Toy Story: Smash It! – Buzz Angry, Buzz Smash.
When Pixar released the original Toy Story in 1995, it revolutionized cinema as we know it. For the first time we saw a completely realized CGI world in a full length feature. Not only was the film a technological marvel, but was a genuinely great film and the first classic of the emergent genre. It would go on to spawn and entire cross media franchise and position its creators at the forefront of the entertainment industry, eventually being bought by, then taking over, no less an institution than Disney.
As their flagship brand you would expect Toy Story to be well represented in the games market. And there is certainly no lack of available distractions bearing the film’s name, but none of them really pushed the potential of videogames in the same way as the original did for movies. Toy Story: Smash It! (the title is somewhat misleading, everything bounces in a non-harmful, kid-friendly way) goes some way to redressing the balance, if not in originality or innovation, but with a solid backbone of quality that goes beyond the appeal of its characters.
It’s not always fair to compare games to previous examples of the genre, as they should be judged on their own merits. But two games immediately spring to mind when you launch Smash It! The first is the all-conquering Angry Birds, whose gameplay this apes, albeit rendered in a full three dimensional arena. This mimicry extends even to the menu system and level progression, but why tamper with simple perfection? The second game conjured up, is Steven Spielberg’s Wii oddity Boom Blox. In that game, Jenga-like towers of bricks were destroyed by launching a variety of missiles at them, mainly just to see the kinds of havoc you could wreak across the fully physics modeled environments. Here that same principles applies, as you guide Buzz Lightyear through a series of playful missions where your goal is to topple series stalwart,s the three-eyed aliens, from their perches, and send their wooden block buildings tumbling to the ground. Buzz has limited lateral movement in which to find the ideal vantage point to launch his assault, at which point, the smooth aiming system allows you pinpoint your target area for maximized destruction. The fewer shots you use to complete the level by ridding it of aliens, awards you a star rating, which cumulatively unlocks the rest of the game.
Not that there is much of a game here. I completed all of the levels within one hour of downloading it, which points towards it being a kid’s game, as the licence would imply. After completing the final challenge of the three worlds provided, you are met with a placeholder assuring you that more levels are “coming soon.” I hope this potential DLC offers more of a challenge, as what “Smash It!” does give you, is some very interesting game mechanics and decent variation across its short lifespan. Some locations require you to set simple Rube-Goldberg style contraptions in motion, or initiate a domino avalanche. Obstacles like windmills and trains give it a crazy-golf feel and some of the artillery Mr. Lightyear has at his command is expertly handled.
The bold and colorful visuals really pop on a larger high resolution screen, but that extra width makes single handed play impractical as the directional arrows are too far apart. But thankfully Smash It! never requires quick reflexes so it’s not much of a set back.
Take for instance the balloons. They’re slow moving and don’t cause much damage on impact, but when you tap fire a second time, they inflate massively. A well timed expansion of one of these trick shots in a confined space sends blocks flying, and can be used to reach hard to get collectibles that all feed in to your final score. Later levels see the introduction of tubes, that ferry your missile across the level, sometimes multiplying them on the way. It’s elements like this that make me wish that the game was more fully featured or at least had a higher difficulty level. Oddly the game gets easier as you progress through it, with some in the final chapter being mere excuses to watch the scenery tumble down around you, in an admittedly entertaining manner.
This would be a problem if the game wasn’t so enjoyable. It replicates the charm of the movies it’s based on, the aliens themselves being a highlight with their odd bouncing animations. The graphics are chunky and vivid as you’d expect from the franchise. The one problem I did have was occasionally it would be difficult to judge the depth of the level, quite important when you have to accurately launch a ball in to a glass tower just over the other side of a crayon drawing of a castle. It’s one of the few times I’ve ever wished for a 3D option in a game.
Toy Story Smash is little more than an extended demo, and until the additional levels are implemented not one that I would recommend, if just for how brief it is. Unless you’re under ten, you won’t be stumped for more than a few tries at any of the levels. But when we’re given the whole experience, I’ll be coming back to check it out as it is has a lot of potential, especially if they crank up the challenge a few notches.