Friday, April 20, 2018

Plug n Play Game Corner: Toy Story Mania

It's time to dive into one of the more interesting sub-niches of Plug n Play games, with their attempt at home versions of light gun games! And what better place to start than with a game that's a port of a Disney RIDE? This is the Plug n Play version of Toy Story Mania!


Game: Disney/Pixar's Toy Story Mania
Distributor: Jakks Pacific
Release Date: 2010
Genre: Shooter

 During the heyday of Plug n Play games, a couple game developers saw this niche as an opportunity to experiment with what could be built into one of these low-powered consoles. While most stuck with the typical digital joystick-and-button arcade cabinet layouts

Some went with analog steering wheel inputs for racing/driving games(like we saw with Play TV Monster Truck and Cars 2)

Some attempted motion controls(as with the Spongebob Bikini Bottom 500 game)

And, most recently, we had a Plug n Play variation of the Toys to Life craze, featuring consoles that identified characters from franchises like DC Comics, TMNT, How to Train Your Dragon, Power Rangers, and Transformers to unlock in-game missions and content.

These are just a few examples of the many different forms Plug n Play games have taken over the years. If you're building a self-contained console/controller whose only compatibility requirement is to work with a TV, the sky's the limit as far as what it can look like and how it controls!

It could look like an inflatable horse, for example! ...Oh boy, do I need to hunt down and feature this one...

 For me, one of the more interesting types of Plug n Play consoles are the light gun games. As you'd guess by the name, this is where they either tried to port existing light gun arcade and console games to a far-less powerful system, or they created their own original shooter games meant to be played using similar technology. ...Watered-down, super-obsolete technology, but the same concept nonetheless.

Light gun games have been around since even before the beginning of consoles themselves, with the Magnavox Odyssey Shooting Gallery the first light gun meant for a console, making them one of the oldest electronic game genres in existence!

Many are probably most familiar with the NES Zapper, and the classic Duck Hunt and Hogan's Alley games, but traditional light guns have existed for a number of different consoles ranging from the Sega Master System, to the SNES, to the PlayStation 2. Before infrared motion controllers made them, for the most part, obsolete.

However, light guns are probably most well known for their use in arcade games, with the Big Buck Hunter, House of the Dead, and Time Crisis series being the most prolific of this genre. All of which have also gotten home ports on one system or another.

In fact, it's the first franchise mentioned that's probably responsible for light guns being considered the second-most prolific type of Plug n Play game, after the typical joystick-and-button style. Big Buck Hunter and its many sequels and spin-offs have received a LOT of hot-selling TV game ports. So much so, that it's pretty common for me to find them at thrift stores, yard sales, and other areas that sell used stuff.

It's not even the first Plug n Play hunting game, as Radica released what's basically a clone of the arcade version back in 2000 under the Buckmaster Huntin' line(which itself received several sequels.) So, like game consoles, light gun games have been around since nearly the beginning of the Plug n Play boom.

It's also arguably one of the longest lasting Plug n Play genres, as they were still making Star Wars and The Walking Dead shooters as late as 2015.

And, in between those years, a lot of other titles were released during the hype, using either the traditional light-sensing method of detection, or infrared sensors to play the game. So many, they need their own box in my collection! And if you think I've collected even HALF of the consoles that use this game technology... Well, you might be right. ...But I need them ALL!

If you're also interested in collecting light gun Plug n Play games, or games in general, be warned that it's not an easy hobby to upkeep. The major problem with early light gun games is their incompatibility with newer TVs. Most were meant for CRT curved-screen TVs of the 80s, 90s and early 00s, and are next-to-incompatible with older flatscreen TVs, let alone today's LCD 4K jobs. I've already expressed frustration with trying to get these sensors to work in my Star Wars Revenge of the Sith and Virtual Station reviews, and it applies to most of these consoles that use split-second light detection to judge shots. It has something to do with how modern TVs are less bright and have a much faster refresh rate than CRT TVs of the past.

