Just like that river twisting through a dusty land.
Sometimes, gamers need something epic. Sometimes, our collective group needs an incredible story to latch onto, some defining moment when everyone in the room widens their eyes and murmurs "no freakin' way": the mushroom cloud in Modern Warfare, the "last free man" in Half-Life 2, the death of Aeris in FFVII (spoilers be damned, it's been almost 15 years already!).
But sometimes all we need is to sit down, relax, and dance on the couch. That's where Rio comes in.
[image1]Rio is a simple party game developed by THQ, whose intent is apparently completely devoid of epicness. And that is not, by any means, an insult. The game's aims and goals are clear: sit down, relax, and have some fun just for the hell of it. The methods are equally simple: play a series of mini-games and listen to neat music reminiscent of Carnaval.
The interesting thing about Rio is that it's missing many elements common to other games, which... makes it better, in a sense. There is no real plot to speak of; the main story mode describes the events of the titular movie, but players would be forgiven for completely skipping it—there is no discernible difference between it and simply jumping right into the party mode, save for a lack of narrated loading screens.
The characters, too, are shallow at best, and essentially reskins of the same model. But, as I said before, this isn't an inherently bad thing: it's a party game, people—there's no need to have characters that are any different from each other. Nor is there a complex control scheme to define every potential action your avatar might take. You have a joystick and two buttons; everything else is ancillary.
What makes Rio such a fun game is its simplicity. The aforementioned characters are differentiated by bright, cheery colors and little else; the background sounds of any given mini-game might make you want to dance like it's Mardi Gras, but there is never any trouble distinguishing between them and auditory gameplay elements; the controls are almost bare-bones in design, with no mini-game requiring more than two or three buttons.
[image2]This simplicity, mind you, does not inherently make for a dull game. The visuals are wonderful to look at and a nice cartoony treat against the dull landscape of the "blood beige war" palate saturating the market. The music accompanying each stage, while varied enough to prevent players from going insane due to repetition, is catchy and likely to induce toe-tapping.
Unfortunately, Rio is not without its fair share of shortcomings. While the box touts over 9000 mini-games, there are only about a dozen unique mini-games. A majority of those have the same objectives, controls, and game mechanics; while there's some variety among these repeated mini-games in the way of landscape challenges and changes, the repetition can shorten your playtime.
Moreover, while the game is fun enough to stand on its own, Rio is one giant advertisement for the movie. One of the multiplayer modes awards points to players for answering quiz questions correctly—a majority of which can only be answered correctly after seeing the movie. Additionally, many of the cut-scenes in story mode are lifted directly from the movie itself, providing a jarring juxtaposition between fluid Pixar animation and... not-so-fluid character model animation.
In the grand scheme of things, these are rather nitpicky points to make. Fans of Mario Party and Fusion Frenzy alike will find no small amount of entertainment here and will thoroughly appreciate the nonexistent barriers to entry. If ever there was a movie game worth picking up to play with friends, Rio is it.