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Game Review

If you've seen the movie, you've laughed and cheered. And you've secretly wiped away tears behind those conveniently dark 3-D glasses when the kids weren't looking. So now you're wondering if it might be a good idea to pick up the Toy Story 3 video game, right?

You know, ahem, for the kids.

Don't worry, I won't tell anybody you just can't bear to say good-bye to those good old … sniff, sniff … those great old toys. I won't tell a soul. But I will answer a few of your questions about whether or not the game and its characters are just like the movie.

To Sunnyside …
There are two parts to the gameplay, Story mode and Toy Box mode. Story mode is the section that most closely resembles Toy Story 3. But it's not really like playing through the storyline. It's more about playing toward certain goals within a set piece from the movie.

The toys face a variety of environment-centered challenges such as finding Andy's cell phone in his bedroom or sneaking their way past flashlight-wielding toy patrols at the Sunnyside Daycare Center. It all feels familiar, but it's mainly the action, not the funny and sentimental stuff, that trickles down from the big screen into the game.

For example, the game's opening segment is the same as the opening of the film. Woody gallops in to foil the villainous Dr. Porkchop's evil plot and save the poor orphans stuck on a runaway train. But this isn't just some short intro scene. Woody must guide Bullseye along crumbling cliffs and across splintered railway trestles, catch the train, climb and scramble along its boxcar length, and with Buzz Lightyear's help, rescue the kids. All in a series of platform-jumping, ball-throwing and obstacle-dodging moves.

… And Beyond
Through the course of nine different "scenes" from the film, players can alternate between Woody, Buzz and cowgirl Jessie, using each character's skills to solve puzzles and overcome obstacles. For instance, Jessie is the most nimble and might be best able to traverse a particularly narrow ledge. Woody, on the other hand, can use his pull string as a kind of lasso to swing across chasms.

There are a few scenes that don't try to clone cinematic elements; rather they elbow their way past them. One features Buzz using his wing-supported jet pack to battle Emperor Zurg and his alien minions. Lasers flash and blast; space debris flies to and fro. Another highlights a make-believe tale that takes place in Bonnie's room. One of her dolls takes on a witchy persona, fills the room with an ocean of coffee and tosses magic "nasty spell" blasts at a scrambling Woody. This sequence, along with another one about a haunted bakery built on a graveyard, are the darkest and spookiest of the game—a snake in your boot, if you please. But even they are still plenty playful at heart and fall well shy of anything truly scary or evil.

Giddyap, Console Cowboy
Toy Box mode is where things really break away from any connection to the movie's story and give players a chance to take on Andy's imaginative job. You again play as Woody, Buzz or Jessie and are dubbed the sheriff of a little town that you must build up and protect. This open sandbox world lets you go pretty much wherever you want to, picking up collectables, fulfilling little quests for townsfolk and earning gold for your efforts.

The gold, in turn, can be used at the toy store to buy new toys—buildings, characters, vehicles, deluxe play sets—that expand and populate your world. Want a new pink barbershop with Nemo-like fins on the windows? You got it. Want a town populated by little green men topped with stovepipe hats? Sure. Want to carve your favorite toys' faces onto Mount Toymore? Why not?

Kids can also bring in a friend to help navigate through the scenes and fulfill the various quests in co-op play. But, really, who are we kidding? That second-player option is there to give moms and dads the chance (or at least a really good excuse) to don their jinglin' spurs and help Woody save the day.

Everybody knows that actual toys in actual toy boxes are the way to go most of the time when it comes to playtime. But that doesn't mean families can't ever corral a console and spend some good quality time exploring digital imaginations, too. Toy Story 3 hits the bull's-eye for that. (Sorry, Bullseye.)

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