 Which is why I now have this beast on hand for when I want to feature these older games, which features Video Out ports for compatibility with my capture device. ...The picture quality is going to look like I captured it on a potato, but it's the best option I got.

Luckily, most newer light gun consoles instead use an included infrared sensor bar, similar to the Wii and PS3, which detects the proximity of the gun to the sensor and interprets it as a crosshair onscreen, without relying on the size or make of the monitor. This means that most games can theoretically be used with any display, as long as the sensor can be placed in such a position for it and the gun to accurately interact.

...Which is still a bit of a problem for me, considering my TV space...

And that's luckily the case with today's offering: Toy Story Mania.

Toy Story Mania(or Toy Story Midway Mania, depending on the source), is an attraction at most Disney Parks, first opened in Disney World in 2008. It's a bit similar to the previous Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters attraction, in that it's a dark ride rail shooter, where riders shoot at targets to score points. Unlike the former, all the action occurs on large screens, instead of physical targets with light sensors, allowing for more visual targeting and a better grasp of where you're shooting. Plus, it's more animated and easier to reprogram based on changes to the franchise, which is probably a sigh of relief to the Disney Imagineers.

Unfortunately, I haven't been to a Disney Park since 2007, so I missed out on this particular attraction(and seeing as how it's a tech-based ride that's now a decade old, it's likely living on borrowed time.) However, I like the concept. Admittedly, I'm a bit old-fashioned with rides and attractions in that I'd actually like something THERE to marvel at, but a massive rail shooter with stunning animation and responsive controls that anyone can master is definitely something worthy of heaping praise on. It looks fun, and I'll probably check it out when(and IF) I visit a Disney Park again. ...If not for the attraction, then at least for the pre-ride queue, which are always just as fun and imaginative as the ride they lead up to*.

*For the first hour, anyway.

Being basically an overelaborate arcade game, it shouldn't be a surprise that it also received home console ports. First for the Wii in 2009, then the PS3 and Xbox 360 in 2012. ...Because people were just clamoring for a poorly-received game to be ported to two consoles infamous for their poor motion-sensing THREE years later, I guess...?

And in 2010, shortly before the release of the third movie, it also got a Plug n Play port. And look! I even have the box for it!

The box itself is designed with a bit of a sideshow aesthetic, with banners, red curtains, and old-timey wooden billboards, similar to what a carnival from Woody's time period would use. It's overused, but still fits the theme of the game and sets the tone of a carnival shooter very nicely.

Unfortunately, it's completely ruined by this large white grid area that Jakks likes to put on their packaging to serve as a backdrop for a shot of the console and TV. I know it's there to show what you'll be getting and how you play with it, but does it have to take up 3/4 of the box's face?!

The other part is decent, with Woody, Buzz, Jessie, and an LGM standing in front of the targets, including one that contains the game's title

But it's hard to focus on that when you have a giant picture of the console itself in the middle, accompanied by a MASSIVE Plug It In and Play logo right next to it! These don't need to be THIS big! Or at the very least, you could have found a better place and setting more relevant to the rest of the box's style to put them...

Also, obvious prototype console, since the buttons aren't installed yet.

We get the standard exaggerated screenshot of game footage in the upper right. ...Except it's not actually that exaggerated in this case. You DO fire an endless stream of balls at the TV(though obviously not a physical stream), and the stuff does pop out of the screen when you break it! ...Sort of. I'll explain in a minute.

We get the standard blurbs in the front of what it is, that it plugs into the TV and it has built-in games

And it says it's "Inspired by the Disney Theme Park Experience." ...For me, "inspired" means it's similar to the game at the park, but with different aesthetics and gameplay. This is a straight-up port of the levels on the ride, so it's not as much "inspired" as it is simply the budget* home version. So a more accurate tagline would be "Relive the Disney Theme Park Experience." That still wouldn't be the complete truth, especially since you'd need about 5 crying kids and a drunk transvestite behind you to fully realize that claim, but it would reflect reality a little more.

*I say "budget", but it was likely more expensive than the console ports. Spend $20 for a console port with nicer graphics, or $60 for a version that actually looks like one of the ride's guns. Decisions, decisions.

