While the animated family film about a wayward macaw in Rio may be all aflutter at the box office, the adaptation for the DS soars about as high as a paraplegic ostrich. Okay, it’s not that bad, but it’s probably what you’d expect from a blockbuster-inspired handheld game. A little bit of Super Mario Bros. and a lot of Elite Beat Agents, Rio for the DS combines elements of platformers with a rhythm game, but ultimately delivers a shallow, and at times confusing, product.
Blu, the cerulean-feathered, avian hero, is a domestic parrot who’s the last of his species. When he’s whisked to the wilds of Rio de Janeiro to mate with Jewel, his female counterpart, all kinds of wacky high jinks ensue. You follow the matchmaking misadventure in the game’s story mode, a series of stages that makes heavy use of the DS stylus. You flick the stylus upward to make Blu jump and collect flowers that add to your score, and to avoid baddies, like paper airplanes, as you side-scroll along. You’ll also have to tap circles with musical instruments in them to the beat of the background music. It’s a concept that’s also found in Elite Beat Agents, except it’s done better in that game: more textured gameplay with eighth notes, for example, and more diverse stylus movements.
It sounds like a potentially creative combo of gameplay styles, but a lot of it isn’t fleshed out enough. Story mode challenges are somewhat repetitive (tap as many music circles as you can), and the diversions sprinkled throughout fall a bit flat. The in-game instructions, which are diagrams meant to demonstrate what to do with the stylus, are a little confusing. For example, in the Bonus Dance, when you mimic the movements of another bird, it’s difficult to figure out if you’re supposed to flick the stylus in a given direction or press the directions on the control pad. And besides the bonus dances, the hazards and challenges are as varied as a prison uniform. Some of the mini-games included are just as underdeveloped an awkward.
Granted, this isn’t the kind of title most hardcore gamers would be caught dead with, but they’re probably not the intended audience either. For younger fans who loved the movie, Rio for the DS provides them a chance to play with the lovable and colorful characters from the film. Expect this game to line a few Easter baskets, but don’t expect to see it grace any players’ choice lists for 2011.