Posted by Thomas Whitehead
Tied to the rail tracks
Rango is a new CGI movie coming to a cinema near you. You gamers all know what that means, a video game tie-in! Rango is a chameleon that becomes stranded as the sheriff of a mini Wild West town populated by animals of the desert; snakes, lizards, rabbits and a mariachi band of owls. So far, so typical of a CGI movie. The question is, does the Wii game adaptation buckle its spurs for a Wild West adventure, or shamelessly cash-in on the movie’s audience?
One refreshing and immediately noticeable feature is that this game does not simply re-hash the movie plot into loosely constructed gaming segments. This game contains an all new story arc separated over nine levels. The basic plot-line revolves around the mysterious disappearance of an iguana, the father of Rango’s love interest Beans, and the quest to recover mysterious extra-terrestrial rocks. The narrative around this premise is well written, as the nine Tales are all recounted by Rango with a generous dosage of exaggeration. As you’re playing through these works of the wannabe hero’s fiction, it gives the writers licence to create crazy scenarios and exciting set pieces. The writing is witty and conveyed in attractive cinematics, giving this game a nice movie feel and dialogue that will bring a few laughs.
It is unfortunate, with these positives in mind, that the gameplay itself has problems difficult to ignore. One thing to clear up right off the bat is that this Wii version is not the same as on the HD consoles — this is very much a watered down edition of the game. The biggest casualty of the Wii conversion is the predominant style of play: on the surface Rango looks like a 3D platformer in a similar manner to the same entry on the other home consoles, but after five minutes of play time you may be disappointed. You will be able to run around a 3D space, but there are plenty of invisible walls preventing exploration, making it immediately apparent that this is a linear game where you simply go from A to B without asking any questions. It should be noted at this point that the screenshots EA provided for this review are from the Xbox 360 version of the game.
This linearity flows into the game play choices that the designers made for this Wii iteration. There are three styles of play: the aforementioned 3D platforming, shooting gallery areas where you simply point and shoot, and on-rails shooting sections. The structure is simplistic; run and jump to an area, point and shoot for 60 sections, run and jump to the next area and so on. The fact that the game stops you regularly for shooting sections takes away any dynamism in the experience, and the only attacking you’ll do while running around in 3D areas is a melee on nearby crates to collect coins. Of the three game play styles, the moving on-rails sections are comfortably the best. There are only a few of these areas, but they typically involve a high speed chase with Rango riding on roadrunners, bats and even flying fish. These sections, when they arrive, compensate to some extent for the tiresome gaming that came before. Overall, this structure is likely to disappoint both experienced gamers and the title's target audience, children.
In terms of controls, all game play is with the Remote and Nunchuk. There are no problems with pointer controls for shooting sections, the crosshair moves both quickly and accurately. However, 3D platforming sections can be frustrating due to a below-par camera. It’s that old ‘dodgy-camera’ chestnut again, which is exacerbated by the fact that you have no option to centre the camera or move it in any way. As a result jumping between platforms can be awkward, and it seems lazy in a modern game for there to be no camera control of any kind. In spite of the camera, Rango moves well and the controls in these platforming sections generally get the job done. It’s also noticeable, not to mention surprising, that you can play through the whole game without waggling the remote once.
The presentation and polish of this game is a mixed bag. To start with the positives, some of the levels are visually pleasing. They’re not at the top end of the Wii graphics spectrum, but are nevertheless a decent effort. On the downside, some areas and levels haven’t received the same care and attention and have rough edges that you will need to try and ignore. In terms of sound, credit must be given for a good soundtrack that has enough variety to keep you listening. Disappointingly, the voice acting isn’t by the Hollywood actors from the movie which considering this is the official movie tie-in, it's a surprising omission. One additional point to make is that we did encounter one game-ending glitch; we were locked into shooting gallery mode with no enemies to shoot. It was only one glitch, but didn’t help to assuage the feeling that this title was rushed.
Perhaps the biggest problem with this overall package is the value that it represents. Marketing content for the game makes reference to unlockable trophies and achievements; these are not included in the Wii game. As mentioned at the top of the review, this Wii version is a separate game from its HD brethren, and the lack of alternative objectives and tasks in each level is a big oversight. The reason this is a problem is simply due to the length of the game; it is far too short. Our first play-through of the game’s nine stages lasted two and a half hours. In a second run we skipped cinematics and this was reduced to around two hours. Once you’ve beaten the game there are no incentives to return, unless you particularly enjoyed a level and want to beat your coin total. No unlockables, no extra content, no value for money.
It is a shame that Rango on the Wii cuts corners and, worst of all, is over all too quickly. There are some enjoyable moments in this game, along with sections where, graphically, the game is reasonably impressive. The problem is that the overall experience is disappointing, and the problems in the title reflect a rushed development and a lazy attitude toward Wii owners. The good moments in this game can’t save this miniature green sheriff from the bullet.