Toy Story 3

Critics are always going to be a little sceptical as to whether or not a film-to-game adaptation will ever work well, but oddly enough Toy Story 3 has really managed to pull it off in a new and original way.

As with any movie tie-in Toy Story 3 has a main story mode. Whilst very short-lived at a disappointing 2-3 hours, this mode follows the plot of the film allowing you to play through the world that Andy’s long forgotten toys inhabit. This can either be played as single player or co-op, but it doesn’t really make much difference to be honest. Co-op is split screen and whilst it is good fun to play with someone else, it can be a little disorientating, not to mention the fact that there are no specific achievements for playing Story Mode with another player. Being such a short mode, you never really get a feel for what on earth is going on, and by the time you’re starting to grasp the point of what you’re doing, it finishes. But hey, the graphics are pretty to look at, and the levels are mostly fun when you’re not cursing at the TV every time you fall off a ledge.

The real selling point of Toy Story 3 though is the Toy Box Mode set in a location named Woody’s Roundup. This mode is not particularly long if you sit down with it for a decent session, but it’s a lot more fun and satisfying than story mode. With an action adventure feel to it Toy Box Mode puts you in the shoes of Buzz, Woody or Jessie as you take control of a small town and try to rebuild it to its former glory.

There is so much to do in this section of the game, you will spend many fun hours completing missions and mini games  for the townsfolk in order to earn more coins to enable you to unlock new toys, buildings and vehicles in Al’s Toy Barn. The more buildings that are unlocked, the more missions become available. None of these missions are difficult by any stretch of the imagination, but they are fun and that’s all that really matters in this game.  There are various races dotted around the town for you to compete in once you have purchased each method of transportation. Unfortunately the steering on both cars is pretty terrible and gave me a real sense of motion sickness a couple of times, but they are still fun nonetheless.

One of the first buildings that will be available to use is a hat shop, and this gives you a small glimpse at the high level of customisation available in the Roundup. Every single member of the townsfolk can be designed to your personal specifications. Throwing a person at a shop allows you to give them hats, change their clothes and even change their hair. If the idea of a town full of Mexican style bandit aliens is your sort of thing, then it’s easy to do. If you would quite like a ghost town full of Frankensteins and zombies, then that is also easy to achieve. The possibilities are literally endless. Buildings are customisable in the same way and new items, outfits and decorations for your town can be found within the Roundup and Story Mode, some more difficult to find than others.

Along with unlocking buildings and vehicles, new townsfolk will become available for purchase. With more townsfolk come more missions, and with more missions come more coins. All sorts of characters will appear with new tasks, each weirder than the last, but it’s this quirky approach to the game that makes it what it is. There’s nothing quite like competing to see how far you can drop kick a civilian through an oddly shaped cactus, or hunting down lost muffins in really bizarre locations for a forgetful chef.

TS3 is a very simplistic game but with a co-op mode as well as a single player campaign and can be enjoyed by the entire family regardless of age or ability. If you are a long time fan of Toy Story, or if you just want something to entertain the kids with then definitely pick this up and jump into the fun.

Mario Kart

When you think of Mario Kart, you think of whacky characters, bright tracks and of course the little red capped man himself. The latest version of this crazy game, now released on the Wii, definitely does not disappoint.

Whilst most will find it easier, and obviously a lot more fun to use the newly introduced Wii Wheel, you also have the option to use either the remote on its own, or a combination of the remote and the nunchuck to steer. Of course, the most fun method is the wheel, allowing people to physically steer, rather than the old fashioned way of looking rather special as you literally turn your controller in a vain attempt to move the car in the desired direction. It never really worked did it?

One of the best aspects of the game is the online play. As well as being able to play against your friends over the internet, you can play against people all around the world giving you the chance to get a place on the worldwide leader boards. This is not only fun, but a challenge as racers are selected at random from anywhere in the world, pitting you against expert racers and more casual players.

In single player mode, there is a whole host of things to unlock including plenty of new tracks and of course, extra characters from other Nintendo games from the past and present. The only downside to single player mode is that in order to unlock every single CC race in each cup, you must complete the previous cup in each CC mode. This can be quite a laborious task, having to complete the same cup 3 times, but that isn’t to say that single player isn’t fun. With four cups already open to you before you’ve even entered your first race, you certainly won’t be at a loss for things to do, even if you find the cups hard to beat in the beginning.

True to the previous games in the series, collecting power-ups are key to victory. These are scattered about the race tracks, some stationary, some moving, but each offering a quirky power-up such as the classic banana skins to throw on the road for your opponents to slip up on or the newly added bullet which can give you a super boost if you’re lagging behind!

