At first glance, I thought Rangi was going to be a budget title imitation of The Witness, and that sounded just fine. And when I put on my headset and entered the world of Rangi, the obvious influence of African mythology excited me. I don’t know much about African myths, and this was the first game I’d ever heard of to come out of Morocco, so there was a lot of new ground for me to break here.
Rangi began by telling me the story of an ancient time when the rhythm and music of the world was lost, and how a hero came who brought the music back to the world. With a wooden rattler in one hand, and wooden, magical sceptre in the other, I was to be that hero, and I was to bring the music back to the world. A giant approached me, picked me up, and carried me to a doorway that would take me to the place where the music had apparently been gone, trapped away.
The effect was appreciable. Virtual reality offers a sense of scale that isn’t present in the traditional, flat formats of 2D games. As the giant ushered me onward, a sense of adventure and purpose began to rise up in me with the thumping, building African beats. This was getting good.
And then it all stopped. The music stopped and the screen went black as the next level loaded. Just as I was getting into the rhythm of the music, the music which I’m supposed to want to save, it abruptly stopped only to be disjointedly replaced by a chanting sound. When the visuals came back, I was standing across from one of the ancient creatures standing in front of a fire. It was an odd transition, but I was okay with it because I was getting into the rhythm of the chanting.
Then it all stopped again. And then another music track came up. Now, I was teleporting around rooms, moving blocks by pointing and dragging with the motion controller, and clearing paths for colored lines along the walls and floors to converge into a doorway that led me to the next room. This is why the game looked like The Witness, with lighted, maze-like paths, but the mechanics were different, relying more on block arrangements than pathfinding. The puzzles were interesting without being so challenging as to escape solution, but progress was often stubbed by sticky mechanics.
In one instance, I had solved the puzzle, only to be limited by the controls ability to push a necessary block the extra inch required to make it “click” into the proper position. The “point-and-drag” mechanic works well when acting from an orthogonal view of the block’s range of motion, but often I found myself having to activate blocks from an angle, which made it difficult for the game to interpret which direction I wanted to push the block. Compound this with video game tropes such as moving buzz-saws and spiked walls that instill an unnecessary and aggravating sense of urgency, and you have a recipe for pure frustration at times. Regardless of how well the music moves you, these situations really ruin the mood entirely.
Now, when the mechanics are working properly, and things are moving smoothly, the music combined with the African aesthetics began to swell up inside me, giving me a sense that I am becoming a part of something greater. And that satisfying feeling really drove me through to explore other parts of the game and overcome the other frustrations. These spectacular bits weren’t plentiful, but they weren’t too rare to motivate, either. And, unfortunately, they also suffered from the abrupt ending issues as well.
Rangi isn’t a bad game, and it’s a very respectable game to come out of a young developer from region not known for their game development. The refreshing aesthetics and moments of musical union in the game gave me a sense of what the developers were hoping to achieve. Perhaps with a bit more fine tuning and experience, they’ll be able to get there next time.