Developer: Heavy Iron Studios
N Amer - 06/26/2007
It’s that time of the year again. The time to grab your game consoles (old and new) and explore the interactive side of a new Disney/Pixar release: Ratatouille. The mobile edition proved to be extremely successful at turning one of the film’s clever scenarios into a fun strategy game that anyone can play. Console gamers received the expected – an action/adventure. What they could not have foreseen is that its gameplay and controls – though familiar to anyone who knows the genre (which includes almost everyone) – had gone through rigorous polishing before being shipped, leading to another Pixar game that was hard to put down.
If you have success in the console and mobile worlds, the only platform left is the in-between machine: Game Boy Advance. Having been gifted with dozens of classics that belong in every gamer’s collection, the GBA is not to be ignored – not even in a world now ruled by Nintendo DS and PSP. But as a platform of toss-ups (Ghost Rider and Spider-Man 3 are excellent; Shrek the Third and Over the Hedge are not), it’s hard for gamers to pick up a new release without considering the risks. You have to wonder: on which side does Ratatouille fall?
Ratatouille’s box cover, while barely a teaser for the movie and console games, is a perfect summation of the GBA edition. Remy, the lovable gastronome of the rat world, is jumping away from the head chef. With cheese in his hands and his widened eyes and opened mouth screaming fear, it’s clear that Remy never gets used to being chased by humans.
That piece of cheese – no matter how small a crumb – is significant to Remy’s survival. Collect 100 of them and he earns an extra life. Fruits and vegetables must be collected to satisfy the needs of Remy’s ingredients list. Apparently there are some very important dishes that have to be made at a nearby restaurant, and it’s up to our leading rat to make sure that happens. However, the player’s mission does not end after every item is found. Linguini must prepare each dish before each mission is completed, and that’s when a Simon Says-style mini-game appears.
Referred to as “timed cooking challenges,” these mini-games are just the thing a handheld game needs – they’re short and require no long-term commitment from the player. To prepare something tasty, watch for colored icons (red, green, blue, yellow, or purple) to appear over a dish. Next, grab that ingredient – shown in color and in various shapes on the upper part of the screen – and drop it into the pot. Add a garnish, which triggers a DDR-style arrow-mimicking mini-game, for extra points. Repeat this process until each dish’s requirements have been met.
Though these mini-games are important, the majority of your adventure will be spent searching for ingredients. One specific ingredient must be found in each stage. Otherwise you won’t be able to exit. It sounds like a harsh requirement, and probably would have been if this weren’t the easiest version of Ratatouille available. Remy’s health meter is easier to re-fill than it is to deplete. There are no enemies to fight, and only a handful of repeated objects to avoid. Rat traps and poison gas dispensers are the most common hazard. Avoiding them is easy: press the A button to double-jump.
But unlike the console versions, item collecting isn’t much fun on the Game Boy Advance. The levels are decently designed but have an unclear structure that makes them difficult to navigate. Jumping and tightrope maneuvers are sporadic at best – expect to fall several times throughout each stage because the game didn’t respond as expected.
Also, every version of Ratatouille is rated E for Everyone. The console versions contain elements of action – combat with enemies, the destruction of objects, an escape through the city, a race down a tunnel, and several other gameplay techniques that were designed to keep players hooked. This version does not contain any of those elements, and it makes no attempt to replace them with something equally entertaining. The ESRB rating is often used as an excuse for making GBA games childish, but with millions of GBA in adult gamers’ pockets, and with an equal ESRB rating on all versions of the game, there’s no reason why this one shouldn’t have had at least a crumb of action.
Review Scoring Details for Ratatouille
It’s not a snooze potion, but it’s pretty close.
Ratatouille’s designs are too simplistic for their own good. Subtle cartoon imagery can be interesting when used sparingly, but it’s hard to pull it off. Game Boy Advance may be a system of cartoony graphics, but it’s capable of far greater things than plain adaptations of Remy and his pals.
The sound effects are repetitive (as usual for a GBA title), but the music isn’t too bad.
…And frustrating. No gamer of any age will appreciate the lack of control reliability.
Collect items for a repetitive cooking mini-game. Nothing more.
The complete opposite of the console versions. No action. No adventuring. Bad controls, repetitive objectives, zero variety – you should skip this one and stick to the others.
The complete opposite of the console versions. Bad controls, repetitive objectives, zero variety
Reviewer: Louis Bedigian
Review Date: 07/03/2007