I have owned Toy Story 2 for both PlayStation and Dreamcast and I’m pretty sure I once rented it on Nintendo 64. Despite this, I have never played much past the first stage but it is a game that I had continually been meaning to. After recently watching Toy Story 3, I decided to finally give this game a proper go. For this review, I played the Dreamcast version.
The original Toy Story game on Genesis/SNES/PC was a big favourite of mine. It had plenty of solid platforming along with some interesting side levels using RC, Roller Bob, Buzz and even a cool FPS level. I beat it several times but it is not a game that I’ve much gone back to as it is very much a game that you appreciate more at the time. Toy Story 2 is even more like this. It is a 3D platformer that takes most of its influence from Mario 64, which we all know set the standard. So basically it’s a 3D platformer with open world levels with differing goals. In this case, each level contains five Pizza Planet tokens which you will need to unlock the boss stages. There are 50 in total but you only need 40 (in the Dreamcast version) to get to the final stage.
Toy Story 2 loosely follows the events of the movie and as you can probably infer from the title, you play as Buzz. As Buzz you are given use of a variety of powerups related to the character. His laser is an effective and invaluable attack weapon, he can use his wings to double jump and he also has a variety of collectable power-ups which are rocket boots, hover boots, a grapple hook, a shield and a disk launcher. All of these items are context specific and are not used more than a few times throughout the game. Similar to Metroid, you will return to earlier stages to obtain tokens with new power-ups.
While it is a 3D platformer the game is for some reason missing analogue control. You can use the Dreamcast’s analogue but Buzz will run like he’s been sucking down Darjeeling all day. The D-pad is a must in this game as you will need to keep tight control over Buzz. This brings us immediately to the major problem with the game. The camera is as frantic as the control is rough. Many levels in the game require precision platforming and you will often be travelling up. So falling means starting all over again and you will fall. You will fall a lot. In fact the best way to test whether the game will be too much for you is to quickly advance to the second stage, find a tree and star climbing it. If you don’t get infuriated by that task then you will be able to play on to the end.
With all the falling, the game can be slightly forgiving. Some stages allow you to push blocks or drop ropes to make climbing back up after a fall a little easier but there is still plenty of frustration. Buzz can also grab ledges which mostly works fine but sometimes inexplicably doesn’t work at all. This can be extremely annoying. I also had a few issues with falling straight though platforms and the game even froze on me a few times after falling from a great height. The time attacks and races are also often frustrating for the same reasons. By the later stages of the game I had gotten used to the controls but getting used to bad controls shouldn’t be considered a positive.
You will spend most of your time platforming but the game will also require some combat. Buzz has his laser and a wing spin move to destroy enemies. There is a first person view which allows more precision but no lock on. The lasers will generally track their target if you point in the right direction. This is not always easy considering the lack of analogue support. The boss battles are generally fairly easy and always require Buzz using one of the two moves mentioned.
The Dreamcast version looks better than the earlier games but the difference is not huge. Like the PlayStation version the game includes direct scenes from the movie which don’t seem very special today. You actually unlock an extra one for getting all the Pizza Planet tokens. The music and sound effects from the game are good. There are some great original tracks and the music from the film is used well (not overused). Characters do some speaking but they get a bit annoying when heard over and over again any time you are in proximity. Buzz occasionally says some lines from the original but these don’t make much sense considering he is now well aware he is a toy.
Despite the complaints I actually found myself enjoying the game by about the halfway mark. By this time I had got used to the jittery camera and bad controls. I think the main reason I began to enjoy it was the level design. Some levels are unfortunately quite bland and dark but all are big with a lot to explore. Some favourites would be the second neighbourhood stage, Andy’s home and Al’s Toy Barn. Most levels allow you to travel high up and there were a few secret rooms to be found throughout the game.
Even though I originally planned just to blast through it, I actually ended up grabbing all the Pizza Planet tokens and thereby completing all that was to be done. My actual gameplay time would have been around 12 hours. If the controls had been solid and there had been a bit more polish, I am sure this game would be more fondly remembered. As it stands, it was a decent platformer back when it was released but I am guessing that most gamers today would find the control issues too hard to overlook. If you do ever give this a go, make sure you start out using the D-pad.