"Fun For All. Small Fries Too!" ...Ok, for that joke to work, you'd need a picture of Mr Potato Head there, not Hamm or Bo Peep. The line here should be "Fun For All. Pigs & Sheep Too!" Not that much funnier, but more relevant to the characters pictured. I guess they wrote the line, but Disney didn't feel like paying a royalty to Playskool that day.

...I don't have anything to comment on for this one.

The back simply shows screenshots for each of the game's 5 zones, which we'll get into in a minute, along with the gun again taking up a large amount of space and stock pictures of Buzz and Woody on the other side.

Still, the back does affirm that it's "Rootin' Tootin' Shootin' Fun!" ...I think that was the statement Wyatt Earp gave to the newspapers after OK Corral.

"Pop, Sling, & Smash Your Way To a High Score!" Which is also what you can do to the console if you fail to get that high score! It's good to know a product is so multipurpose!

One final thing to point out about the box is that they include a handle with the Jakks Pacific name on it, signifying that they mean for you to keep the box as a storage container. ...Which, considering the number of pieces with this thing, is actually quite thoughtful and economical of them! Now kids can take it with them over to a friend's house and not have to worry about accidentally leaving behind a piece! ...Though they will have to worry about accidentally leaving behind the game at said friend's house. It's happened to all of us. Don't deny it!

Though that innovation doesn't make this worth $60. Sorry, Disney. You can sue me later*.

*Please don't.

Once we pull out the cardboard packaging, we see that the set is comprised of the console, the sensor bar, a pair of 3D glasses, and the instructions. And only two of those things were used during the playing of this game!

As shown on the box, the console itself is shaped like one of the ray guns from the attraction, with the handles moved to the sides and buttons on the top of the handles instead of the pullback lever on the back(which has been replaced by the On/Off switch.) It's a pretty freaking-sweet design, especially with the retro-futuristic space gun look!

 And you can get the shell of it for your Wii remote if you so want. ...I don't know why you would spend about as much as this Plug n Play game costs for this controller accessory, though. If it's not a Rabbids Plunger Gun casing, it's worthless.

And here's the sensor bar, shaped again like one of those old-timey carnival booths, with a bunch of infrared lights along the sides and top to detect where your controller is pointing at the time. ...Provided it's directly in their line of sight, since infrared is a SUPER unreliable way to track motion. As anyone who's ever owned a Wii can attest to.

Pop it on the TV like so, turn it on, and you're all set.

But here's where the game gets interesting. Like with the ride it's based on, it'd in 3D and comes with a set of "Infini-Vision" glasses, so you can watch as the targets pop out at you as you shoot them! ...At least, I assume you can. 3D with general RF or composite cables has never worked properly, and I run the signal through so many wires and converters to get it connected to my screen recorder and HDTV, the image is a barely visible mess when it shows up onscreen. So it's hard enough to see what's happening as I'm playing the game, let alone figure out if anything is in 3D or not as I go. Plus, the glasses were a size too small for me, and they gave me a headache within minutes, so I just played sans glasses. I'll save that experience for when I get to Disney World.

Also, there's an instruction book. ...Let's turn the game on.

After we get the standard logo flybys for Jakks Pacific, Disney, and Pixar, we see that the guest programmer in this case is Schell Games.

Schell Games is a Pennsylvania-based game developer that's been around since 2002. It was founded by Jesse Schell, an ex-Disney Imagineer who was responsible for a truckload of Disney-branded games and interactive rides, including the MMORPG Toontown Online, and the actual Toy Story Midway Mania attraction. This is a man and company very familiar with Disney and virtual gaming, so it's impressive they remained behind something as niche as the Plug n Play port of the Toy Story Mania game.

They're still around to this day, and when they're not working with Disney, they're either developing games and attractions for other parks and organizations, or creating their own games. Including the strategic starship simulator Orion Trail, the immersive Choose Your Own Adventure audio play Baker Street Experience, and, most recently, a line of virtual reality games, including a VR version of Orion Trail. ...This might just be one of the greatest game studios nobody's heard of! I'm gonna have to keep tabs on this company and check out a few of their games! ...You know, after I play this churned-out game that's probably not representative of their work as a whole. ...I hope.

