IGN Review of Ratatouille
We'll leave the usual "games based on movies usually stink" commentary out of the review of THQ's Ratatouille and get right to it: the Nintendo DS version is a surprisingly charming rendition of the Pixar flick. It's more tailored for the younger folk and poses absolutely no challenge to anyone over the age of 12 due to its simplified game structure, but it's sharply developed with both traditional and stylus controls, and blends in a nice assortment of Cooking Mama challenges that fits the "unexpected chef" theme of the Brad Bird film.
Development studio Helixe is THQ's usual go-to company for its Pixar games - the team did last year's Cars collection of mini-games on the DS and also hammered out The Incredibles: Rise of the Underminer videogame "sequel" on the system. For the latest Pixar outing the development group cranked out a solid 3D adventure aimed at the kids crowd that looks good and plays well
if just a little formulaic in its level designs.
Players take control of the lead rat Remy in levels that parallel the film's sequences of events, from searching the old lady's house at the beginning of the flick to getting lost in the sewers, eventually winding up at Gusteu's restaurant where he'll perform his chef wizardry. The game tells the story through the usual "we don't have enough cartridge space for real cutscenes" still images and text dialogue taken from the movie, but at least it's easy to follow.
The game impresses with a really solid 3D engine that portrays the movie's style and environments surprisingly well. The visuals are surprisingly tight for a THQ kid's product as, admittedly, thanks to past experiences we expect a lot of corner cutting on the handheld side of the licensed projects. The game is a 3D platformer but with a fixed camera - though players can certainly explore all over the level, the camera stays put always facing "north." In some cases the game forces players on a side-scrolling direction a la Pandemonium, but in most of the platforming levels players work their way in the foreground and background, and can explore countertops, doorframes, tables, shelves
pretty much anywhere a rat can fit.
Though there are star icons scattered throughout each platform level, they're only there to collect like stars in a Mario game. There are usually only two different goals in this game: find the exit, or collect set items (like pieces of food) and then find the exit. Remy's keen sense of smell comes into play in helping players locate out of sight goals - hit the "sniff" button and if you're in smelling distance, Remy will point his snout in the proper direction to go. It's actually rather cute and almost irresistible.
We definitely like the exploration element of Ratatouille's platform portions, as well as all the acrobatics that Remy can pull off. But there's a distinct lack of things to do
and that's what kills the game's challenge. It's simple to rack up extra guys since collectible stars are plentiful and easy to get to, and you'll also find tokens that'll give you a 1up without the need for the stars. Plus, there really aren't a whole lot of hazards that'll kill your character - you might get a zap that will take a notch away from your health, or suck in a bit of poison that'll do the same, but with all the cheese power-ups available any lost health is easy to recover. There's the added "Metal Gear Solid" aspect where you'll need to hide from anyone who might catch you romping around in the level, but if you're seen, they just throw poorly aimed tomatoes at you. Again, not really much of a challenge for anyone in their teens or older.
Between levels (and as an extra multiplayer mode) you can play the chef where you'll slice, dice, chop your foodstuffs and cook them all on the stove using the DS system's touch screen. Again, it's a fun set of challenges, but it isn't exactly what you'd call "challenging" even on the harder stages. Even as the seconds tick off the clock, there's plenty of time to spare when everything's done. Of course, when you throw in a second, third or fourth player to compete against in this mode (using Single Cart multiplayer, yay!) it can get a little intense. But in the single player mode? Not so much.
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