Re(?)Considered: Toy Story
There's a snake in my boot sequence
As the world quakes with anticipation for the extremely necessary Toy Story 4, now seems as good a time as ever to Re(?)Consider the 1995 classic movie tie-in Toy Story, developed by the electric wizards over at Traveller's Tales. Though multiformat, the game pushes the Mega Drive in particular (typically of Traveller's Tales' output - Puggsy, Mickey Mania, Sonic 3D etc) and really does showcase impressive graphical heft for Sega's then-aging 16-bit.
It looks extremely good. It rivals the SNES powerhouse Donkey Kong Country in ambition, if not cohesiveness. Pre-rendered graphics have their detractors, but they seem to be the only sensible way of doing that early Pixar look justice. I'm no technical expert, but Toy Story has to be one of, if not the most technically impressive game on the system. The humble Mega Drive obviously can't match Pixar's CGI workstations the size of light aircraft (presumably), but this game can hang. No doubt it dropped jaws.
That said, graphics aren't everything, so thankfully this game can hang with the higher tier of movie licenses. It's not amazing, but there are plenty of levels encompassing multiple genres - most stages are classic 2D side-scrolling platforming, but there are diversions into racing both isometric (in the level "Buzz Clip") and faux-3D (in the brilliantly-named level "Day-Toy-Na"), as well as an astonishing first-person exploration through the bowels of the Pizza Planet Claw Machine that raises questions as to whether or not the Mega Drive could have played host to a solid port of id Software's Doom. The constant changes of pace and gameplay style mean there's plenty of variety, but also contributes to something of a schizoprenic feeling. The game is not particularly consistent either in difficulty or in control, which can be a little disconcerting and lead to some dissatisfaction.
Player control, indeed, can be problematic You play as Tom Hanks-voiced talking cowboy doll Woody (most of the time), and his primary attack is to swing his pulll-string at enemies to temporarily ensnare them. This is problematic, as the range of the weapon is short and the effects a little flakey - sometimes it'll swing right over your target. Additionally, Woody's basic jump is disarmingly low - how's he ever going to vault the bar in a saloon with this altitude? It's embarrassing.
The mix-and-match level types can, as mentioned, lead to a feeling that this is a game with something of an identity crisis. To its credit, it tells the story of the movie very thoroughly and well, with a very impressive eighteen levels. However, the distribution of stages feels a little odd, with lots in Andy's room, three in the Claw Machine and about ten (exaggeration) in Sid's room later. There are no truly brutal sticking points though some of the unusual earlier stages may take you a while to get to grips with what the game even wants you to do.
The music is terrific, with a lovely rendition of Randy Newman's truly dreadful You've Got A Friend In Me gracing the interstitial screens. The whole package feels expansive and expensive; this was no half-assed rush job.
Pixar don't have a superb record with tie-in games, but Toy Story is an auspicious start. Perhaps later I'll cover some of the others like A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2 etc. All the way up to Ratatouille. They never seem to stop! In fact, you could say (Don't. - Ed) they go to infinity (STUART. - Ed) and beyond!!! (You're fired again - Ed)