Does this chameleon blend in or stand out from the movie tie-in crowd?
Rango for the Wii is the latest in a long history of cartoon-to-video-game adaptations. The game, developed by Behavior Interactive, features run-and-gun gameplay, but never at the same time.
As with other adaptations of the game, Rango for Wii tells a story that takes place after the events of the movie, telling a new tale where Rango investigates the disappearance of Bean’s father. For those unfamiliar with the film, Rango is a chameleon that wandered into a small Western town called Dirt and tricked the locals into crowning him sheriff by spinning some tall tales. As a result, he continually regales citizens of Dirt with tales of his adventures, backtracking when they call him on factual inaccuracies of the region, with the deftness of a master storyteller.
In the movie, Johnny Depp plays the title character in a fantastic performance that does everything it can to help the viewer forget that Depp is even in the film. Although Depp doesn't return for the video game, his replacement is well cast, and as a result, the voice-acting performances in the film feel authentic, a vital part of any cartoon-to-game adaptation. In fact, the voice-acted cut scenes are likely the most impressive thing about Rango: The Video Game, which does not bode well for the remainder of this review.
The gameplay is split into two segments: combat-free platforming and gallery-style shooting. In the former, the player controls Rango as he navigates through various desert-themed environments. Although no enemies attack Rango during these segments, the player must be careful not to fall off the cliffs, which can be quite a challenge due to the poor camera. Luckily, the respawn times for a platforming death are very quick, and require you to replay very little of the stage, but that doesn't make these areas any more fun to play.
Periodically in the platforming stages, Rango will enter a shooting gallery at which point his movement is fixed to the ground. Enemies pour out of nooks and crannies as Rango must mow them down, and while things may get a bit stressful in the later stages, these segments rarely get even remotely challenging. Some power-ups can be found during these segments, but they do not last past the firefights.
On occasion, Rango will mount up on a vehicle for one of the shooting gallery stages, but the player has no control of the vehicle, making these stages different from the other shooting gallery stages only in their length and the impressiveness of the scenery. These stages are a bit more fun to play, but it's hard not to react to a particularly daring escape with the sentiment "that was awesome; it'd be great if I got to play."
The visuals are definitely worth mentioning; they are some of the best I've seen recently on Wii. The art style recaptures the look and feel of the movie perfectly, and the textures are detailed and colorful. The animation is smooth, and the set design of the platforming stages is occasionally impressive. Although most of the stage designs are desert-themed, a few are particularly interesting. One stage in particular has Rango inexplicably visiting a video-game inspired dream world, navigating around pixels and bright, sharp colors. Another stage has him fighting off a Zombie horde. The finale of the game actually takes place in outer space. It's an interesting decision to move the game around to so many different locations, and it works well. The game contains nine stages in all, each with a clever voice-acted introduction by the title character. The game will last most players fewer than three or four hours, which may indeed be an estimate on the high side.