and extremely forgiving by prohibiting falls from killing you outright! If you fell into a pit, then you lost a star, but the game bounced you right back up into reach of a platform if you had life leftover!!! This is the ONLY game I’ve played so far that features pitfalls that don’t immediately kill you. There’s something to be said for that. Touche, Toy Story, touche!
As aforementioned, the developers tried different playing styles aside from the side-scrolling platformer, whether it was the R.C. stage or a level where you crawled through the vents of the claw machine in first person mode. If anything, there was effort, and that’s something that’s important to acknowledge in any game with a movie license.
But what the development company Traveler’s Tales demonstrated in effort, they lacked in execution. The setups were fine, but the playthrough itself was faulty.
There were two major flaws that stretched themselves out from the first level to the final stretch: unfair hit boxes and terrible action recognition. By the latter, I mean that there were several objects littered throughout the game that were supposed to register an action you were taking…for example, you were jumping onto a drawer, or you were latching onto a ceiling pipe, but even though you obviously attached yourself or made the jump, the programming of the game in that one instance said you didn’t, and therefore lets you miss the jump and/or fall to your death. But in another instance, it recognizes that you completed the mission, and because of that you’re allowed to keep moving without a hitch.
The hit boxes infuriated me because each enemy and dangerous obstacle possessed an invisible one-centimeter-thick force field about them that did damage to you, BUT normally you had to hit each enemy dead center if you wanted to even try and temporarily stun them. The bosses are much worse. Half the time, the nightmare Buzz doesn’t acknowledge the hits that you dish out.
Meanwhile, the claw is the most broken thing in the game. No, it’s not impossible, but unlike the other bosses, it doesn’t really have a set amount of hits that it takes for each coin that Sid puts in.
Plus, if Buzz ever reaches the far right of the stage and the claw picks him up, then you have no chance of winning. Now, mind you, this IS a possible stretch that you can clear. BUT the way in which you do it is extremely particular, and something of an oddity amongst the earlier scenarios in the game. The most pronounced way in which this level separates itself from the others is through the sudden implementation of hitting things with Woody’s drawstring whip while holding up on the D-pad! There were NO instances where pressing up+the whip button(s) were necessary before this level. Therefore, if you’ve had no occasion to learn it, then you probably won’t learn it! In relation to what that button combination does, pressing up while using the whip will steer the whipped item in a particular direction…and in the claw level’s case, you want to steer the aliens you whip up in the air towards the claw.
Now, hear me out: to take down the claw you need to hit the machine with the aliens. However, if you hit up on the D-pad while whipping, you won’t kick the three-eyes claw-worshipping aliens up in the air. THEREFORE, you need to use your REGULAR WHIP to juggle those aliens, and THEN use your whip PLUS the up-button to send the aliens currently being juggled at the claw. Please keep in mind that while you’re doing all of this, the claw is moving very quickly and is completely capable of doing damage to you. Also, you need to steer those aliens at the CENTER of the claw (any less won’t do you any good because of the faulty hit boxes), and, in case you didn’t know, you have a limited amount of time to damage that claw each time that Sid uses a coin before it captures Buzz and carries him out.
So…yeah…wow…that sudden anal turn from the simple, quick-footed levels to this…made me seriously wonder how frequently they play-tested this particular portion of the game…I mean, Woody lets himself be captured along with Buzz in the movie ANYWAY!
Because of the ridiculousness of the latter levels, having the player start all over after he/she loses all lives struck me as a bad decision. How about a password after each boss fight? That’d make sense to me! This game IS long enough AND hard enough, after all!
Honestly, if it weren’t for the bad hit boxes and action registry, I’d say that this platformer could have been a cut above the mundane. But alas, its bugs really robbed this game of the chance to fly alongside the film in prominence…and no, Toy Story for the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo did NOT fall with style!
Challenge: 3/10: The claw was a rude interruption to the pacing of difficulty that was somewhat upheld throughout the game. I’m not saying there wasn’t a clear progression, however…certain levels would throw everything at you, and then suddenly the next level would cut you a break (for example, the easiest level I played was undoubtedly Level 9, where Woody and Buzz sneak into Pizza Planet disguised as a drink and a burger. Also, some of the gimmicky levels were sloppily handled. The FPS level where you hunted for the three-eyed aliens was a rude contrast to the side-scrolling graphics with its ill-designed segments and premise. Did I mention the claw was bad news? Oh wait, yes I did…
Handling: 4/10: Action registry really plundered the movement mechanics, along with the simple control scheme. I don’t get why Woody only has two commands between one system where you have access to three action buttons (Genesis) and another where you can work with six (Super Nintendo)! Movement in general wasn’t terrible, but the whole deal of missing ledges and doing no damage to enemies on some occasion, whereas on others you made the jump perfectly or did damage with you not changing your tactics, was absolutely ludicrous.
Innovation: 7/10: Toy Story did try out some cool ideas that I believed set the game up for success. For example, each level was themed perfectly to fit different events in the story (gotta love sneaking into Pizza Planet or knocking Buzz out the window via R.C.!), the objectives were interesting, alternate forms of play outside of platforming were thrown in (the R.C. stage was a throwback to R.C. Pro-Am and micro Machines, whereas the faulty FPS stage was at least a change of pace that gave the game variety), and overall, the playthrough rang true to the world of Toy Story! Woody was Woody, Buzz was Buzz, and Hamm was a greedy son of a…sow…
Core Experience: 5/10: I have to admit. I loved the 3-D backgrounds on the two lower-res systems, and the music was pretty darn good. The game did a fantastic job in capturing the atmosphere of Toy Story…but at the same time, you had the devastating hit boxes that worked way too well against you and poorly against the A.I. Also, the level where you were REALLY inside the claw machine was one of the blandest first-person stages ever conceived by man. It was so bland, figuring out where to go became an excruciating hassle.
OVERALL: 4.8/Has Serious Issues: It’s a bum deal that Toy Story didn’t take all of that harbored potential and turn it into something worthwhile. I at least wanted to say I was the proud owner of TWO undisclosed gold nuggets for the Genesis- this one and The Lost Vikings- but while The Lost Vikings indeed maintained its luster, Toy Story proved to be nothing more than withered pyrite. The toys may come to life in this game, but they don’t live it up like they do in the movie.