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Toy Story Mania!: Toy Carnival and Beyond!

Toy Story Mania! is the only (at least the only one I can think of) game based off of a theme park attraction. Granted, that attraction is based off of a movie series, but Toy Story Mania!'s primary source of inspiration is the fairly new midway attraction featuring everyone's favorite toys-come-to-life.

Basically, the upcoming Wii game is a series of mini-games. Now before you start groaning about yet another half-hearted mini-game collection for the Wii, keep in mind that this isn't just some random collection of games loosely themed around outdoor play or games you would find in a game room. Instead, these games are taken from one of the biggest attractions found in Disney's Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM) and Disney's California Adventure, and from what I've been able to gather, the developers at Papaya Studios and Disney Interactive have put a lot of time and effort into capturing the details of that attraction.

In fact, one of the game's design producers talked about the amount of time their team went through the rides over and over again, both on tracks like everyone else, and with the lights on, examining everything. With that much care and attention, it's hard to think that the developers could come up with an experience that is less than enjoyable.

Toy Story Mania! will feature 30 different levels spanning 5 themes. These themes are Western, Space, Animal, Tea Party and Army. As you would expect, you will find many of the Toy Story characters in their appropriate themes; Woody in the Western area, Buzz in Space, Hammy and Rex in Animal and, of course, the Army Men in the military theme. For the most part, these themes won't really dictate what you will be doing in the mini-game, they will be little more than presentation. For instance, there won't really be any guns or explosions in the Army theme. Instead, you will be flinging baseballs at plates as planes fly overhead. And since all of this comes from Andy's new carnival play set (as well as the other things the toys find around Andy's room), you shouldn't expect to see anything too outlandish in Toy Story Mania!.

Toy Story Mania! also features a rich reward system. Much like in other midway experiences, playing games earns you tickets. Not only can these tickets be used to buy other games for use in Free Play (even those you haven't already unlocked in Story Mode), but you can also use them to buy items for your sticker book. The sticker book lets you arrange stickers in various themed backgrounds to make your own scenes. As you play, you unlock more theme backdrops, characters and objects. There is also an objective aspect to each mini-game to give players goals to help them progress in the story and unlock even more games. While players of average skill can run through the game and play all of the mini-games in a few hours, it is expected to take just a bit longer in order to meet all the objectives and unlock everything Toy Story Mania! has to offer.

But the main point of this game is the replayability and the party aspect. With support of up to four players, the whole family will be able to get involved. Both competitive and co-op gameplay modes will be available and while shooting games might have everyone clicking around the TV all at once, others will have each player taking turns. And, to top it off, Toy Story Mania! will also support 3D glasses for six of the levels. While these glasses aren't required in order to play or enjoy the experience, it is expected that the enhanced vision will make it better.

Toy Story Mania! is geared towards the tween-aged gamers out there, but from what I've heard, everyone from three year-olds to those in their 70's have had fun playing the game, and while the youngest in the test group didn't pick up on all of the nuances, there were still quite a few that he did play and enjoy. Toy Story Mania! is slated for release mid September and was designed to take 6 - 10 hours to play through and unlock everything (the first time, anyway). While games of this sort are a dime-a-dozen on the Wii, no other has the rich Toy Story universe behind it nor the vocal talent, since most of the movie's cast has returned for this new game. So those families out there looking for something new to do on their Wii as a group should definitely keep an eye out for Toy Story Mania!

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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