The game starts with a title screen that depicts the Toy Story Mania logo in front of red curtains, again hinting at the carnival experience you're about to get. ...And, unfortunately, this is yet another Plug n Play game, and the second Disney game in a row, that doesn't incorporate the theme of the source material and instead uses a bit of stock music. It's not a bad track, and I could imagine this plucky, whimsical, upbeat tune as a section from the Toy Story score, but it's not particularly memorable. Even if I were to listen to it looping for an hour, I wouldn't be able to hum it back.

I know, I know, right issues and the like get in the way of creating a fully accurate experience, and Plug n Play games in particular need to cut corners to meet their budget and technical limitations. ...Still, after the fantastic renditions Bob the Builder, Scooby-Doo, and The Price is Right have given us of their themes, it's heartbreaking that Disney so far hasn't given us the same experience arguably cheaper game consoles have presented us with...

Seriously, Disney, you can stand to be a little less stingy with your music rights. Or are you afraid your next movie will only make $999,999,999 instead of a billion and a half and you'll have to give up one of your six dozen summer estates? You poor, poor baby...

As soon as you hit Start, the game launches into a "Practice" mode, where you guide the cursor over the targets and shoot at them. I'm assuming this is also a calibration mode for the console to get a grasp of how big a screen it's dealing with, which is integral for these newer light gun games to work. Disguising a frustrating technical process as an exciting minigame? I can get behind that.

When you make it to the main menu, you're greeted by Buzz and Woody. Literally. One or the other says "Greetings" when they pop onscreen. And it's clearly likely Pat Fraley and Jim Hanks voicing Buzz and Woody, respectively, instead of Tim Allen and Tom Hanks. But this is normal for the game versions(with Kingdom Hearts III as the combo breaker), and they do incredible impersonations, so no complaints here.

What's additionally nice is that, in the Options Menu, they include the option to toggle between Flat Screen and Traditional TV screens. This was around the time when the majority was starting to transition to flat screen 720p and 1080p TVs, but there were still people happy to hold onto their CRT and regular flatscreen TVs, so it's great that they included a way for both TV owners to enjoy the game! ...Could they please retroactively alter older game systems with this feature as well? I'll supply the DeLorean!

Oh, and you don't actually have to play the game to play the game. You're perfectly welcome to shoot darts randomly across the Menu screen all the live long day, if you so well please! ...You know, if you're the type who likes to play with the box more than the super expensive present that came inside that your divorced dad bought for you as a guilt present... ...Kinda got a little dark at the end there. Better play the game and cheer myself up.

Like the attraction, the game is comprised of five different stages, which can either be played separately, or as one long marathon(which is what I did):

Hamm 'n Eggs
Bo Peep's Baaa-loon Pop*
Green Army Men Shoot Camp
Tossed in Space
Rootin' Tootin' Shootin'

*Replaced by Rex and Trixie's Dino Darts in the attraction

Hamm 'n Eggs starts you off in a typical carnival shooter-esque environment, featuring a multitude of farm animals popping up and scrolling by, each with a different point value based on the difficulty of making the shot. Simply shoot as many animals as you can with the highest point values within the time limit to achieve a high score. ...Though you can't eat them afterwards, so I frown on this wasteful shooting for sport! I'm not THAT kind of Republican...

As I mentioned earlier, more modern light gun games, as well as motion controls, operate on infrared technology. The sensor bar detects where and how close the sensor on the remote is by measuring the infrared wavelength and comparing it to the other sensors on both the remote and bar. The bonus to using this method is that it can accurately detect where the signal is coming from and represent it with a crosshair on the screen, allowing you to see exactly where the pointer is and where your shots will land! It's a much easier to use and versatile system than the older photosensitive method, and it makes shooting games a lot more fun!

