Thursday, February 28, 2013

App Review: Toy Story Smash It!

One of the most successful iOS games of all time is Angry Birds.  Everyone has played it and knows the formula.  You catapult little birds at precarious towers of blocks.  The more destruction you cause the more points you get but, ultimately, the real goal is to knock all of the evil pigs to the ground in order to defeat them.  Along the way you encounter various new power ups and level gimmicks but he basics stay the same.

It's a simple premise that works well...and it has also been done before in a number of other games.  One noteworthy example is the Boom Blox series released several years ago for the Nintendo Wii.  Boom Blox plays much like Angry Birds, but in three dimensions.  Somewhat like playing a reverse game of Jenga, the whole point of Boom Blox was to lob various projectiles at carefully constructed towers to send them toppling to the ground.  A key strategy to make use of was the fact that hitting blocks from certain angles could cause them to careen into other blocks, creating a chain reaction of destruction and bringing the whole structure down in one shot.  It was crazy fun.

"But, wait," you say! "Why are you talking about Boom Blox?  I thought this was a review for Toy Story: Smash It!  What is wrong with you, Frisch?"

Well you see, dear reader, Toy Story: Smash It! clearly represents Disney's attempt to grab a slice of the Angry Birds pie.  But in trying to put their own spin on the Angry Birds formula they ended up creating a game that should remind you more than a little of Boom Blox.  But that is hardly a bad thing!

The Birds formula is in full force here:  Little green aliens are placed about on precariously perched piles of blocks and it's Buzz Lightyear's job to chuck projectiles at the towers to bring all the little aliens tumbling down.  Simply taking out all of the aliens is enough to clear the level, but if you want to achieve a coveted three-star rank you have to do it in as few shots as possible, often only one, while also snagging the golden point blocks that are scattered about the stages.  In addition to your basic Pixar star balls, you also have other projectiles such as inflatable balloons or propeller-powered shots that can zoom forward in a straight line and plow through whatever is in their path.  This should all sound relatively familiar to veterans of Angry Birds.

Where the Boom Blox comparison comes in is that, like Boom Blox, Toy Story Smash It! is played in 3D, which gives an entirely different feel to the Angry Birds style of gameplay.  You can position Buzz anywhere you like within a semi-circular area in front of the puzzle, allowing you to get all sorts of different angles on the task at hand.  Some require you to simply use brute force to send the blocks toppling, but most require clever timing to get the top score.

Nearly every puzzle can be completely beaten with one shot if you find just the right place to throw it and at just the right time.  A lot of the solutions are pretty obvious, but even if you know what to do, it may still take a few tries to get the timing just right.  When you do nail it, however, watching the entire puzzle come crashing down and the point counter soar is extremely satisfying.  The touch controls are a breeze to use.  Simply slide your finger on screen to create a targeting reticule, position it where you want it, and then release to launch.  It's as easy as that.  The physics engine works beautifully and the blocks behave just how you would expect them to.

Toy Story: Smash It! also delivers on the audio and visual side as well.  Graphically, it's one of the finest looking iOS games I've played.  The characters are all smooth and detailed and look just like their movie counterparts.  The whole game takes place in Andy's room but cardboard scenery is used to give each level it's own distinct feel.  As the various sets of levels each have their own loose storyline attached to them, the scenery varies quite a bit from level to level.  The sounds and music are excellent as well.  Familiar Toy Story music plays in the background, and the characters all have a variety of voice clips.  I personally found it particularly amusing that the aliens will sometimes compliment you on defeating them.  Overall, the graphics and audio really make this game feel just like a Toy Story game should.

In the end, my only real complaint is that the game is rather brief.  Though the difficulty of the puzzles does ramp up eventually, you'll breeze through the first half of the levels in no time.  With only 60 puzzles to play, you'll be able to see most if not all that Toy Story: Smash It! has to offer in a single play session.  For the completionists out there, achievements add some extra incentives to shoot for besides high scores.  Fortunately, a tantalizing "Coming Soon" option on the level select screen promises that more puzzles are on the way.

Toy Story: Smash It! is one of the most polished and enjoyable iOS games I have ever played.  It's not too terribly challenging and it's a bit on the brief side, but you're sure to enjoy every minute of it while it lasts.  For only a dollar, and with the promise of new levels in the future, it's easy to recommend!  Fans of Angry Birds, Toy Story, and Boom Blox alike will all find plenty to enjoy!

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