Each level of 'Toy Story" starts with stills from the film surrounded by text describing the story as it unfolds. Every stage has an objective that's tied to this, albeit sometimes tenuously. For example in an early stage, the player must return the toys to hiding places before they are seen. Impressively designer Jon Burton and his team managed to remain faithful to the film's plot despite the fact that they were working on the game while the movie was still being finished. It was common at the time for licensed games to hit the shelves to tie in with a film's video release. 'Toy story' on the Mega Drive however was available when the film was showing in cinemas. "The first 'Toy Story' game was the first game in history to launch day-in-date with a movie" boasts Burton proudly.
This Mega Drive exclusive level plays like a number of sprite based driving games and would be enjoyable if there were other vehicles on the road. Without road base obstructions, all you need do is negotiate corners and collect batteries, which is exceptionally boring. Far better are the top down viewed driving sections that play like 'Micro Machines' games. These parts of the game look great and easily eclipse the visuals of the game that has clearly inspired them. But lovely visuals are hardly surprising given the stages are part of a game that Mean Machines magazine called "the most impressive Mega Drive title ever released". "It stretches the Mega Drive as far as it can go" pointed out critic Marcus Hearn.
I enjoyed the overhead driving sections as much as I did the platforming stages; which on their own showed great variety and ingenuity. It's not often you play as a character disguised using a soft drink cup, while escorting another character hiding in a burger box. I also don't recall ever playing a game where you ride on a skateboard to escape a giant dog, or attempt to restrain a deluded space toy using a car tire. Like the parodies in the 'Toy Story' film it's likely that the references to other games will be lost on any child able to progress in the game but that doesn't really matter. Not knowing the origin of the parody doesn't hinder enjoyment, nor is knowledge of the source film required. The true test of a tie-in game is always how well it stands when the license is removed. For Mean Machines magazine the game could have been labelled anything and would still have been a success. "'Toy story' is a sophisticated and worthy compliment to a ground breaking film [which] would stand alone without its lucrative license"