posted 5/20/2011 by Nathaniel Cohen
other articles by Nathaniel Cohen
One Page Platforms: 360
So from a gameplay standpoint, that’s really all there is to Rio. You get 43 mini-games to challenge your friends, family, or the AI (sorry, but there’s no online multiplayer). The graphics are better than to be expected (the game look pretty freaking nice, if you ask me), the sound is appropriate, if a tad bombastic and assaultive, there is little in the way of voice acting, and the story, such as it is, follows the movie. It seems like the perfect game for adults and their children to play together; however, there are a few issues that pop up that could significantly affect the enjoyment you and your family might find with Rio.

The biggest problem for me is that the constantly shifting games, with their disparate colors, playing fields, rules, and gameplay angles, could make the game tough for the younger gamer, and, frankly, it was almost too much for me sometimes. It was very easy to lose track of my character or miss minor variation in the rules between one game and the next if they were of similar styles. Maybe that makes me sound like an old fogey who just can’t handle modern games, but I’d challenge anyone to not be distracted by the shifting kaleidoscope of colors, sounds, and angles Rio often throws at you, especially if you’re partaking in one of the longer, say between 12 and 20 round, matches.

Another issue I had was that there is just too much talking. Hosts go on and on explaining the rules of their particular mode and offering between-round snark. Sure, you can usually just hit A to skip through all that stuff, but maybe that just means they knew there was too much and it was too annoying. Why go to the trouble of putting it in there if you know you’re just going to need to give the player a way to not see or hear it? That screams sloppiness and inattention to what the game needs for it to work and be entertaining.

On top of hosts that talk too much, your opponents in each mini-game mug for the camera too much and all come with creepy, dead-behind-the-eyes expressions plastered across their faces. The assortment of birds that make up the selectable characters aren’t very expressive to begin with, and that’s just magnified when the same one wins a few games in a row and you’re treated to their plastic doll face pulling extra smug off the shelf and then stabbing you in the eye with it. Disembodied expressions just creep me out and Rio has that particular brand of nightmare fuel in spades.

Ultimately, the biggest failing for me is that Rio is just a movie tie-in and as such, is far more concerned with selling the movie than it is at being a solid game. One look at the loading screens that are essentially character one-sheets you might find hanging in a movie theater, or the cut-scenes from the story mode that are like worse looking scenes from the movie and you’ll see it for what it is: a movie advertisement. That fact would be so much more palatable if the game wasn’t riddled mini-games and modes that lack real variety and everything wasn’t just a variation on an established theme. From the talking birds that are just like every other talking animal since Mister Ed, to games that all fall into one of a shockingly small number of basic templates, nothing in Rio is original. It is competent, sure, and it can be fun in small doses, but it is not interesting and it certainly won’t have legs with anyone other than children who have seen the movie, and even they might find themselves turned off by its little annoyances sooner rather than later. 

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.

Rio is a perfectly competent yet completely unoriginal game undone by an over-abundance of rehashed ideas. Ostensibly a kid's game, Rio combines unimaginative game ideas with plastic characters, creepy sprayed on expressions, and a difficulty that is probably too hard for its intended audience on the default difficulty level, yet too childish to attract anyone interested in a challenging party game. In the end, it's exactly what it, as a movie tie-in and a party game, was always destined to be: short of its intended target, legless, and on fire.

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