I went into Rango: The Video Game knowing two things about it: 1) that it was based on the new animated movie and 2) that it has a pretty impressive trailer. Judging by the what I saw before I played the game, there's a lot to do in the town of Dirt. But as an avid gamer with a long history of being unimpressed with both platformers and motion picture tie-ins, I was cautious.
So now maybe you, as an avid reader with a long history of being unimpressed with game reviews, are thinking to yourself that this is going to be just another article wherein the writer gushes about how Game X opened his doubting eyes. Well, not quite. Rango: The Video Game won't make you hungry for more of the same if you aren't already a fan of the genre, but it will give you full and satisfying meal.
You have to employ a smart use of the controls and camera to survive.
Speaking of the genre, the first thing that surprised me about this game is how much fighting is mixed in. It's got a couple of short mini games and ride-and-shoot segments, but that's par for the course nowadays. Sprinkled in throughout Rango, however, is a surprising amount of hectic all-out brawling/shooting. I call it that because the titular lizard sheriff is equally adept with melee and his popcorn gun. In the bulk of the game, you can meet and beat nearly any opponent, even bosses, with any combination of attacks. So if you're like me and you aren't exactly thrilled with the prospect of 3D platforming and repetitive action, don't worry. When I say Rango: The Video Game really knows how to mix it up, I'm talking about variety in both attacks and approach.
At different points in the story, you will be swarmed by various mini bosses and minions in a crazy fight for survival. Defeated enemies drop torrents of sheriff stars, which can be redeemed for various power-ups. Using melee nets you more stars than gunslinging alone. Rolling into an uppercut and shooting your opponent while he's in the air gets you even more stars. Most of the fun I had with the game was in these free-for-alls, avoiding charging rodents, going for air juggles, grabbing special weapons to dispatch the hordes. I was happy to see that it wasn't a cakewalk, that you did have to employ a smart use of the controls and camera to survive.
Of course, the target audience isn't the hardcore gamer, but that doesn't mean you won't have fun playing. Sure, Rango is a friendly game where accessible ledges are clearly marked, enemies telegraph their attacks, and it's never far until the next merchant. Heck, in those areas where you have to push or pull an object into place, there are even drag marks along the ground to help you figure it out. But there is enough to keep you busy when you factor in the crazy scenarios, the intelligent level design, the hidden items (not too many and not too hidden), and how finesse in battle nets you more stars.
The game was clearly made by people who have spent a lot of time playing past action games. I think the only old standard that's not in Rango is the cracked wall that you have to bomb to find hidden rooms and passages. Other than that, it's all here, from floor puzzles to running in front of a rolling boulder (in this case, a billiard ball) to a sea of breakable barrels and crates. Rango himself comments on some of these chestnuts from time to time. While running just ahead of a collapsing bridge, he wonders, "Doesn't anyone build anything solid anymore?" And when he activates a series of moving platforms and lasers to scale a wall, he muses, "Apparently alien technology doesn't mean efficient technology." But at no point does the game truly feel derivative. Crates and moving platforms and power-ups are the language of this type of action game, and it's a tribute to the developers that instead of phoning it in, they came up with something fun and involving.
So how "involving" is it? It's a short romp of about five hours or so, so I guess it's not as impressive as it otherwise might be when I tell you Rango: The Video Game never overstays its welcome. But how's this: after beating the game, despite having a pile of other projects to get to, I took the time to play through each level again on Hard. A few more hours netted me every collectible in the game and the entire list of PlayStation Trophies. So if you're a Trophy hound, a fan of the movie, or someone that doesn't need twenty hours of gameplay from every title, grab some corn, hop on a roadrunner, and go west. You won't believe where this trail takes you.