Based on the early trailers, Rango didn't seem like much more than a CG vanity project from the director and lead actor behind the painfully hit-or-miss Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, but surprisingly, it launched to strong reviews and box office success. However, as we're all aware by this point, a direct correlation between film quality and that of the videogame adaptation is never a sure thing.
Thankfully, EA's take on the animated lizard is the rare exception in the ever-growing stack of uninspired licensed fare, maintaining the film's quirky and thoroughly original personality and sense of humor while building a diverse and entertaining play experience that both kids and adults can appreciate.
Set in and around the desert town of Dirt from the film, Rango's blend of platform challenges and varied combat takes considerable cues from the Ratchet & Clank series. As the title character, you'll obliterate hundreds of enemies with a mix of melee attacks and gunplay – with character skill upgrades and temporary firearm power-ups available – as well as traverse a variety of Western-themed environments and grind a slew of winding rails.
But Rango shakes things up further with several "vehicle" segments, including a memorable, high-speed sprint on the back of a roadrunner, plus a flying mission atop a giant bat. And elsewhere, you'll use a golf club to swat balls at a giant human or oncoming hoard of beasts, as well as guide golden bullets toward several faraway targets. Though a fair bit of the core gameplay feels familiar, Rango executes it all pretty well (aside from occasional platforming pratfalls), and the presentation – especially the voice acting – is similarly solid, save for some sparse environments and cutscene clunkiness.
The campaign even gets seriously surreal on occasion, with one excellent stage tossing you into the candy-coated world of an old arcade machine, where you'll battle enemies that look like leftovers from 3D Dot Game Heroes. And once that segment concludes, you're whisked off on a wind-up toy fish in a flying sequence through a dream world filled with bones, dartboards, and neon cacti. It's wildly trippy and unexpected for a kid-friendly game, but adults should get a kick out of the pseudo-acid trip aesthetic.
Rango isn't a revolutionary action-platform release, but it is a legitimately well-made title built in the mold of the some of the genre's best, and it genuinely engaged us throughout much of the adventure. Sadly, it doesn't last for long: seasoned players should knock it out within four hours, which will no doubt kill Rango's appeal for many. But it didn't significantly sour the experience on our end, and if you can wait a couple months for the film to fade from theaters, this sharp licensed game can likely be had for a sum that's better representative of what's held within.
Mar 15, 2011