Space Rangers have such responsibility. Bo Peep’s sheep are missing, Mr. Potato Head can’t find his body parts, Sarge has soldiers MIA, and evil Emperor Zurg must be vanquished before you can rescue Woody from Al’s Toy Barn. Luckily, you are an exquisitely animated ”Universe Protection Unit”—and, as such, are up to the challenge.
It’s clear that the designers of the new games Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue (PlayStation/Nintendo 64, $39.95/ $49.95) and Disney/Pixar’s Action Game, Toy Story 2 (PC and Mac, $29.99) have worked closely with the computer-animation maestros at the Pixar film studios. Not only are these sumptuous action-adventures being released the same week Toy Story 2 opens in theaters (highly unusual in an industry where the tie-in game more often shows up six months later), but they also mimic the new movie in both style and plot. It would be perfect—if only Windows PCs were half as reliable as videogame consoles, let alone film projectors.
The movie sequel, in case you’ve been buried in Pokémon-alia, follows the abduction of Woody (the voice of Tom Hanks) by an obsessive toy collector, Al (Wayne Knight), and the mission mounted by Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and the gang o’ toys to rescue their pal before he’s shipped off to Japan. While the film looks to be every bit as funny and eye-popping as its predecessor—with some new action figures (er, characters) to boot—the game offers the novelty of seeing this story through the eyes of a main character.
I played both the PlayStation and PC versions, which put you into Buzz Lightyear’s space suit for 15 levels of play. The video snippets from the movie, revealed after each level is completed, prove beyond doubt that the game’s Buzz is impeccably rendered: Even his body movements—the wobble when he balances on a ledge—seem to be taken from the same software file used for the movie. And in Helmet Cam mode (useful when targeting such enemies as the trash-can monster), you can see Buzz’s reflection in his helmet and hear his life-support system at work. While the rest of the Toy ensemble’s roles are significantly reduced in the game, you’re pretty much immersed by the time Allen’s voice declares, ”I have a laser, and I will use it.”
The story line hews to the film as well—but now you must outmaneuver hover-bots and attack planes. Even without those obstacles, navigating the 3-D mazes is hard enough, as I learned in Andy’s backyard (level 2) after repeatedly jumping from the swing set to the swinging tire, climbing up the rope into the big tree — and falling out of the branches. Such tools as the Rocket Jet Boots and Grappling Hooks help, but the game’s follow-along camera style often lags too far behind Buzz’s enthusiastic leaps. I all but gave up in frustration by level 5, and it’s hard to believe an 8-year-old would get any further. Then again, a kid raised on Nintendo 64 may have evolved beyond my own two-dimensional Space Invaders upbringing.
As a certified Space Ranger, however, it’s my duty to tell you that an agent of Zurg seems to have infiltrated the team at Disney Interactive that built the CD-ROM version of the game. The PlayStation version is A-OK, but I was unable to properly install the PC software on two different Windows machines. It finally worked on an old 486 but left the monitor settings completely out of whack. Since it seems that not even Buzz Lightyear can save Woody from buggy Windows software, you may just want to wait for the sequel: Toy Story 3—Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson to the Rescue. PlayStation: A Windows: C