I wish I'd had the Toy Story 3 game when I was a kid. Back then I hardly had any good cooperative games to play with my siblings, and playing games with my parents usually amounted to me taking it easy on them so they wouldn't quit.
But what makes Toy Story 3 even more special than its great cooperative play is that it actually makes good use of its license. Movie tie-ins have a reputation for being awful, but developer Avalanche Software has found a good way to use the Toy Story name without just creating another rehash of the movie's plot. Instead TS3 has both a decent, story-driven game that touches upon some highlights from the film, as well as an inventive open world game called Toy Box mode.
The story mode is still fun and worthwhile, but Toy Box is really the selling point for the game. It's essentially an open world quest-driven game where you play as the Sheriff of a toy town, using Woody, Buzz, or Jessie. And since it doesn't follow the movie's plot, the entire world is based around the idea of how the toys perceive their environment when they're being played with. The result is a mode that still has all the familiar faces that you'd expect from the film franchise, but that introduces a host of gameplay elements that fall well outside what a simple follow-the-film game would allow.
The quests in Toy Box are a little simple for most adults (though still fun), but what they're really good at is introducing the various ways you can interact with the world. Each new mechanic, instead of being told through a standard tutorial, is introduced in a quirky quest, making learning a whole lot more fun than usual. And even when the quests were far too easy I still found myself becoming addicted, as TS3's quest lines are structured in such a way that you'll finish one only to open up several more, making it easy to get into that "just one more" mentality.
But while Toy Box can be a really guided experience if that's how you want to play it, what I appreciate is how it really tries to put something in there for everyone. Kids, or people who just don't care about doing quests, can spend time decorating and customizing their town or citizens – right down to where they want buildings to be. Additionally, players also get the ability to do a host of other fun things like go on races, do trick courses with toy cars, or even just enlarge and shrink things in the world with piles of goo. The Toy Box always has something for players to do on a whim, encouraging kids and adults alike to just, well, play. After all, when we were kids our playtime wasn't always structured, right? Toy Box really gives you a chance to just let your imagination take you to silly places.
I don't even have kids, but if I did TS3 is a game I wouldn't mind playing with them. Toy Box's cooperative play is excellent, allowing two players to do totally different things at any given time. If you want to do the quests while your sibling, significant other or kid just dresses up characters and literally paints the town red, you can. Players don't have to be in the same area, and no player can do irreversible things to the game that will adversely affect the other – perfect for subversive family members who you have to spend time with.
Toy Story 3 is an example of how to do a license right. With great cooperative play, a short, fun story mode, and an inventive new Toy Box mode, this is one game that's easy to recommend to anyone who games with family. Older players might be occasionally bored by how simple the game's quests can be, but in general TS3 manages to be most everything your kids (or your own inner kid) wanted out of a Toy Story game.