It should come as no surprise that Activision has released another Toy Story game, considering how profitable the Toy Story license has proved to be. The latest game bearing the license - Buzz Lightyear of Star Command - is quite characteristic of games of its ilk: Boasting nothing resembling extraordinary gameplay, it serves, rather, as a vehicle for the license.
Buzz Lightyear of Star Command is based on the straight-to-VHS animated film and the upcoming TV series of the same name. In the game, you take control of interstellar cop Buzz Lightyear in his quest to rid the cosmos of all manner of galactic scum. The cop-chase theme is apparent in the level design - each level has you chasing a criminal through a linear course, rubbing out enemies, collecting coins, and purchasing power-ups before you reach the end, where you're able to actually battle with the ruffian, one-on-one.
You control Buzz via a third-person view as he shoots enemies with his arsenal of weapons and jumps over and flies past obstacles (equipment permitting, of course). The control scheme is largely adequate, if a tad unresponsive, and it tends to overcompensate for entered commands - though never to any serious effect, as the game isn't very deep. For instance, you'll often find yourself teetering off of ledges that you only intended to inch toward.
The game's 14 levels are fairly similar in spirit, if not in theme. All favor an almost on-rails approach and lead you down a predetermined path before ending, sometimes abruptly, in a boss fight. Each stage in effect is a race against time. As you traverse the course, your prey will constantly be inching toward the end - called the "getaway point" - where it will wait for you, for 15 seconds, before escaping and forcing you to start the stage over.
Dispersed throughout the courses are power-ups, which, interestingly, you must purchase rather than pick up outright, the unit of currency being the coins that are littered throughout the stages. Weapons of all forms can be purchased, as can jetpacks, shields, and hoverboards. Even access to jump boards has to be paid for with coinage. The alternative is the more inconvenient and often dangerous footpaths. All in all, the stages are fast paced, and they feature respawning enemies, halfhearted obstacles, and bright visuals. Clearly Traveller's Tales had the younger player in mind when designing this game.
Visually the game does a decent job of presenting its subject faithfully. Buzz himself is blessed with a cel-shading effect, though the rest of the world and its inhabitants aren't thus blessed. That's a shame, because now Buzz tends to stick out a bit amid the comparatively cold and muted environments. The frame rate often suffers when lots of enemies are onscreen, but never to any serious effect - it comes off as a visual wart, as opposed to any gameplay problem. In between each stage you're treated to a cutscene taken, it seems, from the upcoming TV series. While their quality is passable, the scenes seem to have been chosen rather haphazardly, as they often seem out of context.
In fairness, it seems unjust to judge Buzz Lightyear of Star Command too harshly, because the game was obviously intended for a younger audience, whose tastes and needs aren't necessarily complex. In that respect, the game seems to fulfill its objective, which is to provide its audience with a level of challenge commensurate with its ability. More experienced and discerning gamers, however, would do well to steer clear of Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, as the game is simplistic and light.