Rango Preview

Drunken lizards tell the best stories.

Move over, Sheriff Woody. There’s a new CG-animated, humanoid but non-human, celebrity-voiced lawman in town. When I first saw the movie posters for Rango months ago I stopped, stared, tilted my head, and murmured, “What is that? I mean, I think it’s… uh… I guess that’s a…hmm… no really, what the hell is that?”

[image1]Well, apparently Rango is an awkward chameleon who sounds suspiciously like Johnny Depp (makes sense, considering the distinct Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas vibe from the posters), roped into becoming the sheriff of some dustball town populated with all manner of other family-friendly sentient animals out in the desert. Before you groan about another movie-to-video game, keep in mind that Rango doesn’t take the usual approach – in fact, it hardly feels based on a movie at all as you play.

Whereas its movie counterpart chronicles our shifty little hero’s rise to glory, Rango the video game tells the story of his next adventure, after he’s already installed as keeper of the peace in Dirt (no, really, that’s the town’s name). Rango’s next tale gets rolling when he finds a mysterious green meteorite shard with some freaky powers. Not content to leave well enough alone, Rango is determined to find the rest of the shards and figure out their purpose.

Part of the game’s expected humor comes from the fact that we’re sort of playing through Rango’s version of the events as he’s telling them – and given the titular hero’s penchant for exaggeration, a lot of creative levels and enemies pop up. Levels range from the obvious dusty desert locales to snowy hills to zombie labs to the inside of an old arcade machine (where everything is deliciously pixelated). Taking that Fear and Loathing feel to the brink is a level where Rango has an existential crisis and, literally, reaches the edge of nowhere (which looks disturbingly like Las Vegas…go figure).

[image2]Gameplay? Believe it or not, the closest parallel I can think of is God of War. The platforming in Rango is like playing GoW, if Kratos were a lizard – Rango climbs around fences, pushes crates, and swings from poles with very familiar controls. There are even a few flying segments reminiscent of Kratos’ flights with the Pegasus. Combat, on the other hand, is pretty different; clearly Rango’s not going to be tearing guys in half or ripping out eyeballs. In melee you can do some simple combo attacks and at range you can shoot …I’m not sure, peanuts? Gold stars? Something like that.

Oddly enough, the game that tells Rango’s later adventures comes out a few days before the movie. Check out this funny, weird, atypical movie-game on March 1st.