If there were a rulebook on how to make a good, solid videogame based on a movie, Rango
would be carrying that book in its back pocket. It doesn't always reach for the stars, but it does enough things right to leave a good impression.
Rule No. 1: Don't limit the storyline of the game to the storyline of the movie. In the film version of Rango, the animal-sized western town of Dirt is plagued with a drought. The water shortage threatens the livelihood of the residents and it is up to the reptilian sheriff, Rango, to be the hero for the good people of Dirt. In the game, the player gets to explore a bit more of the rich world of tincan outhouses and shoebox saloons. Sheriff Rango is called to action after someone finds a strange meteorite and Beans, the town's independent female, believes it might help answer the mystery of her missing father. Sheriff Rango decides before he closes the case on the mystery, he needs to spin a tall tale to rile up folks to help him out in his posse.
Rule No. 2: Don't be afraid to embellish. Most of the events of Rango are told through storytelling flashbacks and it actually serves to enhance the design of the levels. That small little storytelling trope adds color and flavor to an already imaginative world as the Sheriff regales his listeners with taller and taller tales of the events in question. Over the course of a handful of levels, Rango offers enough variety and spice to keep things interesting without getting stale.
Rule No. 3: Because of time constraints, don't be afraid to steal from the best! The perpetual burden of making movie-games is that the development cycle is often much shorter than most normal projects. So it makes sense when so many titles try to copy a formula that worked for bigger titles, but get frustrated when a third-person shooting section doesn't work for their "G" rated franchise. Rango has the benefit of a universal setting in the Wild West (albeit a much smaller version) and can afford to take risks from high profile titles. For example, one level of Rango has the miniscule lawman chasing down a runaway train and working his way toward the front before the villainous Bad Bill (a gila monster) makes off with the stolen goods. This specific sequence plays very closely to the beats and heart-stopping moments of Uncharted 2. Zipping by the gorgeous landscape and shimmying up the sides of a runaway train feels very similar to controlling Nathan Drake and Rango pulls it off surprisingly well.
Rule No. 4: Keep it simple, stupid. I never once felt like Rango reached beyond its grasp. In fact, everything that was introduced felt natural and almost expected given the expectations of a movie-game. Light RPG elements? Check. Solid third person shooting? Check. Simple yet effective melee combat? Check. One or two curve balls to keep things fresh? Yup, Rango has got that too. The aforementioned train chase and a stealth level all serve to keep Rango interesting long after most of its peers would have already been stale.