...Unfortunately, the downside to this method is the slight lag in movement and recognition, meaning you have to keep the signal in a small area and you can't move it too quickly, otherwise signal is completely lost for a second or two. You basically have to suppress every quick-shot reflex in order to slowly and carefully pinpoint your shot, throwing off your instinct to simply point-and-shoot! It's not AS bad as I'm making it sound, but it makes shooting fast moving targets in sequence a bit of a chore.

So yesterday's light guns had difficulties with accuracy and detection, yet could register shots almost instantly in the right conditions, while today's light guns have incredible accuracy and detection to the point they can pinpoint a crosshair wherever you're pointing, yet must be positioned carefully in order to have any impact onscreen. ...Is technology really advancing, or are we just exchanging faults?

I know I keep getting off-topic with this review, but that's mostly because there's not a whole lot to say about the gameplay. It's a standard carnival-style shooter. Just point, shoot, and knock down the targets! It couldn't be more straightforward if it wrenched the gun out of your hands and did it for you.

Shoot these green Plus signs for additional time

And these 2X signs for a temporary score boost. Besides that, it's exactly what you'd expect from something advertised as an electronic midway shooting gallery.

...It's actually kind of sad that the Whac-A-Mole game has more variety than what we have here...

OK, there IS something that adds a bit of a twist to each level. Play the stage long enough, which involves shooting every "green Plus" sign to keep the time going, and it metamorphoses into a different layout with different targets. In Hamm 'n Eggs' case, it transitions from day to night, and you're now shooting night creatures like raccoons, rats, wolves, and bats. They follow mostly the same patterns as the daytime animals, but it is a nice change and keeps gameplay from feeling too monotonous. Which, for a cheap virtual shooting gallery, is sorely needed.

Still, if it switches from day to night, doesn't that mean we need to see this for several seconds first?

Nighttime also introduces a new hazard to the game in the form of these minus Red signs. As you can guess, these subtract time, shortening your session. Again, not a bad addition, as it keeps you from shooting wildly at anything and everything that pops up.

Because, let's face it, this guy wasn't that much of a deterrent...

Eventually, the Plus signs dry up and time runs out, signified by everything retreating into the booth's mechanisms. If you're playing a single zone, it then kicks you to a score screen. If you're playing them all, it immediately starts up the next stage. ...I'm actually a little disappointed not to get an actual "Results" screen, with the number of targets hit, the accuracy of my shots, etc. ...Of course, if it did have one, I still wouldn't show it, I'm that embarrassed with my shooting game skill...

The next stage is Bo Peep's Baaa-loon Pop, which takes the form of a more simplistic balloon-popping booth than the complex moving targets of the last stage. It's still the same mechanics, however. You know what they say: When you have a handful of darts, everything looks like a balloon...

Speaking of which, that unfortunately brings me to my other main gripe with the game: I HATE when the ammo is visible in a first-person shooter game... It's just completely unnecessary. Not only does it fill up the screen with several view-blocking projectiles that take seconds to go away, but it slows down the action. When I point a reticle at something and pull the trigger, I expect the projectile to travel at the speed that something would go! I don't WANT to wait for the image to slowly make its way to the target and eventually collide with it. I appreciate the work you put into scaling these sprites, but when the mechanics function more like a clumsy catapult than a handheld ranged weapon, all it does is throw me off and make me long for the good old days of photosensitive flash light guns.

Prompt, action, and reaction. That's all we need here...

Earning points is slightly harder in this section. The balloons in the front only give 100 points, and the 500 point balloons that emerge from them float away faster than the darts travel, so hitting them spot-on is difficult. Most of the other targets are either the massive pink sheep that's only 100 points, or the tiny balloons in the background that again quickly move out of the way. Not to mention the power ups can float away if you're not paying attention. ...Do you see why I long for more instant projectile impact?

This stage actually has TWO transitions. First, the background gets dark and blue and black balloons start falling to imitate rain.

Then the skies clear up, leaving a beautiful field of flowers and a multicolored balloon rainbow to shoot at! Simplistic, yet clever. Which is the bare minimum of what I look for in these games.

