iPhone App Review: Toy Story Mania!

Toy Story Mania!Title: Toy Story Mania! (link)
Publisher: Walt Disney
Released: August 14, 2009
Cost: $4.99
iTouch?: Yes, but no bonus feature
Pros: Portable version of its theme park candidate, fun graphics, good re-play value
Cons: Some controls can be annoying
Review: If you’ve been to Disney’s California Adventure (Anaheim) or Disney’s Hollywood Studios (Orlando) within the past year, you no doubt are familiar with Toy Story Mania!, the Toy Story-themed 4D (that’s park-speak for 3D with cold water splashed on you) video game/attraction. Set to make its in-home debut later this year on the Nintendo Wii (minus the cold water), the iPhone edition is a happy medium which allows you to take the charm of the game with you no matter where you go.

The Toy Story Mania menu screen lets you choose which game you want to playThere are a lot of similarities between this version and the theme park version and probably slightly more differences. All of the mini-games are represented here hosted by their respective characters – Shooting suction-cup arrows at Woody’s Rootin’ Tootin’ Shootin’ Gallery, breaking plates with baseballs at the Green Army Men Shoot Camp, tossing darts at balloons in Bo Peep’s Baaa-loon Pop, tossing rubber rings in Buzz Lightyear’s Flying Tossers and throwing water balloon-shaped eggs at targets in Hamm’m Eggs.

There are really two key differences between the iPhone version and the theme park version. First, you can choose which game you want to play on the iPhone as opposed to the attraction which controls the playing order for you. Second, while the attraction’s games are all played essentially the same way (pulling the string on the cannon), Disney Interactive made sure that each game’s controls are different on the iPhone edition, giving you some variety, for better and for worse.

Successfully complete a bonus round and unlock a special itemEach game has three levels – complete the Easy level and you unlock Normal. Complete Normal and you unlock Hard. These are all independent for the individual game, so if you don’t excel in one game, it won’t hold you back in others. Each game consists of five rounds, each with a target score to reach in order to move on to the next round. One of the rounds is a bonus round which unlocks a special item you can purchase with tickets if you complete the task. If you fail to meet the target on the round, the game allows you to retry the round as many times as you need to without having to start over, except for the bonus round which moves on to the next round automatically, even if you fail. As the difficulty increases, more and rather interesting targets begin to appear.

Redeeming tickets at the prize booth to purchase an unlocked itemComplete the round successfully and you earn tickets, one for each 1000 points. You can then use these tickets to redeem unlocked prizes which give you special targets to earn bonuses such as freezing time for 10 seconds or throwing three eggs per throw for 10 seconds instead of one a a time.  In addition, some bonuses add themes to the individual games, such as a winter scene for the balloon pop or Halloween for the suction-cup arrows.

If playing for keeps doesn’t work for you, there’s also a Free Play mode which lets you choose the level you want to play/practice on, although for some odd reason, the levels are noted only by numbers and give no real indicator in terms of goals or degree of difficulty. Note however that you can only play levels you have already cleared in the Challenge version. You also don’t win tickets in Free Play mode.

The graphics are really quite good, although to point where it seems to slow down the iPhone from just too much to process. It’s not bad enough to discourage game play however and you really only notice it in the menus and switching between games, not so much the games themselves. The developers have also tried to throw in some of the special physics that’s so prominent in the attraction, such as the suction-cups sticking to non-targets or the water balloon eggs rolling over the plywood waves if you aim a little low and hit the top of them instead of the ducks.

Game Play

Woody’s Rootin’ Tootin’ Shootin’ GalleryWoody’s Rootin’ Tootin’ Shootin’ Gallery
This game is pretty straight forward in play. Simply press where you want the suction-cup arrows to go, which is of course on each of the targets. The twist is that while you have an unlimited supply of arrows in most rounds, you can only fire off six before you need to reload by swiping your finger across the reload area as pictured on the left. You can reload at any time during play as well, so you don’t have to wait until you run out.

