While Buzz Lightyear, Woody, and the rest of the Toy Story crew are well-known for their fantastic big-screen adventures out in the world beyond the walls of their home, another aspect we catch glimpses of throughout the films are the adventures they have playing together as actual toys. It is this sort of downtime that forms the foundation of Toy Story: Smash It!, a block-physics puzzle game with a hint of Angry Birds or Boom Blox incorporated into it.
Thematically, you encounter various objectives over the course of the game, a different one for each of four sets of levels (aka “episodes”) you play. You begin by conquering the invading forces of Emperor Zurg, and move on to thwart P.T. Hamhock’s old west bank robbery, rescue a princess, and travel through time.
On a fundamental level, however, you have one simple goal to accomplish all of your missions: to throw a ball and knock down the block towers upon which those little alien guys are perched. Everyone’s role changes with the setting, but the core action remains the same as you take control of Buzz and try to knock everything down in as few shots as possible from your limited stock– ideally while collecting all three letters to spell out “TOY.”
Unlike a game such as Angry Birds, you are soon given the ability to move Buzz left and right in an attempt to find the best angle from which to strike. Ideal striking points are marked early on, but those training wheels come off soon enough. The letters can still give you an idea of where best to strike, though with the ability to move around them to a limited degree, these can still be confounding at times. In addition, you’re given different types of balls to use, including standard star-marked spheres, rocket-powered wreckers, and balloons that you blow up from within structures, causing them to explode from the inside.
The concept is simple and fun, but picks up in difficulty before too long. The unfortunate side of this is that some puzzles can be truly devious to solve with a perfect three stars, which is needed in order to reach the quota required to progress to newer episodes. This adds a certain degree of replay value, true, but one has to wonder how many times a member of the target audience will be willing to try before becoming frustrated by not finding the solution.
Thankfully, some of the tougher puzzles are followed up by some that (to us) were quite easy, allowing us to finish the entire stage with all letters collected after one well-placed shot. Maybe these are too easy, but after fighting your way through a real head-scratcher, these at least allow you to feel pretty clever.
Toy Story: Smash It! is a solid, fun, and addictive experience, and aside from the required star count needed to just keep playing, there isn’t much bad to say about it. One minor gripe, however, is that all of the action goes to Buzz– given the variety of settings in the episodes, we were disappointed to find that you don’t get to use Woody to stop P.T. Hamhock, for instance.
But again, that’s nitpicking. It’s a fun game for fans of the series young and old, though if you’re getting it for a younger child, you should probably expect the occasional tug at your sleeve with a request for help.