PlayStation Universe

Rango: The Video Game Hands-on Preview: A Chameleon for the Kids

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on 26 February 2011

Let’s get one thing out of the way immediately: you, the PSU reader, are not the target audience for Behaviour Interactive’s Rango the Video Game (I presume your age spans more than one digit). Based on Gore Verbinski’s upcoming CG comedy of the same name, Rango is a simple, humorous action platformer for children. But if you pick up the controller after your kid nephew tires of it, you’ll find yourself cracking a smile, rooting for Rango even as it mimics superior experiences.

At EA’s recent spring showcase event, I got a chance to play a level of the game. Rango, chameleon sheriff for the dusty town of Dirt, was aboard a speeding train, barreling through groups of baddies. He was determined to get through to the front, employing a variety of tactics to see himself through each section. The little guy’s arsenal — a combination of melee and ranged guns — is simple but effective. The violence is quite muted and comic, of course. There are a few slow-motion bullet-guiding sections — apparently Rango is also The One — but most of the aiming can be handled automatically, camera sitting low and far off. Manual aiming is available if you want to really show up the Dirt outlaws, but it’s hardly necessary.

Rango’s heart is in its platforming. Our chameleon friend can do the usual hop here, jump over that enemy, jump on this box style-platforming, but the most interesting of platforming sections are inspired by other games. At several points Rango hopped on the side of the train, and I had to guide him safely along it, leaping from railing to railing with amazing dexterity. This section, from the camera framing to the general gameplay and obstacles, reminded me of the train level in the recent Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Mind you, it isn’t nearly as captivating in Rango, but it works just fine. Also, consider that little eight year-old Jimmy probably shouldn’t be running around hunting mercenaries as Nathan Drake.

Then again, this hypothetical Jimmy could play one of Insomniac’s stellar Ratchet & Clank games, the series from which Rango learned his next trick. Towards the end of my play session, I encountered a rail sliding section that had me hopping gaps while “grinding.” I actually failed this bit several times, and then passed it off to the EA rep who did the same. We blamed it on a bug; Rango appeared to drop through the rail every time. Hopefully this will be rectified in the final build – I’d imagine something like that would get cut during testing.

Rango The Video Game doesn’t feature any of the film’s voice talent, but it does directly incorporate some of its visual assets. The developers nailed the look of the characters, though the environment in the train level was a bit sparse (the virtual square-looking areas seen in recent screenshots appear a bit more interesting). With one of the movie’s writers on board to pen the script and Hans Zimmer’s team providing the score, Rango manages to capture some of the film’s grandeur and appeal. It’s definitely playable, and even quite funny at times — at one point, the little mariachi band playing on top of the train had me laughing out loud. Sure, if you’ve graduated from grade school, it probably won’t hold your attention for very long. If your kid, cousin, or little buddy is hankering for some Rango action outside of the theatre, however, then this videogame adaptation certainly holds up.