Last year, Donkey Kong Country showed the video game world just how good a Super Nintendo game could look. Shortly afterwards Sega countered by licensing a Disney Interactive title for Genesis based on their hit movie, Toy Story. Just like DKC, it had the kind of 3-D rendered graphics that took 16-bit games to their next (and final) level. It also had innovative, compelling gameplay and a pretty decent soundtrack, at least by Genesis standards. It was lauded by press and gamers alike and became one of the highest rated Genesis games in the last few years. Now, Toy Story is available for the home PC as one of a group of 16-bit-to-PC ports that Disney is calling the Power Play series.
The game remains thematically true to the movie. Woody, a pull-string cowboy doll, is a little boy's favorite toy until the little brat gets an electronic talking Buzz Lightyear with arm-mounted laser and karate-chop action for his birthday. Under the bed goes Woody and so starts a rivalry between the loyal cowboy and his egotistical, somewhat delusional nemesis that lasts the whole movie and the whole game. Each level, with the exception of the bizarre Buzz Nightmare level, depicts a scene from the movie, and while most are in the standard platform style, some succeed in escaping from the tired norm. In addition to the mission completion levels, the beat-the-clock speed dash levels, and the head-to-head fighting levels, the game also offers an aerial view driving level and a behind-the-shoulder view driving level. The spacing of the levels here is key, and it is done well, keeping the player interested for hours.
Perhaps the best thing about the game, and certainly the only difference between it and the 16-bit version, is the soundtrack. Besides the excellent sound effects, which, incidentally, were just as good on the Genesis, Disney has included a CD-quality soundtrack that features instrumental versions of two of Randy Newman's whimsical ditties from the movie. It really brings the package together nicely and is a pleasant change from the usual anemic game music.
Unfortunately, not all is well in the Magic Kingdom. Toy Story, just like the other Power Play titles, suffers from a few problems that arise within the Windows operating system. Windows, especially Windows 95, doesn't handle keyboard entries quite as well as it should. For example, when you're trying to run and jump simultaneously using a keyboard, the combination of two keys may not register immediately, sometimes making it impossible to navigate some of the tougher obstacles. Less detrimental but still a nuisance is the Windows sound set-up. Every time the CD loops to restart the track it seizes the system for an instant, creating a noticeable pause in the gameplay. Also, almost all Windows games use the incredibly inefficient WAV format for their sound effects, and Toy Story is no exception. Unhappily, the result is sound effects that occasionally hit a full second after they should. These flaws, though relatively annoying, are minor, and they really don't detract too much from the back-to-basics gameplay, which is what makes Toy Story shine. This is the perfect game for kids 6 to 66 who want platform gaming at its finest. If you want something even better that's just for kids, though, stick with Disney's Toy Story Animated Storybook.