Those wily folks at Tiertex Design Studios just can't stop using their flashy FMV racing engine to produce games for other companies. This time, though, the job they've done with Activision's Toy Story Racer goes far beyond previous projects from the company. Indeed, even though 3D racing on the Game Boy Color still feels gimmicky, there's a lot of fun to be had racing around the game's 10 giant-sized tracks with Buzz, Woody, and the rest of the Toy Story gang.
Similar to Tiertex's EA product, F1 Championship Season 2000, Toy Story Racer offers a limited, albeit decent, set of race options. After deciding between tournament mode and quick race, it's on to one of the game's 10 tracks. Tracks are separated into three main locales, all of which are borrowed from the Toy Story motion picture: Andy's House, the Pizza Planet restaurant, and Street Racing. The courses, such as Bedroom Bash, Pepperoni Extreme, and Gas Pump Pressure, offer a decent amount of variation, provided you don't get bored with the game's underlying premise: racing down stairs, over tables, and through drainpipes. Initially, there are four characters to choose from, including Buzz Lightyear, Woody, Bo Peep, and Mr. Potato Head. However, by winning races in the tournament mode and collecting a massive amount of coins, you can unlock a little green man and a plastic army soldier as well.
Unlike F1 Championship Season 2000, though, Toy Story Racer doesn't claim to be a racing simulation. The game's overly responsive control and quirky power-ups put it squarely in the realm of Mario Kart knockoffs. While the smoothly flowing full-motion tracks provide a three-dimensional aspect that most GBC racing games sorely lack, Toy Story Racer isn't quite on par with Wacky Races or Woody Woodpecker Racing in terms of gameplay. Depending on your age and gaming needs, though, this isn't necessarily a bad thing.
As you careen down the track, your goal is to maintain the highest speed possible while navigating twists, turns, and obstacles. The game has eight unique power-ups to aid your cause, although none really provide much excitement or present a substitute for actual driving skills. The coins you collect through each course boost your score, the horseshoes provide limited invincibility, and a handy clock increases the time limit, while items such as pitchforks and potholes slow you down. From time to time, a competing racer will jockey in front of you to block your way, which is where the brunt of the game's challenge lies. If you smack into the back of someone, your happily grinding engine will be replaced with a jarring cha-ching sound and, in turn, your speed will falter. However, once you've acclimated yourself to oversteering through every turn, it's really just a matter of time before you figure out the proper angle to routinely leave Buzz or Mr. Potato Head in the dust. Unlike most of the games in the genre, Toy Story Racer is quite easy to master, but there's still a lot of replay value involved in trying to unlock new characters and revisiting each of the game's 3D tracks for higher scores.
With all that said, Toy Story Racer isn't the best of the Mario Kart clones. In fact, for most players, Wacky Races or Woody Woodpecker Racing are much better alternatives. However, the 3D visuals and cartoon-style charm contained within Toy Story Racer do make it an excellent choice for children, Disney fans, or Game Boy fanatics who enjoy visual gimmicks. The inclusion of a few GBC-rendered Toy Story music tracks doesn't hurt either.