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Rango: The Video Game Review

15 March 2011

Chameleons live a tough life. Snakes, with their vicious venom and gaping jaws, slither around in search of the green lizards. Overhead birds threaten to swoop down and snag them for an afternoon snack. But man, pesticide-spraying, forest-burning man, represents the greatest threat to the chameleon species.

Rango is not a regular chameleon, however. In Rango: The Video Game from Behaviour Interactive and Electronic Arts, the spiky green hero takes up arms to fight back against those who wish to harm him and his fellow citizens. Rango is the sheriff of Dirt, a dusty little town pulled straight from Clint Eastwood’s ‘High Plains Drifter’ — or any other Western, really. What Rango: The Video Game lacks in bloody gun duels and drunken bar fights it replaces with comic violence and talking animals. See, Rango is a game for kids. It’s not a bad game, per say, but it’s not a particularly good one, either. It’s simple and accessible, ensuring that kids 12 and under will enjoy it, but if you’re reading this review, it probably won’t hold your attention for long.

Rango: The Video Game doesn’t follow the plot of Gore Verbinski’s film. Instead, its framed narrative focuses on 10 of Rango’s “tall tales,” each a level of about a half hour or so (I finished the game in roughly five hours on ‘Normal’ difficulty). Mysterious green meteorites begin to pop up all over Dirt, which Rango deduces has something to do with the disappearance with one of Dirt’s residents, the father of a dainty girl lizard named Beans. Seeing the damsel in distress, Rango naturally sets out to make things right. The story has a few funny moments, but for the most part I was disappointed with the game’s writing and plot. It’s just not on the same level as Rango the movie, even though one of the film’s writers apparently worked on the game. It’s too bad none of the film’s voice actors came on board for the game, though the stand-ins pull their weight.

Branded as an action-adventure game, Rango is a platformer at its core. The little lizard can double jump, balance across thin railings, scale certain walls and ceilings, rail grind and so on. A lot of its gameplay elements are clearly inspired by other games — rail grinding, for example, is ripped straight out of the Ratchet & Clank series, as are a number of other mechanics — which ensures the platforming is functional and fun, if not original. As to be expected with a game intended for kids, it’s all pretty easy; at no point does the platforming become a real challenge for tried and true gamers. The few times I did die, Rango popped up at a nearby checkpoint, no more than a minute or two behind where I was before. The loading was quite snappy, so playing through the game was a fairly fluid experience.

Combat is present in Rango, but it’s extremely simple. Rango can perform a melee combo (yes, only one), an uppercut move, an air smash, a charged attack, and a rolling dodge move. Rango’s arsenal also includes his trusty sidearm, which can be aimed automatically or manually. The gun’s unlimited ammo makes combat a simple affair; you can almost defeat enemies by running around them in circles while jamming the shoot button. As you defeat the various critters that stand in your path, you’ll rack up sheriff stars, which can be spent in a simple three-tier upgrade system. By the end of the game, you’ll max almost everything out — and it’s not difficult in the first place — so upgrading your skills doesn’t take much thought. Are you seeing the pattern here?

Some of Rango’s best moments are the game’s on-rails vehicle segments. Well, more appropriately, I suppose they’re animal segments — you’ll ride a roadrunner, a desert bat, and more during these exciting chase sequences. The game also has a neat “golden bullet” mechanic. When you encounter one of these special bullets, you manually control its trajectory, guiding it smack dab into the bullseyes of targets that pop up. The golfing segments in the game — extremely random, I know — are somewhat similar. When you encounter these segments, you’re prompted to aim left or right, gauge your swing’s power, and then influence the ball’s trajectory as it soars through the air. I particularly enjoyed holding back the waves on zombie critters with my explosive golf balls in one of the game’s later levels.

Visually, Rango is a mixed bag. Behaviour Interactive nailed the game’s character models, replicating the movie’s CG models brilliantly, down to the squint in Rango’s offset eyes. Animations are a bit stiff, though, and for the most part, the game’s environments feel barren and uninspired — with a few striking exceptions. I absolutely adored the trippy level toward the end of the game, where Rango enters a video game machine and ‘everything turns 8-bit,’ according to Rango. This isn’t entirely accurate — think 3D Dot Game Heroes, where the entire game is still shiny and HD, but meant to induce nostalgia for older gamers. I also liked the ‘Land of Giants’ level in the middle of the game, which sees Rango avoiding a UFO-crazed human as he skulks about his trailer. This level features some simple stealth gameplay, where Rango has to hide from the human behind various objects, but Behaviour definitely missed an opportunity to use Rango’s abilities as a color-shifting chameleon to stay out of sight.

Rango: The Video Game is definitely playable, but it won’t leave a lasting impact. Plus, at a total length of roughly five hours, there’s not all that much value here. Sure, you can go back through the levels to try and find all of the collectibles, but who actually does that for a half-decent game? Certainly not me, and probably not you, either. Yes, it won’t satisfy hardcore gamers, but kids and the casual crowd will probably enjoy it. If your little nephew is hankering for some Rango action outside the theater, you could do worse than Rango: The Video Game.

-The Final Word-

Rango: The Video Game has some great moments. Unfortunately, those only constitute about an hour of the game; the other four hours are pretty boring for all but young kids and the casual crowd.
  • The exciting chase, golden bullet, and golfing sequences
  • The functional platforming gameplay
  • The throwback to old-school games, 3D Dot Game Heroes style, in one trippy level late in the game
  • The overly simplified combat
  • That the adventure is over after five hours
  • The generally barren environments and stiff animations
5.0
See PSU's reviews scores on Metacritic and Gamerankings

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