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March 9, 2011

Review: Rango (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, DS)

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Written by: Alex Rubens
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Let’s be honest, most movie tie-in games are based off of the same generic template with re-skinned characters and levels. Such is not the case with Rango from Behaviour Interactive. Not having seen enough of the game, I wasn’t expecting much and assumed that it was yet another kid’s game based on an animated film.  I was wrong.

Vitals

Title: Rango
Developer: Behaviour Interactive / Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform: PS3, 360, Wii, and DS.
Available: Now

The player takes control of a chameleon aptly named Rango.  Rango is the sheriff of Dirt, an old-west style town filled with strange characters. The game’s story operates independently of the movie’s and actually manages to pull together something pretty coherent.  Unlike recent third person platformers, there isn’t an open world element to the game at all. Rango is very linear, but it seems to work to the game’s advantage. The story begins when a resident of Dirt brings Rango a meteorite fragment that they found. Rango precedes to share a story with the saloon about his encounters with these stones and each one of the nine tales serves as a level. In these levels Rango must defeat Bad Bill and collect a fragment of the meteorite.

While Rango is very unique in the blend of elements that it brings together and how fluidly it executes them, it borrows almost all of its gameplay from other games in the genre. The influence of the Ratchet and Clank series is overtly evident throughout the game as the player destroys crates and collects “sheriff stars”. These sheriff stars can be used to purchase upgrades for Rango such as additional health and faster reload of his weapon. Rango carries a gun that can be used to fight off enemies and deactivate power switches that feed electricity through the chicken wire that he uses to climb on wall surfaces. Platforming sections were often difficult to complete due to not being able to judge the distance that the character must jump. These sections are few enough that it doesn’t hinder the game too much, but they still lead to mildly frustrating moments.

The major thing that sets Rango apart from other movie tie-ins is the visuals. This game looks great, from the in-engine cinematic right down to the gameplay. The levels are beautifully designed using everyday objects such as billiard balls and staples, helping sell the idea that you are maneuvering a miniature world. Everything in the game is beautifully textured and gives the game a certain visual style that you don’t see very often with cartoon-style games these days. The characters are the most random characters that I have ever seen; it’s almost as if the creators decided to have a contest in the office for designs. While extremely weird, they work in the world and make for a really good supporting cast.

After a while all of the levels seem to blend together, but the final two levels make it beyond worth sitting through the first seven. Rango stumbles upon an arcade cabinet in a canyon and from here the game turns completely awesome. As you are transported inside of the arcade cabinet, the world around you transforms into an 8-bit world. Instead of an enemy just falling to the ground as they do outside of the cabinet, they explode into a shower of pixels, a la 3D Dot Game Heroes. The grind rails, which normally just look like a cast iron rod, look like something out of Tron. It’s hard to describe the final level of the game without giving away too much of the ending so all I’m going to say is that the final level of the game is very Ratchet and Clank.  While most of the game is a third person action platformer, there are a few instances where it turns into a side-scrolling brawler that are just plain great. There are four chase sequences where Rango rides after Bad Bill on both a bat and his roadrunner-type animal, using the left stick to maneuver the terrain and the right stick to move the targeting reticule around the screen.

Rango is more than just another movie tie-in and manages to be a completely great action platformer. While the 4-5 hour completion time was a bit short in comparison to most recent games, it felt like just the right length for this game. Behaviour Interactive combined many different design elements and styles of play into something that could stand out on its own from the film of the same name. I highly recommend Rango to anyone looking for a genuinely fun game to play over a weekend.

This review is based on a copy of the game provided by the publisher. Images courtesy of  Electronic Arts.



About the Author

Alex Rubens