Ahh, the plight of the movie-based game is a familiar one. Short development time usually makes for a poor game release, a symptom of the parasitic relationship with the movie studio. Based on the quality of releases over the years, it's clearly just another way for studios to make money off the release of the film rather than build something uniquely interesting to play. I was interested to see if the trend would continue with Rango: The Video Game. Rango has been doing relatively well in the theaters recently, due to top notch animation and a compelling adaptation of the western genre. The narrative in Rango: The Video Game doesn't follow the story in the movie, but rather an original tale told to the town folk of Dirt in the local saloon. Rango is telling the story of investigating how Bean's father disappeared and his pension for embellishment is translated onto the screen with elements from his story appearing after a citizen of Dirt corrects him.
The game is setup as a platformer, giving you control over the main character Rango. He has a variety of melee attacks and weaponry becomes more readily available as the game progresses. Combat uses an auto targeting system that works fairly well and the melee fighting system is a great backup when they get too close. It also has very light RPG elements that require Rango to collect Sheriff Stars to exchange for upgrades. They are found by smashing crates and other objects in the levels. Upgrading Rango's basic gun can pack a wallop especially when you start shooting dynamite.
You alternate between free roaming (although the levels are fairly linear), riding animals and some annoying rail grinding sequences. Oddly, you aren't allowed to invert the controls during the riding sequences, so be prepared to learn how to shoot backwards. However, the developers are extremely liberal with checkpoints. That's especially helpful on the stealth missions. There's a ton of variety during the game ranging from attacking zombies with golf balls to transporting Rango into an old school arcade machine.
Absent of multiplayer, the game is extremely limited on extras beyond the completion of the main campaign. However, there are 46 achievements to earn in the game. Tasks are mostly directed at completing mission levels, defeating bosses, collecting stars or killing X number of enemies with a specific weapon. There's a smidgen of creative tasks in there like riding a bat or roadrunner without dying or perhaps taking down a giant rabbit with only melee attacks. The names are certainly creative though. Who wouldn't want a McClane Worthy achievement? Completing the entire set will test our patience on completing Hard mode and finding all the collectibles for the last 125 gamerscore points.
The variety and depth of the environments in Rango is quite excellent and somewhat surprising for a film based video game. The character models were perfect compared to the move and animations were also spot on. However, there are some nasty clipping issues that arise throughout the game. But the camera positioning is excellent, a necessary quality for any platformer.
I'm somewhat disappointed that Paramount didn't get Depp to reprise the Rango voice for the game, but the impersonator does an excellent job on the impression. The remainder of the voice work works well with the supporting characters, but there are no standouts here. However, I loved the return of the Mariachi band following Rango around the barren desert landscape. The remainder of the music gets a bit repetitive though, mostly due to the overuse of a couple songs. Sound effects work well in the game, particularly anything related to combat.
Clearly, the game is designed for younger players in mind (although that seems somewhat at odds with the older crowds that Rango is attracting in the theaters). The game is just a scant five hours long and the lack of extra gameplay modes drags the game's replay value down considerably. However, the narrative is entertaining and the variety in the between levels keeps the gameplay fresh as you work through it. It's ideal for a rental, likely more for a child rather than an adult. You can complete the entire game during the same time it takes them to watch Saturday morning cartoons, but will have a ton of fun doing it.