Licensed games for kids usually end up as platformers. The set of characters is familiar, as are the easy-to-understand game mechanics, which have been around for a while. It's also a tried-and-true concept, as it provides a sense of adventure that most children's properties seem to go for nowadays. In recent years, though, we've seen a slow shift away from typical platformers and toward other kid-friendly genres. Rio, based on the newly released film, is a recent example of a property that is a minigame compilation, a genre that is seen far too often on the Nintendo Wii but rarely on either the PlayStation 3 or the Xbox 360. The question is whether this was a wise move or if it would've been better for the game to go down the expected adventure platformer route.
Rio is split into five different modes, all of which involve some form of minigames. You can play as Blu, Nico the canary, Rafael the toucan or Pedro the cardinal, who compete against each other in a bunch of minigames. The Story mode goes through the same story as the movie. Each third of the story is told by one of the game's side characters, and after each story break, you're asked to compete in three minigames before moving on. The minigames vary in their objective, but they all relate to the story environment, so you'll never encounter a game in Minnesota, for example, when the story has already taken you to the beaches of Rio de Janeiro. Though you have infinite continues, you'll need to place first in each minigame before moving on. The Story mode takes you through 30 of the 43 minigames offered in the title.
There is a good number of available minigames in Rio, especially since other minigame compilations also offer a similar amount. The good news is that most of the minigames are very enjoyable. Everything from the survival races to dodge ball and soccer to the rhythm games are fun due to the easy control scheme and lack of convoluted rules. The various difficulty levels also make each minigame fun since, at the hard difficulty level, the minigames become challenging.
Story mode exposes two flaws, though, and one is specific to the mode alone. First, the mode rewards in the form of movie clips aren't exactly very … rewarding. The clips are short, feature no dialogue from the movie, and feel like the same ones used in commercials for the film instead of being something unique to the game. The other flaw is game-wide, and it has to do with the minigames. While they are amusing, many feel like the same minigame set in different environments with little variation. The rhythm minigames are understandable when it comes to this level of sameness, but others also feel too similar. There are several levels where the objective is to bomb marmosets with fruit while in the air or from a perch. A few more are simply musical chairs variants where you'll always collect fruit but have to head to a perch, barrel or freeze to bank those points. Others devolve into arena fighting game variants where you pummel your opponents until they run out of hit points. This doesn't take away from the enjoyment of each game, mind you, but you wonder how much more enjoyable the minigames would've been if they were truly different.
Party mode, like the other modes in the game, is a multiplayer affair for up to four people. Here, you get to choose between two submodes — regular and team play —each with game and game/quiz variants. With any of these submodes, you'll be able to pick and choose your own loadout of the 43 minigames in any order you want. The game variant lets you choose minigames while the game/quiz variant quizzes you between games about the movie and events surrounding the movie. The inclusion of quiz questions is nice, but the cache of questions is limited enough that you'll see the same questions pop up after a few playthroughs. This relegates the game/quiz variant to something you'd play if your competitors have never played the combo mode before.
Garland Gala mode is a nice little off-shoot of Party mode that contains a game within a game. You compete against three other birds in 10 randomly selected minigames. At the end of the competition, you're given a number of garlands based on your performance in those games, and then you're sent to a new minigame where you try to toss your garlands at various targets with variable score levels. Whoever wins the most points in this minigame wins the overall mode, so players who haven't been doing well in the previous 10 minigames could conceivably win by dominating the final game. While you lose the chance to pick out specific games you want to play, it becomes a good mode if someone has several advantages over the rest of his or her opponents.
Carnaval mode has you trying to form a conga line of 20 marmosets to win the mode. Like the other game modes, you compete in randomly picked minigames, and your placement in each minigame determines the number of marmosets you've attained for your conga line. Carnaval Mode contains two submodes of its own; Standard is a straightforward affair, and Crazy gives you the ability to steal marmosets from an opponent's line and add them to your own, making it the more exciting submode of the two. It's all dependent on random minigames being thrown at you, so depending on which ones you do or don't enjoy, your experience can vary wildly.
The final mode of the game is Carnaval Wheel, where players face off in another set of randomly selected minigames. This time around, each character gets a chance to spin the large wheel to determine which minigame will be played by all of the contestants and the point value of the minigame. It's still a fun mode, but with the only difference being the ability to modify point values, don't expect to play this more than a few times.
Rio lacks any sort of online functionality, which can be good or bad depending on how you feel about online play. On one hand, for systems noted for their online features, having a party title omit online play seems unheard of, especially when you consider that older party titles like Fuzion Frenzy 2 and Viva Piñata: Party Animals featured prominent online modes. On the other hand, party games are best enjoyed with local company, and leaving online multiplayer out of it might not be so bad for those who enjoy it this way. What is disappointing, though, is the lack of online leaderboards. Having local ones is fine, but it borders on unacceptable that you can't find out how the world is scoring in certain games at a time when every console can go online.
For a game that looks like it was possibly ported from the Wii version, the graphics look great. The frame rate is locked in at 60 fps with no fluctuation no matter how much is happening on-screen. The character models look great, especially Luiz the bulldog, who has enough depth to his textures that skin inconsistencies can be seen up close. The characters and environment display tons of bright colors, and while the ground textures still look flat, the environments look like they got ripped out of the movie. Animations are also smooth, though there are a few instances where animation transitions aren't as polished as one would like. Few people will complain about the graphics in this title.
The sound is one of the highlights of the film, and the game almost gets it right. Rio might not contain any official songs from the movie soundtrack, but the vibe is certainly there, and each track sounds lively and could be mistaken for an official soundtrack piece anyway. The effects are good, but there are a few situations where it could be louder, such as the minigame where you bomb the marmosets with fruit. Unless you specifically look at the target, the audio isn't loud enough to tell you that you've made contact. The voice actors aren't the original ones from the film, but their sound-alikes do a good job of getting as close to the original actor voices as possible. One thing that will annoy a few players is the lack of voice. You'll hear everyone speak during Story mode and at the beginning and end of each game, but you'll never hear them speak in the middle of the game. While it makes for a less annoying experience due to fewer repeated lines, fans of certain characters may be disappointed that they don't hear them speak more often.
Rio is a solid minigame compilation for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The minigames prove to be fun for younger audiences, and the look and sound of the title reflect the movie quite nicely. The minigames aren't all that varied, though, so you'll get a sense of déjà vu after a while. The target audience might not mind as much, and that feeling of sameness may never hit them at all. It's a safe purchase for fans of the movie and, given its cheap price point for a new game, it's a safe bet for those looking for a minigame experience without having to resort to peripherals such as the Move or Kinect.
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