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Ratatouille
Review By: Siou Choy
Developer: Heavy Iron Studios
Publisher: THQ
Genre: Action
ESRB: Everyone
# Of Players: 1-4 Alternating, 2 Simultaneous
Online Play: No
Accessories: Memory Card
Buy Now: Buy Ratatouille at Amazon.com!

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In case the deluge of plotless, CGI-infused crap movies (commonly referred to as "blockbuster season") didn’t clue you in, it’s summertime again (shudder of dread). Wait, that description (plotless, CGI-driven crap) could apply all year round nowadays…oh, well, you catch the drift. In any case, with the ill wind of Hollywood dreck blowing our way, leaving an unmistakable stench of rotting brain cells in its wake, we of the video game generation get an extra-foul bonus: yep, summertime is now video game tie-in season. Ah, summer. "We had joy, we had fun, we had sewage in the sun…".

One of the latest turds to float its way towards the shore is one Ratatouille, based on the latest offering from dreaded animation studio Disney/Pixar. The basic premise behind this latest slice of excrement is such: Ratatouille revolves around one Remy, a Cajun-monikered rat whose N’Awleans accent is strangely absent, and whose love for cooking saves the faltering restaurant of his "cooking idol", Gusteau. Through an "unusual (read: ‘absurd’) series of events", Remy becomes friends with a worker named "Linguini." That’s right, "Linguini." I couldn’t possibly stoop so low as to come up with this crap, folks. The two team up to cook and restore Gusteau to its former glory.

It seems to be common practice nowadays that games begin with a tutorial, and Ratatouille is no different. And, ooh, value-added bonus! Say, for some absurd and unlikely reason you come down with amnesia and forget how to play, and you find that your first lucid thought is to run back and play this masterpiece instead of seeking professional help for your sudden ailment, have no fear! You can replay the tutorial at any time! Wow, thanks, THQ! What would we ever do without this feature?

Ratatouille

After a rather long chase wherein you’ll find that you can’t change the camera angle to give yourself a decent view of the many obstacles ahead of you, you magically become friends with the garbage boy. Apparently we are to understand this to be an actual job. Forget those dreams of assistant managership at your local Target or GameStop, this is a fast track to career success! Oh, by the way, this is that cleverly named character from before, "Linguini." Apparently this sorry excuse for a side dish also dreams of becoming a chef (ah, to have aspirations…). So let’s recap. Apparently, all you have to do to get this guy, who spends several minutes trying to kill you, onto your side is to outrun and embarrass him. This highly recommended social science technique, doubtless ripped straight from the pages of Dale Carnegie, wins the guy firmly and irrevocably over to your side. Moreover, you’ll discover that he would like to learn how to cook, from you, a rat. Mmm…trashcan surprise! Dumpster stew, anyone? No, no real suspension of disbelief here. This unlikely discovery, by the way, does not occur until nearly halfway through the game- needless to say, you don’t get to the actual meat of the game for quite a bit.

As with any platformer, there are a fair number of jumping activities involved. Ratatouille often requires that the gamer press the B button to "stick" to things in order to perform the jumps more successfully. Now, if the developers had intended this function to make jumping easier, given its younger-than-usual market demographic, they made a serious misstep – in reality, it makes things a bit more difficult than usual. If you're not lined up with extreme precision, missing the target is a foregone conclusion.

Another glitch for ya: the camera center command doesn't always work. If you're perched on a small object like a box and push the button, it can cause Remy to lose his balance and fall off the object you're standing on!

All trimmings aside, the game basically consists of a lot of traveling back and forth between levels, a good portion of which is done through pipes. Here Remy is basically bobsledding through the pipes while avoiding obstacles. While this was fun for the first few times, it got boring after a while.

I was under the impression that cooking would play a larger part in the game. Images of Cooking Mama ran through my head, but sadly, I was mistaken. Cooking basically consists of pressing the button corresponding to the proper ingredient listed on the screen. Even if you hit the wrong button, you’ll be given the chance to continue without any real consequences - you just have to hit the correct one next time, or even the time after that. As long as you can get all of the buttons within the given time frame, you pass the level. Talk about lowering standards and grading on a curve…

Unlike almost every other game out there, once you complete a level you are not entitled to access the next one, or even given the option to play an unlockable mini-game or challenge. Instead, you have to buy it. First of all, the mini-games that are available aren’t exactly great ones, so you’re already at a disadvantage here, but secondly, why should you have to buy them? Didn’t you already earn the right to them by suffering through the previous level(s)?

The game is well animated and should look (one might assume) at least as good as its animated source material, overall. I’m assuming that most of, if not the entire cast from the movie provided voices for the game.

When all is said and done, Ratatouille is pretty straightforward. You receive a mission and have to complete it in order to finish the level. There are a series of side-quests throughout the game which can be bought later in the extras menu as mini-games. None of these levels are particularly tough, and all of these can be completed after a few tries – presumably, the perfect skill level (or lack thereof) for the game’s intended audience.

Overall, Ratatouille should be an ideal game for gamers young enough to enjoy this sort of movie. If nothing else, it should give them a chance to relive some of the movie’s "high points" (assuming there are any to be relived in the first place). Bottom line is, getting the game just might save beleaguered parents from having to blow yet another large wad of cash worth of repeat viewings at the local theatre this summer.

Bottom Line:

Ratatouille is (groan) yet another movie tie-in in a long list of recent games passed my way for review [Sorry! - Ed.]. Unfortunately, a hit movie doesn’t exactly mean a good game – in fact, the reverse seems true more often than not. When all is said and done, Ratatouille barely makes the cut. While it should prove enjoyable enough for rabid fans of the movie, for those of us who don’t care for this sort of thing, the proceedings really seem to drag on and on.

Pros:Cons:Final Score:
  • Nicely animated
  • Good voice acting, for this sort of thing
  • It tickles my sense of the absurd to be playing as a rat
  • Why do I have to buy extras for levels that I already unlocked?
  • Cameras don’t adjust properly, if at all, depending on the situation
5.5

Posted: 2007-08-15 21:09:22 PST