Like the attraction, there are several targets that trigger additional targets to pop up. It’s fairly limited in just how many there are, so you learn pretty quick which target produces which additional targets.

I found the gameplay to be pretty straight forward and can aim pretty well most of the time despite the size of the targets, particularly the smaller ones (which of course are generally worth more points).

Green Army Men Shoot CampGreen Army Men Shoot Camp
The gameplay is a bit more interesting here. Instead of clicking directly on the plates to fire a baseball at them, you must position the cross-hair target to where you want to fire by sliding one finger around so it’s in position, then click with another finger to fire, although you can technically use the same finger in both cases (swipe to aim, press to fire). It’s a bit more challenging and it turns out it’s not one of my favorite games, but it’s not a bad thing either. Unlike the Shootin’ Gallery, there is no requirement to reload at any time.

Bo Peep's Baaa-loon PopBo Peep’s Baaa-loon Pop
This is the game I’ve played the most by far. Like the Shootin’ Gallery, simply click to aim and fire to pop the balloons. You also need to periodically (read: often) reload, but here you give the iPhone a little shake to reload thanks to its accelerometer. It’s actually quite fun (until you’re stuck playing the same level over and over to move on).

Also like the Shootin’ Gallery, the targets can be small and I have little trouble hitting most of them. The main exception is the balloons on the cloud which are worth 300 points each and I end up quickly running out darts trying to clear them out. Sometimes I’m dead on and get them all, sometimes I completely miss over and over, so I suspect the way you hold the device will impact your aiming. Incidentally, while clearing all those balloons release a whole flood of additional targets in the theme park edition, here you simply get a little bonus animation. Another minor annoyance which you learn to overcome are the moving targets, especially in the round where you need to clear all targets in a certain time, notably the flower balloon that releases the flying bee target.

Buzz Lightyear’s Flying TossersBuzz Lightyear’s Flying Tossers
A simple flick of the finger is all that’s required to toss a rubber ring to try to capture an alien or rocket (and additional targets). The length of your swipe determines how high and far the ring goes. The discouraging part however is that you can only swipe in a particular region of the gameboard (the area below the dotted line) and as the game heats up, it’s often easy to lose sight of this and misfire. Who doesn’t love the Toy Story aliens though? And one of the coolest elements of the iPhone edition of this game is the animation of the red aliens in the back as you successfully ring them, sending them off flying towards you in a non-linear path — it’s as close to 3D as you can get.

Hamm'm EggsHamm’m Eggs
Finally we head to the farm in this adventure where water balloons substitute as eggs (far less messy and much more wobbly). Firing the eggs here is done in a sliding action, only it’s reversed, as if you were using a slingshot — the longer the swipe, the higher and further the eggs go. Although they move across the board, the ducks are virtual sitting ducks as the physics of the game allow you to barely hit the top of the waves and have the egg roll over and hit the target anyway, which is definitely more of a visual treat than a strategy. One thing I really dislike about this game is that the fox target which releases chicken targets (as it does in the theme park version) is so close to the bottom of the screen that I’ve had virtually no success hitting the chickens as they run across the bottom (moving targets are inherently harder, but trying to not overshoot that low is another challenge in itself).

I really have no doubts that those who are already fans of Toy Story Mania! in the theme parks will find a lot of benefit in the portable iPhone edition, just the memories it induces is worth the $5. The game relies so much so on the theme park version that you can unlock special wallpapers simply by activating a button on another menu screen when you’re standing in front of the attraction at either Disney’s California Adventure or Disney’s Hollywood Studios. How’s that for a neat trick? Unfortunately (but very cool), the game uses the device’s location services to determine if you’re actually at the attraction, so I believe this leaves the iPod Touch out unless you have a MiFi connection since WiFi isn’t readily available in the parks.

If you’re not familiar with Toy Story Mania, this game may not have as much value for you, unless you’re a Toy Story fan in general and have a sick obsession with hearing ‘You’ve Got a Friend in Me’ over and over and over and over and over again. And it provides you with quick gameplay that you can use as a timekiller anyway without getting you involved in something much bigger.

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