In terms of the games overall difficulty level, this is mostly dependant on the track you are playing, and your overall personal level of experience in such games. Experienced gamers, or those familiar with the ported tracks may find this a doddle, but even the later levels such as Bowser’s Castle may leave some stuck.  Difficulty can also be dependant upon the control style you have chosen. The key to winning is finding the control method that suits you and collecting those power-ups!

Over all, Mario Kart Wii is an excellent addition to anyone’s Wii collection, and a sure fire hit for parties as it’s easy for anyone to just pick up and play.

The Sims 3

Without fail you will have come across ‘The Sims’ at some point in your life, and sat at a computer for days on end, claiming time off at work for being ill, living a virtual life playing god.  A phenomenon from the day it launched, the game soon claimed the title as the best PC game of all time.  After the expansion packs got too much, they announced ‘The Sims 2’, which saw characters ageing, falling in love, and a whole host of new features.  Now, history is repeating itself once again and ‘The Sims 3’ has reached our computer screens, and it’s better than ever! 

The third chapter in the series caters for all audiences, whether it’s a new experience or an upgrade, there is something for everyone, and with the endless help messages offering tips and tricks, you’ll learn the ropes in no time.  EA have really developed this game into the ground, and you can definitely tell. 

First off, I’d just like to mention what I’ve heard most from people playing the game, which is ‘You can zoom in real close!’ apparently this is a massive boast for the game, and an aspect gamers love. 

Moving on to actual gameplay and you begin by creating your sims.  The creation is amazing, and you can completely customise your sims from weight, to muscle tone, to jaw shape, and right down to the angle of the eyebrows, you can mimic yourself to the inch, which is quite a scary, when you find yourself looking in a mirror.  Also, you get to decided character traits and what their favourite foods, colours and music, making each sim individual within their own right, and to top it all off, decide their destiny and an ultimate goal to achieve, whether it be rockstar or even a thief.

After creating at least two sims, you then have an option to ‘Play with Genetics’, which takes features from both created sims, and creates a third, perfect for creating that little rascal, and completely customisable after.  This makes the process quicker, and is great fun to see what your kids will look like.

As with all the series, you are given a certain amount to spend on a plot or house to begin your journey, and what a journey you will be on! EA have really pushed to make this new upgraded version of ‘The Sims’ a big step away from the older versions.  During build and buy mode, you will find that everything you buy is fully customisable, from colour and fabrics, to changing simple lamp shades furry or even stone.  Should you wish to customise every feature, it really makes the build process a lengthy one, but caters for the choice to be able to build the perfect house to the complete specifications that you require.

Your sims become a lot more independent with going to the toilet and meeting their own needs, so you don’t spend half your life mopping up after them!  With new features like, ‘opportunities’, you get a chance to compete in 4 hour jogging contests or even pie eating at the local diner which in turn earn you points to get prizes.

Another great new feature is the ‘wishes’ tab in the control panel.  Your sims will have ‘wishes’ that improve lifetime experience, and help win you prizes like teleport machines.  These wishes can be simple, for instance: ‘bob wishes to go swimming’ which can be achieved with a simple instruction, or harder tasks like, ‘bob wishes to be level 4 in fitness’ tasks that take longer and subsequently develop your sims, which in turn makes them more interesting to friends and colleagues and improves the whole experience.

A further bonus in this chapter is that you earn more simoleans (money) per day when you work, this makes the game a little easier to progress through, but with all the added features, ensures you endless opportunities and an overall gaming experience that ‘The Sims’ really benefits from.  Work your way to fame and fortune, or become a high flying businessman, by buying shares in the company, or even buying it outright!  Giving you the ability to re-brand and even fire employees that you feel aren’t performing.

After you have sorted jobs, it’s time to party and enjoy the beautiful town.  When you visit the town, there is no waiting for it to load, and the game play is effortless.  New places to go include, the beach, the park, the art gallery, the health spa, a 24hr gym and the list goes on.  Here you have the chance to meet new sims, go fishing, and achieve a few ‘wishes’ that you may have.  tasks also play a big part in the town, by accepting things like cooking competitions, you can enjoy watching some fun action, and bump into friends you may have already, making the whole town have a real community feel to it, adding to the immense virtual life you lead.

Finally, an online presence!!  My only argument against this fantastic title is that there has never been a true online presence where you can meet friends, and chat with them in your virtual world!  Well this time round, there is a whole new town to unlock online, and you can take photos and videos of your favourite moments to share them with everyone online, via the launch suite.  Add a little online ‘Sim’ shop that you can purchase new items from and you have yourself an online community, all immersed in each others’ virtual worlds.

Overall a fantastic game and I could talk forever about it, but unfortunately I have a word count.  So if you’re considering getting it, you shouldn’t have even started considering, and just gone out to be one of the 1.4 million people in the first week to buy the latest edition of a truly brilliant game.