Eventually, time runs out here as well, and it's on to the next stage.

 Next is the Green Army Men Shoot Camp, and it's back to the style of the first stage with stationary and moving targets to throw baseballs at. ...In fact, it's SO much like that stage, that there's nothing else to really say about the gameplay for this zone. ...That mountain in the middle obscures targets, so that's new and annoying, I guess

The transition is the weakest of what we've seen so far. The mountain simply opens up into a green army men base, which occasionally sprouts rockets to fire into the offscreen. ...And that's the long and short of it. This is easily the blandest, easiest, most uninteresting of the levels, so there's nothing more to say.

So instead I'll talk about one of the most impressive aspects of the game: The sound and music. This has possibly the best sound quality I've come across on this blog! I'm so used to regular stock bleeps and bloops from the 8-bit and 16-bit area, or highly-compressed, near-unrecognizable sound bites, that I'm mostly deaf to the sounds of the games I play on here. This one, on the other hand, not only sounds like they recorded a whole library of new effects and music, but it sounds GREAT! It's very nearly HD quality, with little-to-no compression for most of the audio. It's even more impressive considering it comes from a composite cord, which usually results in backing feedback, but even that's either very faint or completely absent! Listening to the audio, you'd swear it was coming either from computer speakers or from an HDMI input! I know this is something harder to demonstrate on a blog, but check out the supplementary video, and marvel at its clarity!

Included in the crystal clear audio are some clips from the voice actors, mostly Buzz and Woody, with a few guest clips now and again. Except while most other games use the clips as random sound bites for congratulations and such, this game actually uses them to enhance the experience! Yes, you have Buzz and Woody every so often shouting "Nice Shot. That was one-in-a-million" and "Keep an eye on that time counter" and "YEE-HAW", among others, but they also signal the start of the level by saying "Ready. GO!" and the end by counting down the last 5 seconds of the timer. It legitimately sounds like the characters are part of the game, as opposed to just showing off that they had enough space to include compressed speech! This is, hands down, the BEST audio editing I've EVER come across in a Plug n Play game, and one of the highest selling points of the console! ...Or at least it would be, if they advertised it...

The level ends after a few minutes(which even THAT is boring, with the guys just running offscreen like they've been doing), and it's time for the next.

The fourth level is Tossed in Space, where you throw rings at LGMs and a bunch of other space stuff. ...And it's the projectiles used here that confuse me as to the mechanics of this zone.

Seeing as how you're throwing rings, you'd think that the strategy here would be slightly different, e.g., that you'd need to throw the rings at a slightly different angle to have them land around the targets. ...However, that doesn't seem to be the case here, as throwing the rings directly at stuff, including rods that you'd THINK you'd have to aim to ring it, seems to work just the same as the previous levels. ...Maybe? I honestly can't tell where these rings are heading, so I don't know how accurately they're hitting a target, so either they just need to hit a target dead-on, or they're right in the area they need to be to get a ringer. It is VERY confusing how this works, and it kind of messes with my brain how the physics here work.

Still, whatever it uses to score points, this is a fun, bizarre little level, with aliens, meteors, satellites, and a bunch of other corny space stuff. It's a lot more visually interesting than the previous zone, and it's as fun to watch as it is to play. Especially with the LGMs occasionally speaking and moving around in response to you throwing stuff at them. ...I wonder if these are the Jeff Pidgeon or the Debi Derryberry versions?

The stage transition is even to a giant tentacled alien where you throw rings at its eyestalks and help LGMs escape via rocket packs! That is SOOOO much fun and imagination, I think it's breaking some metaphysical barrier somewhere and we'll soon be facing a collapse and merge of reality and imagination, ending the universe as we know it. ...Well if this is how I'm going out, HOORAY!

Sadly, even this stage has to turn itself off and kick us to the next level. ...2 MORE MINUTES, PLEASE?!

