'Toy Story 3" is what happens when inspired ideas fight a battle to the end with uninspired ideas while good and subpar execution duel similarly in the background.
Fortunately, if not easily, the good guys win more battles than they lose, and the game is significantly better than its five-car collision of ingredients would imply.
The struggle is apparent immediately, with "Toy Story 3" pushing players into the story's first level -- an on-horse Wild West chase starring Woody as the playable character -- before the main menu even pops up. The level is simple, straightforward fun, but it's also hampered by imprecise horse jumping controls. Other controls throughout the game are problematic. A generous checkpoint system makes it easy to forgive the setbacks the controls cause, but not so much that they aren't annoying when they pop up.
Immediately following the first level, "Toy Story 3" drops players into an entirely different mode -- the Toy Box -- and it does so without adequately clarifying that players who wish to continue the story can do so without doing a single thing in this mode. But the confusion might be for the best, because it's probably the most foolproof way to demonstrate to players that it's this mode -- and not the story, which feels more like a collection of self-contained vignettes -- that really makes "Toy Story 3" better than just another kids' movie game.
The Toy Box mode is the answer to sandbox game play -- a fully open world, teeming with citizens and "Toy Story" characters, a horde of missions to complete and virtual toys (characters, vehicles and full-blown play sets) to unlock.
Most of the missions are either fetch quests or simple facsimiles of side quests found in other open-world games. But "Toy Story 3" designs them to be quick or open-ended, making it easy for players to take on multiple objectives, collecting more as they check some off the list. The variety of quests does plenty to compensate for the lack of original mission design, and it only increases as players compile rewards and use them to purchase new toys that come with new mission types.
The occasionally dodgy controls rear their head again -- particularly with the toy car controls, which are among the worst driving controls to be found anywhere in 2010. But the mission structure is so dense that when one quest is giving fits, there's probably another one right behind it for players to work on before they go back to the first one.
It's a busybody's paradise, it uses the "Toy Story" license well and it offers ambitious players a ton to do if they wish to turn the game inside out.
The story missions, by comparison, are less impressive. What they can do, though, is experiment with level designs that the Toy Box's open-world structure couldn't properly accommodate. Not every experiment is a success, but enough of the missions do enough things right to make this a welcome addition to the game's surprise main attraction.