Seemingly for as long as games have existed, so have the dubious film tie-in games. Just look at E.T way back when on the Atari 2600. So bad that many copies ended up buried in a landfill site in New Mexico. To be fair, the average film tie-in isn't that bad any more but they do tend to be pretty poor overall. Even more so if they're based on a children's film. That is until Toy Story 3 came out last year and its sandbox mode: Woody's Roundup, showed just how much fun a children's game can be. Rango isn't quite that good but it does demonstrate how tie-in games can be more than just cynical ploys for money.
Running, jumping, grinding and riding is the name of the game here and it's all done really rather well. While at its most basic, Rango is a very typical platformer, it does so in a gleeful and fun way - just what you need in a game aimed at younger players. When some moments require you to run away from a giant snooker ball before leaping across a platform just as a falling piano descends from the skies, you can't help but be briefly infatuated by such innocence. Some sequences also involve shooting a bullet and guiding its trajectory towards numerous bullseyes in order to complete an objective that's frequently reminiscent of a game of Mousetrap. In a similar vein, you can also knock a golf ball across the screen to destroy a target. One rather enjoyable sequence involved smashing golf balls in the direction of a horde of zombies. It's brief but satisfying.
Stealth based levels also emerge but they're not overly taxing thanks to Rango being consistently forgiving. Even on the hardest difficulty level, it's far from taxing and checkpoints are plentiful ensuring you never fall far behind. A simple upgrade system based around collecting up sheriff stars by smashing up crates and digging up specific mining spots, enables you to improve your abilities as you progress through the game. Some of these aren't very useful such as boosting a charged attack that is never really needed at any point, but others such as health boosts or gun enhancements come in handy. Combat never gets more complicated than tapping a button or two at the appropriate moment.
To further break up the platforming action, a few racing levels rear their heads. These comprise of roadrunners, bats and even a spaceship in later stages. They're simple enough and much like the rest of the game, far from challenging, but they never outstay their welcome. Instead of offering a steady stream of repetition, Rango flirts with imaginative level design, especially late on in the game. There's the Crash Bandicoot style moment whereby Rango switches to a side scrolling platform sequence as you 'bust' up some crates on a grand scale. There's a level in which you're sucked into an arcade machine and everything takes a rather surreal direction from then on. One of the very last levels you'll play involves steering a goldfish around a level that feels more like a drug induced haze rather than anything else. It boggles the mind to fully describe but Rango is wearing a red Hawaii style shirt. Yes that'll be the Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas reference.
As might be obvious to some by now, rather than following the plotline of the film, Rango the game follows the chameleon as he tracks down love interest Bean's father while discovering some chunks of meteorite along the way. The game continues with the theme of the film offering the entertaining owl mariachi band playing in the background during various scenes, as well as the various surreal moments and cinematic references that made the film a cut above the rest for adult viewers in particular. Indeed the lovely touches are plentiful the further you progress through the game, making for a particularly strong second half. It's unfortunate then that it doesn't take long at all to progress through these stages with an entire game completion clocking in at a mere 4 to 5 hours at a push. Completionists can at least pursue the multitude of collectibles that can be attained such as goldfish bowls and mining spots but you probably won't feel any great urge to complete Rango a second time. And that's the problem with Rango. Once you've finished the single player mode, that's all there is to do. Concept art and other bits and pieces are unlocked but it's not really a comprehensive package by any means.
That's coming from an adult's perspective though. You'd have to question why an adult would be keen to buy this for any reason other than for the sake of easy achievements or trophies (they're very, very easy to acquire). For a child though, this is a pretty sound game. It doesn't skimp on the imagination or level design, and while it might feel a little patronising to some in terms of constantly telling you what buttons to press, it still offers some very enjoyable fun. If only it was a few hours longer. At 5 hours long, it just doesn't feel like appropriate enough value, even if it is fun for that brief time.