Finally, we come to the fifth zone: Rootin' Tootin' Shootin'. And this is by far my favorite level. It changes things up a bit by not only switching to a rail shooter, but also becoming one of those "interactive" shooting galleries. The kind where something in the background reacts when a nearby target is hit; in this case, an animal popping up from behind a hill or similar. This whole stage is a combination of the fast-paced excitement of a rail shooter, mixed with the risk/reward system of a shooting gallery, and I couldn't have more fun with this stage if I tried! ...Well I could, but it would probably result in jail and the 6:00 news...

Unfortunately, there's no mid-level transition for this stage. It simply scrolls to the left, keeping you in the same landscape for the entire allotted time. Maybe it changes things up with more animals that pop out, but it's a very subtle change compared to the other stages. ...Still, this stage is so much fun, that I didn't even notice as I was playing. Heck, a transition would have arguably interrupted the flow of the level's movement, briefly taking me out of the world it created. So this is a case where less is actually more! ...And this is a special case. Don't make this the rule, future Plug n Play games!

There's also no shutdown animation for the level, which is a little more noticeable and disappointing. The level simply fades to black as it continues to scroll, which sort of breaks the illusion of a sideshow game. But again, this section is so so much fun, that the disappointment stems more from it having to end, than any technical aspects missing. It's the best part of the entire console, and a great note to end everything on.

...Though I think it needed more racist Islamic terrorist squirrels. Daniel's Wood Land Shooting Gallery* got that one right...

*I don't actually know anything about this attraction. It was just the craziest thing I found when searching for electronic shooting galleries. Looks fun though. Go check it out if it still exists! Also, that'll be a nickel for advertising, DWL.

When all levels have been completed, it displays your total score across all 5 levels

Then where your High Score sits on the table. Followed by a kick back to the Main Menu. ...Again. Detailed "Results" screen. Miss it.

And that was Toy Story Mania! A Plug n Play version of a Toy Story shooting gallery attraction that nobody was asking for. ...But we're all glad they did!

 Hopefully, the same can be said for Toy Story 4.


Design: The shape is almost exactly like the attraction's blasters, save for a few cosmetic changes to make using it as a handheld console easier. It's a quite interesting, stand-out design, with a rounded body and barrel, and two handles with buttons at the top. Plus a Toy Story Mania button on the butt of the gun. Even if I didn't know this was a Plug n Play game, I'd still pick it up to see what it was. Possibly use it as a space gun prop in something.

Controls: The physical controls are two buttons that do the exact same thing. ...Can't fault them for that. As for the wireless detection, it's... Fine. I've already gone over the differences and problems with light gun technologies several times in this post, and the pros and cons with this game are no different than with other infrared light guns. It's responsive, but it boils down to how much light is in the room, where the sensor is, where the gun is pointed, etc. Still, I didn't have any major problems with moving the gun around, and nothing popped up too quickly for me to catch. I guess the only major hindrance I can bring up that I haven't mentioned before is that the way the gun is built and held, plus the fact it takes 4 AA batteries, it gets pretty heavy to hold after long periods of time. Keep this in mind if you decide to marathon the levels like I did, and take a break midway to shake the feeling back into your arms.

Music & Sound: Once again, we have a library of stock music that matches the general tone of the levels, but doesn't leave that lasting an impression. However, I'm still impressed with how varied each track is and how they stand out from each other. The Western scores sound like a lively hootenanny, Bo Peep's Baaa-Loon Pop is calming and nursery rhyme-ish, Green Army Men Shoot Camp is cartoonishly militaristic, and Tossed in Space is full of cheesy synthesizers and other sci-fi effects. It makes a welcome change from most other libraries that all seem to have the same tone and mood, causing the tracks to blend together. Of course, what makes the BIGGEST difference with this score is that it ACTUALLY sounds like an orchestral score! Instead of the MIDIs and chiptunes common with Plug n Play systems, it legitimately sounds like they composed and orchestrated music for this game, slightly compressed it, and fit it all on this console! How did they do it? I have no idea, but it's the clearest, most impressive score I've ever heard on one of these Plug n Play games, and the most crystal audio I've ever heard from a single Mono composite cord! The sound effects are equally as impressive, with what sounds like an entire library of new effects for practically everything in the game! You can hear plates breaking, wood being smashed, animals making noise, things getting zapped, etc. It's audio bliss for a game like this! On top of that, this has the best use for voice clips I've ever found in a Plug n Play game. Not only is there a large amount of voice acting for Woody, Buzz, and the LGMs, but they're incorporated into the game experience as much as being standard random encouragement clips. Buzz/Woody will prepare the player to start shooting, then will count down with the timer as the stage nears its end. It sounds so fluid and natural, like each clip was individually recorded for each instance, and it fits seamlessly with the action on the screen! Overall, I can give the sound and music the highest praise I can for one of these consoles: I can believe it comes from an actual computer game. ...A CD-ROM-based game from the 90s, but still CD-quality audio nonetheless.

