Not all licensed games are terrible. Look back at the 8-bit era, and you'll see some great games in this category, including Chip n' Dale's Rescue Rangers, Duck Tales and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game. As game generations progressed, though, the quality of these kinds of games has slowly dropped to the point where most licensed games can be easily dismissed as sub-par at best. There are a few shining exceptions to this rule, such as last year's Toy Story 3: The Video Game, which ended up being better than some of the year's other sequels and original IPs. This year, we could have a repeat of that experience with Rango: The Video Game, a title that feels just as good as the movie did.
The plot follows the path few movie games do in that it occurs after the events of the film instead of re-telling the film in video game form. A meteorite fell from the sky and onto the ranch owned by Beans' father. After the incident, Rango comes back into town, and upon being presented with a fragment of the meteorite from fellow gunslinger Slim, he explains why the meteorites are now appearing in the town of Dirt. According to Beans, the meteorites may be the key to solving the disappearance of her father. Unfortunately, Bad Bill and his gang seem intent on getting the meteorites for themselves. Your job is to grab those meteorites and discover what they have to do with Beans' father's disappearance.
As players progress through the title, they'll definitely notice the amount of fan service that the game provides. In a larger sense, the fan service comes from the plot, which spirals from a standard western to something completely different. You'll have levels where you explore haunted mines or jump on trains, and those will remind you of a typical platforming game set in the Old West. Later on, you'll have an episode where Rango gets heatstroke and, like the movie, the game begins to go further away from a Western and into stranger territory. Without spoiling anything, it's safe to say that the game will go into territory no modern Western has yet covered. Outside of the plot, the game has other treats for fans of the film, including an unlockable Hawaiian shirt for Rango to wear and appearances from the mariachi swallows. As in the film, the mariachis appear in the unlikeliest of places.
The game plays out like a standard platformer-shooter hybrid, similar to the Ratchet & Clank series. As Rango, you run through various environments to find the meteorites. While there isn't much in terms of jumping from ledge to ledge, you'll still find a few climbing puzzles where you have to scale walls to get to the other side; there are also a few areas where rail sliding is necessary. Combat consists of your standard melee attacks, like punches and tail whips alongside ground stomps and charged attacks. You also have access to your pistol with infinite ammo, and it can also get temporary upgrades such as shotgun blasts, rapid-fire and the ability to launch firecrackers at enemies. There is some puzzle-solving that you'll have to do with the pistol, such as guiding a ricocheting bullet into several targets — a clever reference to the movie. While the game mostly consists of on-foot action, there are a few sections of a few levels where you'll find yourself riding a bat or a roadrunner as you dodge fallen rocks and shoot at passing enemies.
The comparison to Insomniac Games' famous title also comes through in the pacing. There's a good mix of platforming and combat in every level to the point where it never feels like one genre has more screen time than the other. There's also a sense of balance when it comes to both shooting and melee combat. The system is flexible enough to adapt to one's play preference, and one is never forced to use one element of combat over another. Each level is long enough to feel like one has gone through a good amount of gameplay once it has been completed, but the levels aren't so long that players feel like they're trudging through them. There are only brief bits of frustration due to poorly timed jumps or not learning which patterns to follow when fighting certain characters, but overall, the gameplay is enjoyable enough.
There's a lot going right for Rango, but two things hold it back from being part of the cream of the licensed game crop. The first flaw comes from the level of difficulty. Kids' games are often thought of as easy endeavors, and this game is no exception on both the easy and normal difficulty levels. Even the hard difficulty level proves to be quite easy for gamers of varying skill levels. There are still a few tricky platforming areas to navigate through, but with an infinite set of lives to burn through and a generous helping of health power-ups scattered through the world, the player will barely feel the need to power up Rango for the fights ahead.
The difficulty of the game also factors into the second issue, which is overall game length. From beginning to end, the game can last about four hours for the adventure alone at its hardest difficulty. The game tries to extend this by tasking the player with finding hidden mining spots and various copies of Rango's mechanical fish Mr. Timms, but those errands don't provide much of an incentive for one to keep playing after completing the game. Since all of the character bios and concept art pics are unlocked by simply completing a level, the only reason for a player to go out of his way to find and collect the bonus items would be to obtain Trophies and/or Achievements. It's a short and easy adventure that any skilled player can quickly conquer the first time he places the disc in the console.
The film's look impressed moviegoers, especially since it didn't come from Pixar or Dreamworks, and the game's graphics could be considered just as impressive. The characters animate nicely and look great in the process. Rango has plenty of details on him thanks to the texture work, complete with bumps on his skin, and the textures on every other reptile and amphibian are just as good. The rodents don't exactly have tons of fur shading, but their texture work is also great in conveying the ugly look of the characters. The environments don't vary much in color because of the setting, but the browns are bright when they need to be while the rest of the items have a dirty, worn-out look. Kudos to the art staff, though, for making some items in the environment readable. Those with keen eyes and some curiosity will be able to find some small jokes on the labels of lighter fluid, for example, as well as the small recycle insignias on the cardboard in the train level. The game is a looker that shows off the impressive skill of the developer's art team.
The sound also does a good job in terms of staying faithful to the source material. The music emulates the score you'd hear in the movie, and while it deviates toward the end (with good reason), it never feels out of place. The score changes to indicate the presence of the mariachi swallows, and while their tune is different than the rest of the score, there is a smooth transition from that piece to the rest of the score and back again. The voices are also excellent, with a good mix of sound-alikes and original cast members filling out their respective roles. Even though some of the bigger names like Abigail Breslin and Johnny Depp aren't here, their sound-alikes do such a good job of emulating them that you'll only notice their absence when you view the game's ending credits. Their voice work doesn't go to waste, though, as their lines are often hilarious in context. Hearing the mariachis ask you not to fall on their hats while you're walking a tightrope or hearing Rango ask out loud why bridges never seem to be stable, for example, is funny enough that you wouldn't want to turn down the volume.
Despite the short length and lack of overall difficulty, Rango is a good game. The combat and platforming are solid, with little to no boring spots along the way. The graphics, pacing, plot and sound combine to make the game feel a lot like the movie. It's a product that shows other licensed games how a proper video game adaptation should be done and done right. Fans of the film and platform lovers will enjoy the game thoroughly, but don't be surprised if you can finish it as quickly as you started it.
More articles about Rango: The Video Game