Toy Home essentially involves driving around as a wind-up car. I know what you’re thinking, Micro Machines. Don’t get your hopes up though, since everything that is so good about Micro Machines is left out of this game; there’s no racing, no other cars and no excitment. Toy Home is from developers Game Republic, not the most recognisable company but they have been responsible for Genji: Days of the Blade and more promisingly, Folklore.
The first thing to do in Toy Home is to choose a wind up car. Now this is a tough choice and you may want to spend some time making the decision; do you want the big car or the little car? Yes that’s right we’re given a choice of two, and you can’t even change the colour! The little car is based on a Mini, whilst the big car is based on an American muscle car. Each has their own attributes, with the Mini having the better handling and the muscle car having the better speed and power.
Once this taxing decision has been made it’s onto the game, which has ten stages including bonus levels. These ten levels are set in two locations, the bedroom and the kitchen. The former is a bright and colourful place, but it’s not very tidy and the floor is covered in dominos, wooden animals and other toys. Unfortunately, the kitchen isn’t as nice. While it is just as messy, the colours are rather bland. Although there are only two rooms, the layout of each is different and this is just enough to give the game some variety. Our purpose in Toy Home is to drive around a location, pick up medals, and drive through checkpoints before time runs out. In addition to racing against the timer, you must also drive through all of the checkpoints in order to complete a race. Each time you successfully clear a checkpoint, you gain more time towards completing the level.
You also gain more time if you knock down obstacles, such as wooden boxes or cereal boxes scattered through the environment. Every time an object falls it adds to the meter, once the meter is filled a few more seconds are added to the clock. This interaction with the environment is one of the highlights of the game. Everything but the biggest, bulkiest objects can be smashed and rammed around the room, which can radically change the layout of a level. As well as normal medals, there are larger, special medals, which are collected by running into certain objects. Presuming that the level is complete before time runs out, it’s off to the scoring screen to see just how well you did, where you’re given a grade given from A to C. The bonus levels aren’t much different, instead offering far more medals without the need to drive through checkpoints. Once all levels are completed an overall grade is given which is then applied to the side of the cars, for the start of the next game.
It’s clear that the games not going to have the polish of a full retail game, but still, Toy Home’s graphics are decent and the music is simple without being irritating. The various objects you hit also make all the appropriate noises, most notably a rubber duck that quacks. However the most interesting aspect of the game is the way the cars are controlled, using the Sixaxis’s motion sensing capabilities to steer and flip the car back onto its wheels when it rolls over. Whilst the Sixaxis isn’t precise, often not picking up minor tweaks in steering, it is adequate and offers a novelty feature. There is also a boost feature that drastically improves speed, either to move heavier objects, or to jump further, which is sometimes a requirement to pass some of the levels. Regrettably, there’s no option to control the game with analogue sticks or with the D-pad.
Unfortunately the game has some big drawbacks. It’s short and the average player won’t find it difficult to complete in less than an hour. There isn’t really much replay, either. Yes, you can try to improve the grades you previously earned, but there’s not much point since there’s nothing to gain from it besides a place on the online leader board. While it may be a short game, it would be nice if you could save your progress. At the very least, you should be able to choose a level so that you can go back and play favourites without having to play the whole game over again.
Apart from the single player game, there is also a multiplayer option. This is basically the same as the single player game. You race across the same levels, but it is a competition between two players to see who can earn the most points. Despite the familiar settings, there are a few differences between the single player and multiplayer modes. First, the checkpoints are removed and second, hitting your opponent will cause them to drop their medals. There are also power ups to be picked up, such as springs that throw the car into the air and various weapons (including bombs) that flick cars onto their roof. This mode can also be experienced online, although good look trying to find some to play against.
Toy Home isn’t a bad game; it’s just not a great game. It’s cheap, plays well and is a nice little time waster. Unfortunately, it’s a forgettable experience that will only occupy you for a few hours. The multiplayer does provide extra gameplay, but you can easily find better games to play. It would’ve been better if there were more variety. With a few more cars and locations, this would have been a significantly better game.