This generation has spawned some surprisingly decent games based on family films. The Lego games are the best examples, but Toy Story 3 and Rango both prove that a kid-oriented game can be more than a quick profit. These games hearken back to the 16-bit era, when some of the best games came from Disney movies. Those were better times for licensed games, and Rio is evidence--a game that's largely inoffensive but brings nothing new to the table.
The very definition of a mini-game collection, Rio offers little more than a pile of quick events for up to four players. The several modes are all just different ways of presenting the same concepts in a gauntlet of about forty mini-games.
The one saving grace of Rio, which may make it worthwhile for some, is that the mini-games are actually decently playable. While many of them are variations on a similar theme, they benefit from not only being largely skill-based, but also taking inspiration from a few classic games.
Luck has a tendency to be a considerable factor in party games, but that's not the case with the majority of Rio's mini-games. They're almost all simple enough that anyone can grasp them quickly, but players who put a bit of thought into their approach are often rewarded. That also means that effortless mini-games like hot potato can feel unfair in comparison, but those exceptions are few and far between.
Also evident is the surprising amount of inspiration that's taken from other games. Considering Rio is set during Carnival, many of the mini-games are music-oriented. Rather than pull from a single rhythm-based game for guidance, the game has a little bit of everything: Parappa the Rapper, Samba de Amigo, Rock Band, and even an admittedly lame, controller-based take on Dance Central. Beyond the music, Rio pulls from light-gun shooters and even from Peggle.
The game's competence is no doubt the effort of developer Eurocom, which is no stranger to licensed games and is responsible for the excellent Dead Space: Extraction and Goldeneye 007 for Wii. Still, that credibility with other games just makes Rio's generic package all the more unfortunate and baffling.
If there's anything to seriously complain about with Rio, it's almost all the presentation. The graphics are clean and colorful most of the time, but in certain mini-games they get a bit muddled, causing players to lose themselves in the shuffle.
The instructions that precede each game are relatively simple to understand but are presented in a scrolling box for some inane reason. Nothing in this game is so complicated that it can't be described on a single screen, but the scrolling feature will leave players feeling rushed and unable to comprehend what are actually very simple rules. The result is unnecessary frustration and a learning curve that will probably be a pain for younger kids.
Lastly, Rio demands a good group of friends to truly enjoy its experience. Playing alone, the game offers the same content as it does with four players, filling the available slots with AI competitors. That would be a fine substitute, except the AI jumps between being nearly unbeatable in some mini-games to brain dead in others. A complete lack of online features doesn't improve matters, either.
Rio is decent, competent, and average--bleeding mediocrity from every detail. But it isn't a bad game, and if the price point and promise of some multiplayer entertainment is enough of a sell for you, it may be worth checking out anyway.