Graphics: I'm a little more torn on how to judge the graphics. I'm impressed with how CLEAR everything is, especially for a max resolution of 360p. The objects have depth to them, with high frame rates, a varied color palette, and a LARGE array of different targets and projectiles. I don't think there's a single repeated asset throughout any of the levels! Everything LOOKS great, and was clearly drawn by professional artists and implemented by expert coders. However, there's not exactly much actual "animation" in this game, with the targets and most of the characters simply being still pictures moved around on a predefined path. There are SOME animations with the LGMs in Tossed in Space and the army men in Green Army Men Shoot Camp, but the sprites are jerky and microscopic. This is especially disappointing to see after the previous Disney Plug n Play game featured here, which had incredibly smooth and varied animations for most of the moving objects and characters. Wouldn't it have been fun to have some actual moving targets? Like Woody/Buzz walking across with a target, and they're knocked down or react in some way when you shoot them? As is, I appreciate the faithful carnival aesthetics for each of the different themes. I just feel that they could have done more with it.

Gameplay: The entire game is one mindless shooting gallery. But I mean that in the best possible way. It legitimately feels like you're handling one of those cheap carnival guns, pointing at the kitschy targets in environments trying WAY too hard. All like a regular carnival shooter! The shooting is fluid, as long as you keep a feel for the speed you can move the gun, and it keeps it clear where you CAN shoot. Also, being a video game, they can add features that you wouldn't get in a regular shooting gallery, such as a mid-level transition to a completely different landscape with different targets! And while the gameplay for each stage is basically the same, they do enough to each to keep it interesting and unexpected, whether it's the alien in the space level, the weather transitions and balloon physics in the Bo Peep level, or the Western side-scrolling rail gallery shooter level! Everything has its own flavor and way to stand out, and each gives you a different experience from the last. I'd say my only major gripes are the visible, slow-moving projectiles when a flash and sound effect would have been enough, and the confusing physics with the space ring level. I still don't quite grasp what I'm supposed to lob rings directly at, and what I'm supposed to throw rings at in an arc to ring it around the pole. Or do I just need to throw things at things like every other level? I don't know, and the projectiles and layout confuse me somewhat. However, these issues are minor at best, and don't distract from just what a fun FPS the rest of the game is! Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go play that rail shooter level a few dozen more times.

Replay Value: The game keeps a record of the High Scores, so you can go back and try to beat your previous scores whenever you'd like. There are six different levels(the five stages and the full run) to attempt High Scores on as well, so that alone will take a short bit of time to establish your scoreboard presence on! There's not much variation in subsequent replays, with the stages having mostly the same patterns each time, but they don't last long enough to get that bored with, and you can still practice how quickly and accurately you can hit the highest scores in each zone! You'll probably be surprised how easily you can top your previous score!


This was one of the most exciting and advanced consoles I've played yet! The graphics and music are astonishing, the gameplay is fluid and exciting, and it has a surprisingly high replay value! It's obviously not as good as the attraction it's based on, nor even the console versions, but with Plug n Play games, you take what you can get. And what they gave us is AMAZING! If you have kids, and you can secure the sensor bar to avoid easily losing it, they'd likely get a good number of hours of entertainment out of it! Maybe you would too! So from me to this console, I'd just like to let it know that