It's Buzz Lightyear of Star Command! A game based on the cunning exploits of our favourite big-screen nutcase, and his intense battles with the evil Zurg! Except, oh, it's not. It's actually a game based on the crummy Saturday morning TV series, with all the contorted polygons and unfinished animations that made that so forgettable. There's no charm, no wit, no guile to our beloved Buzz - and once again it's Traveler's Tales that is responsible, the company that brought us such terrible bores as Captain Blasto… It's very hard to get excited about Buzz Lightyear of Star Command. The films were intended to entertain everyone, and did so admirably. This particular game seems like a cheap excuse to take a few 5 year olds and their parents to the cleaners. Watching my little brother rocket around the levels it was fairly clear which age group had won, and which had lost. But ignoring my as-yet unsatisfied desire for an adult-orientated Toy Story game, does the game appeal to kids? Well yes, but then sandpits appeal to kids - I'm not giving it a stellar rating based on that. The first thing to note before we go anywhere is that the screenshots are incredibly deceptive. If you blow up one of the images on this page and have a look at it, you could be forgiven for thinking that it looks pretty good. Do not be fooled. The stylistic approach and toon shading (ala Jet Set Radio) are a complete faux - if you see it in action, animations tear up in front of you, polygons clip all over the place and Buzz himself, whilst outlined by a thick marker pen looks no better for it. It's a PlayStation game on the Dreamcast, with all the hacks and blurs to get it there that Activision could employ. Texturing and backgrounds look like they've been drawn up in MS Paint, and for the most part that's probably about as much attention as they did get. The appreciable slowdown at times doesn't help matters either, and I have no idea where it comes from.
What we really needed here was a third person Buzz Lightyear does Duke Nukem style approach, with stunning one-liners and gags so side-splitting as to make up for the game's shoddy programming and lacklustre visuals entirely. Unfortunately, the best we get is Buzz's "High ho Silver and away!" for the 21st Century clanger, "To infinity and beyond!" Every five seconds. There's no bravado, wit, cunning or sarcasm to anything the great Buzz Lightyear says. Throughout the game's 14 increasingly dreary levels, not once did I get the adrenaline rush of pure enjoyment I got watching the Toy Story films. Buzz's arsenal is pretty Nerf-like, with Iceguns, rockets, plasma balls and such, but the variety is unnecessary, since as long as you can steady the camera for a couple of seconds you can take out most of the bad-guys on-screen in one blast. That said, their propensity to fire first at stupidly high velocities kind of spoils the effect. Generally speaking the best thing to do is to leap on by, or collect a Hoverboard and whoosh past. Oh yes, I forgot, that's Buzz Lightyear of Star Command's one redeeming feature - its powerups. Jet Packs and Hoverboards are the order of the day, and they do inject a certain amount of entertainment into proceedings. Speeding at incredible velocities past your enemies and over lava pits whilst screaming "To infinity and beyond!" is about as close to the films as the game gets. That said, it still has none of the charm.
The gameplay is strangely tenuous, despite the obvious templates for control laid out by a million other third person 3D platformers since Mario 64. The setup is awkward at times, and as you rummage around trying to get used to it you'll wonder however kids are supposed to enjoy this at all. Why oh why the companies involved here didn't make some sort of Donkey Kong Country hybrid using Buzz and Woody is beyond me. The scope for gaming spin-offs from Toy Story is unimaginable, and instead of doing something to appeal to gamers of all ages and walks of life like the films did, Activision shovel any old dross out of the door and hope some luckless parent will stumble upon it in time for their child's birthday. If only people could understand that properties like Toy Story are gold dust. After all, games like Quake are obscenely popular, but you can hardly sell them to everyone can you? With Toy Story, you could make any style of spin-off appeal to every gamer on the planet instantly if only you put a little work in. But this? Talk about trying my patience. To its credit the game does take several hours to complete, which is more than can be said for some games recently, but it's not enough.
At the end of the day one has to consider that the Toy Story franchise is just that, a franchise, and that to the developers and publishers this game is the equivalent of a lunchbox with a Toy Story sticker on it. They took Captain Blasto and slapped some new paint on it, just like they did with the TV series. It's a dreadful loss, and yet it's a move twinged with inevitability. As long as you give up on the notion that this is a Toy Story game and instead view it as Zurg's bizarre attempt to usurp our dearly loved hero you might enjoy Buzz Lightyear, but otherwise in all likelihood you will decide to avoid it completely. Opting for one of the countless other 3D platformers currently bedazzling the gaming sector isn't a bad idea. With little variety in its missions and only a couple of redeeming features, the game won't do much to hold your interest. Although the little ones might enjoy it, for what it costs it seems like an awful waste, especially when Buzz Lightyear toys (which are so much more fun - I can testify) are cheaper. Get your kid a few dolls, or buy the newly released double-disc DVD box set. Whatever you do though, don't let Buzz Lightyear of Star Command ruin your memory of the fantastic film duet.