Once upon a time every single movie that came out needed a game tie-in. Naturally these game tie-ins needed to take some liberties with the movie to make for better games. Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue is one of those games. Originally released for the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 in 1999, with a Dreamcast and PC version following a few months later, Toy Story 2 tries to turn the movie into a collect-a-thon 3D platformer. Does this work out, or should Andy put his toys away?
For the most part the game vaguely follows the plot of the movie. Woody is stolen by a toy collector during a yard sale and a group of toys, led by Buzz, go to save him. The game uses (heavily compressed) clips from the movie to try and tell the story, but a lot of the sequences are lacking or don't make much sense without the rest of the movie as context. I wouldn't worry about it too much as it's not really the focus, plus I can't say it's much of a surprise as this was the norm for movie tie-ins of the day. Still, if you're expecting the story of Toy Story 2, then you'd do better just watching Toy Story 2.
You'll play as Buzz who'll be exploring through 15 different levels in his quest to save Woody. Each level has five pizza planet tokens hidden in it, and while you only need one token to complete a level, you want to get as many as possible to keep advancing in the game. It does give you some choice in not having to collect tokens you're finding too difficult, or on levels you don't enjoy, which is nice. Levels themselves are pretty big and open, and I was actually surprised to find quite a few neat little things hidden around each level. Hidden passages, shortcuts, and little environmental oddities are scattered about.
Of the five tokens hidden in a level, three of them have their conditions pretty set in stone. You'll always need to collect 50 coins for Hamm and five collectibles for another character. Collecting things to collect more things isn't unusual for a collect-a-thon, and it's pulled off well enough here, with the items making enough noise that I didn't have too much trouble finding them. The third token is always acquired by defeating the level's mini-boss, which can include things like tin robots, jackhammers, and cowboys. They're pretty fun fights, but some of them do suffer from basically being normal enemies with bigger health bars.
The other two tokens are usually a little more unique. One is always a race of some kind, though depending on the level it could be a challenge to collect items in a small area under a time limit or an actual race against another character. The latter is always weird, as the game clearly isn't made for those kind of situations. It's hilariously easy to win just by standing in front of the other character and walking slowly, as they keep stalling and getting stuck on you. Finally, there's a level-specific challenge, which runs the gamut from platforming challenges to puzzles. In the first level this meant just navigating my way around a basement full of toxic goop, while a later level saw me have to combine paints to get specific colors.
As you collect these tokens, Buzz will have to battle various toys out to stop him. To fight he has access to a spin attack and a laser. Unfortunately Buzz can not fight the game's greatest enemy: the camera. Trying its hardest to get stuck on everything, Toy Story 2's camera seemed to exist to make everything way harder than it needed to be. You do have some control over it, but even then anytime I entered an enclosed area I had trouble keeping it focused on Buzz and not lodging itself into a wall. It's not as bad in the bigger open areas at least, and those are usually the norm, but it's still frustrating when I had to basically guess at what's going on.
As you advance through the levels, you'll unlock power-ups, like rocket boots or a disc launcher. You need these power-ups to gather some tokens in levels, giving you incentive to revisit former levels to gather more tokens. For example, the second level has a race with RC Car that (assuming you don't use the aforementioned "walk slowly in front of your opponent" glitch) requires the rocket boots from a later level to win. It's a clever idea to expand older levels with new areas, but not much is really added to make this as interesting as it could be. For the most part it felt like going back to earlier levels for one or two more tokens really quickly and that's about it.
Every third level there's a boss fight. You'll get a few of the villains you'd expect from the film, like Zurg and Prospector Pete. Yet most of the boss fights are strange encounters against seemingly random things. Remember that time a World War 1 bi-plane dive bombed Buzz? How about when he battled off a slime monster in an alleyway? Oh sure they're fun fights usually, requiring some creative ducking and dodging between attacks. I was just rarely sure what these fights had to do with the rest of the game. As fun as these fights are, the final boss is also hugely disappointing. Instead of being a unique fight, the game just drops three mini-bosses on top of you and calls it a day.
The audio also hits one of the strangest highs and lows I've ever seen. On the one hand, the soundtrack is absolutely fantastic. I'm entirely unsure how it ended up as good as it did, but its clear a ton of effort went into it. From just the general atmospheric music each level has to the interestingly dramatic yet up-beat boss themes, I found myself humming the music even after the game was shut off. On the other hand, the game takes voice clips from the film and uses them with an annoying obsession. If Buzz is still for more than a couple of seconds, he'll repeat a line from the movie. Often the same line. Many times. One boss fight had Buzz say "An agent of Zerg if I've ever saw one" every single time I hit the boss, while another had him constantly repeat "You are a sad, strange little man, and you have my pity." It's infuriating, with the constant voices seeming to have no purpose other than to drive me mad. It doesn't help that these audio clips are low quality, often sounding strangely compressed.
When I was done with Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue, I was honestly pretty surprised. I figured most 3D collect-a-thons wouldn't have aged well, especially a movie tie-in one. It has its rough edges, but this is a much better game than I originally gave it credit for. Would I pick it over any of the genre greats? No. I still would give it a recommendation for anyone looking for some of the more interesting missed titles of the PlayStation era though.
Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue was reviewed on a PlayStation Vita using a copy purchased by the reviewer. The game was reviewed to fulfill the generous pledge we received a Patreon backer.
Better than I really remember, though still not pulling into great territory. Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue is a genuinely fun movie tie-in from an era where most of them were garbage. It still has issues holding it down from really being memorable though.
- Levels Are Interesting
- Fun Boss Fights
- Great Soundtrack
- Story Conveyed Poorly
- Camera is Terrible
- Constant Use of Movie Audio Clips is Annoying