Retro Review: Toy Story 2 – Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue (Release: 1999 / Platform: PS1, Dreamcast, N64)

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Games based off movies are an interesting beast, as sometimes they can really surprise you. Many fall under expected genres like ‘the 3D platformer’ or ‘action/adventure’. Pixar and Disney were no strangers to offering up chances to make games based off movies they produced at the time. Travelers Tales was given the keys to the ‘Toy Story’ IP when the original film released, producing a visually impressive game.

When the second Toy Story movie entered production, Travelers Tales was tasked again with producing a platforming adventure. This time with stronger hardware on the PS1, Nintendo 64 and SEGA Dreamcast. Does Buzz’s 3D platformer romp offer great fun and most importantly, does it hold up today?

The Story

If you watched the original movie, you get a clear picture what is going on here. Buzz Lightyear is one of Andy’s toys and he sets out to save his best friend Woody the Cowboy after he is stolen. Using Full-Motion-Video clips based off the film, we get many of the key plot points from the movie, resulting in a story that makes sense.

Character interactions are fine in-game and Buzz talking with other toys can be fun. Like how they give him various tasks to complete before leaving a level, showing the ‘teamwork’ element you saw bits and pieces of in the original movie between Andy’s toys. But overall, it is just the glue linking various levels together and that is fine.

The Design and Gameplay

This is the basic 3D platformer followed established foundations of games like Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie. Buzz has various moves and abilities based on his design; can double jump by retracting his wings, shoot lasers with his arm, and spin using his wings. You can even aim in first person to make careful shots of the laser bast. Buzz also can earn special power ups from Mr. Potato Head after finding a piece of him in the games levels. They include power ups like a special disk shot (which you need for a boss fight) and blue sphere that protects Buzz from toxic hazards.

He has a lot of moves and the core control feels solid, ensuring your jumps and platforming is responsive. Level design is quite strong and you would think that wouldn’t be the case, considering the setting. But Travelers Tales takes advantage of the fact Buzz is a small toy exploring the real world, resulting in really creative levels to explore. Andy’s House is a great example of this, as it has a ton of things to see and find. The attic is large with beams holding the roof being tight areas to walk across, the basement is a race track for the RC Car with a mini platforming challenge above the ground, and Andy’s room is quite large as well.

It results in levels that ‘feel’ big when really, they are your basic platforming levels. Missions in each level have similar objectives; collect X amount of coins, help a toy out with something, collect a missing piece of Mr. Potato Head, fight a dangerous toy and find the hidden token. These are basic but again, the level design and tight gameplay ensure these are fun.

My only issue with gameplay is the camera, which cannot be moved left/right with the shoulder buttons or analog stick. You can only do this through pressing L1 to center yourself. It works out fine enough, but I would have liked proper analog control for the camera.

Toy Story 2 surprises with good level design and fun gameplay, taking established tropes in the platforming landscape and using the toy theme to make it feel special and grand.

The Lasting Appeal

Simply running through this game doesn’t take long, as you could beat it without much exploring within five too eight hours. But fully getting every token will make it a bit longer. You can unlock the ability to re-watch the FMV’s, so if you don’t have the DVD of the movie, you can still watch parts of the movie within the game.

The Presentation

Toy Story 2 was groundbreaking in theaters with impressive CGI that improved from the original Toy Story in many ways. The games function similarly, with the 3D character models looking nice and being well animated. Levels are quite large in size and are nicely detailed. However, the visuals are still pixelated at points but overall the game looks nice visually. Some nice effects like Buzz having his reflection show up when in first person are a nice touch as well.

Music and sound is where this game shines the brightest. The voice clips are taken from the cast from the movies and it results an authentic experience if you love the Toy Story series. Musically this game is hands down one of my favorite soundtracks from it’s generation. It is really catchy and sounds grand. Having this play when you are just exploring Andy’s House or this strong cowboy theme when exploring Al’s Penthouse shows how much care was put into the games musical score.

The game holds up with with it’s presentation despite some dated graphics at points.

Overall: 3.5 out of 5

This is honestly much better than it has any right to be. Most platformers based on movies and cartoons suffer from poor quality and lack of care but here, Travelers Tales goes above and beyond to create a game that honors the Toy Story brand. Buzz’s adventure is filled with amazing music, fun gameplay, tight level design and a good deal of content to sink your teeth into. I highly recommend this if you love 3D platformers but keep in mind the somewhat dated graphics and camera controls.

This game was reviewed on the PlayStation Vita using the PS1 Classics version of the game. Toy Story 2 released on the SEGA Dreamcast and Nintendo 64 as well.

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