Had it just been a new entry in the action/platformer market, “Rango” would likely be well received as a nice first try. Its strengths are its beautiful graphics, quirky sensibilities and truly fun gameplay. Its weaknesses are its short length, relatively shallow difficulty and the fact that it simply doesn’t have the polish of the titles it mimics, such as Ratchet and Clank or even the similarly quirky but sadly forgotten “Metal Arms: A Glitch in the System.”
And its major handicap is the fact that it’s based on a movie starring the great Johnny Depp. Many think that having a popular movie as your title would help a game. Sadly, jaded gamers and gaming journalists tend to approach these licensed game tie-ins with a warranted degree of suspicion. It is generally assumed that licensed games are subpar and that assumption is typically correct.
Not so for “Rango.” This game is a good time, especially for its younger target audience. The fact that it comes in $10 cheaper than a typical game is all the more reason to give it a look.
And what a look it is. Industrial Light and Magic are the graphical geniuses behind the movie, and they also did the character assets for the game. Despite its dirty, Western-themed setting “Rango” is a colorful game inhabited by interesting characters. You may have paid less for this game, but they didn’t skimp on the pretty stuff.
“Rango” picks up where the movie leaves off, setting the title character – “the coolest sheriff this side of Dirt” – on a series of adventures to explore the town, ensure the safety of its citizens and fight off bad guys such as Bad Bill and Rattlesnake Jake. Since he’s a lizard who enjoys telling tall tales, these storytelling devices are used in the game to set up the many backdrops for the adventure. You will shoot, shimmy, fly and ride all over and around some strange locations. You’ll spend a lot of time shooting things. Sometimes you can adjust the aiming controls, sometimes you can’t. (This little annoyance is almost unforgivable and cost the game a full score point when writing this review.)
You’ll also do a little golfing and a lot of box-smashing (useful but quickly tedious). You can use the sheriff badges (coins) you find along the way to make Rango an even cooler, tougher sheriff as the game progresses. These upgrades will come in handy with the outlandish boss battles.
Where the game truly surprises is with a sensational ending that almost makes up for its short (maybe 5 hours) length. Even at $49.99, it has you wondering if it should’t have been a less expensive download. (Such as the new “Battle: Los Angeles” game that ties in with that film.)
One suspects, however, that the good will you’ll feel towards “Rango” and its odd sensibilities will be the final factor in your consideration of this game. It is fun and funny, and would be a great place to start for a new franchise. Wouldn’t it be cool if a movie spawned a series of games that only got better with each installment despite there being no movie to promote?
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