Developer: Heavy Iron Studios
Release Date: June 26, 2007
Before "Wall-E" came out this year, I would have easily put "Ratatouille" at the top of my Pixar movie list and near the top of my list of all-time animated films. However, it's not surprising that the Ratatouille for the Wii doesn't even come close to being a top video game platformer, as it ends up falling right into the mediocre range in just about every imaginable way.
Granted, Ratatouille is absolutely a kid's game, designed to appeal to the younger fans of Pixar's Remy character, the rat who lives out his dream of finding and creating food that is miles above the typical rat palette of junk and trash. The game does a serviceable job of mirroring the plot of the film; it starts out with Remy as he explores and debates the matter of cuisine with his relatives, and leads into his washed-up adventures in France that put him in contact with Linguini, his human partner, for the remainder of the adventure. The plot moves forward to cover the machinations of Skinner and his attempt to subvert the good name of recently deceased super chef Gusteau.
While the plot is obviously bearable, the actual gameplay is pretty boring. At its heart, Ratatouille is a simple platforming adventure. You take control of Remy in various environments scaled to rat size, so a stack of books, trash cans, boxes, etc., provide the majority of the obstacles and platforms you'll encounter. Remy's arsenal of tricks doesn't just consist of simple jumps and double jumps; he can also swing from small jutting objects like pins or pieces of wood, climb up various netting, leap from small pinpoint platforms, navigate treacherous water, smell out the location of collectible food items, and perform a few other small tasks. A bit later in the game, you even get tossed into some Cooking Mama-style segments where you must create a recipe with the help of Linguini, an attempt to mirror some of the more comical mishaps that occur early on in the film when Remy and Linguini initially pair up.
Each level you encounter is divided up into a series of missions or goals that you need to achieve. Each level is pretty open, but there's not really much purpose in exploring the grounds. You basically go from one point to the next or need to collect a certain number of items to move on to the next goal. This gets really repetitive, especially considering how easy everything is, and while the difficulty is obviously geared for the younger crowd, it's not going to hold their attention for long either. Quite a few levels seem to exist outside of the main story, and it's these levels that often feel the weakest, whether that's due to missing a link to the actual plot, or because they're all so repetitive.
Also, while the level scenery changes here and there, the overall goals and design don't offer up much of a difference. You'll find cans to move so you can advance to higher platforms, bouncy springs to jump higher, tightrope-style walkways to balance on, and various things to swing across, almost in every level you encounter. The change in scenery isn't nearly enough to mask the repetitive nature of the gameplay, and the difficulty never really changes up between each level, making the next level you encounter just feel like more of the same all over again. Even if you do run into a spot of trouble or fall out off a high ledge, Remy's unlimited lives keep anything from becoming too challenging. Just try again and again, and you'll eventually make it across any obstacle.
The length of the Ratatouille game is also on the short side, and it's absolutely possible to finish the title in one sitting, if you feel dedicated enough to do it. That's probably a blessing in disguise, but I imagine that the younger crowd might spend a bit more time with it than a standard adult gamer. There are a few mini-games to break up the tedious nature of the regular game, in addition to quite a few multiplayer modes. These are of the standard mini-game variety found in other like-minded titles, but they offer up a decent variety for younger players, and it's far more engaging to play with a few friends in these various games than it is to march your way through the single-player experience.
As far as bringing the world of Ratatouille to life, the developers have done a decent enough job of matching the environments of the film, and it's easy for younger and older viewers to spot the various locations featured in the film. Just about every major or side character in "Ratatouille" makes an appearance, and they're all rendered well enough, both in-game and in cut-scenes, that you'll have no problem identifying your favorites. The animation work in the title is solid, and while it doesn't match the quality of the film, it does a serviceable job of bringing it to life on the small screen.
The music from the film is also intact here, as are a few of the original voice actors, including lead Patton Oswalt, and it lends a bit of familiarity to the game for fans of the film. The other voices that serve as stand-ins do a decent enough job of carrying the likenesses they're trying to go for, and while it's not quite spot-on, you won't pay too much attention to the slight differences. However, there's a slew of annoying one-liners that get repeated far too often during gameplay, which is often the case in these types of offerings, and you'll find yourself wanting to switch off the sound as you get closer to the end.
Fans of the "Ratatouille" film might feel compelled to check out Ratatouille on the Wii, but don't be prepared to fall in love with the game in the same way that you might have with the film. While the idea and story remain intact, the actual gameplay manages to suck all of the charm out of the characters and plot, and while there are some slight variations and mini-games that attempt to keep things fresh, everything else about this title is stale. I can't suggest this to platforming or movie fans, and even the younger crowd can find something better to occupy themselves with, even with other licensed games that handle the movie-to-video game transition far better than Ratatouille.
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