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Platform(s): Wii, Xbox 360
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Heavy Iron Studios


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PSP Review - 'Ratatouille'

by Tim McCullough on Sept. 15, 2007 @ 4:20 a.m. PDT

Ratatouille offers a fresh and exciting take on the platform action genre, engaging players in deep, fluid, and fast gameplay through fun filled mini-games, daring heists, frenzied pursuits and wild chases, providing constant fun and challenge.

Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Locomotive Games
Release Date: June 26, 2007

PSP | PS3 | PS2 | NDS | GBA | Wii | GameCube | X360 | PC

Why is it that most movie-based games always seem to end up as 3D platformers? Granted, you do find some subtle differences between games, and some developers do try to differentiate them by throwing in a few mini-games. Generally speaking, though, these "fast-food" equivalents are often mediocre at best, although they could be so much better if they weren't packaged as part of a movie marketing frenzy.

Ratatouille is an action/adventure platform game based on the movie of the same name. The game doesn't follow the storyline of the movie, although it may be more enjoyable if you've seen the film, since you'd be familiar with the characters and the general nature of the gameplay. As Remy the culinary-minded rat, you'll scurry around jumping, climbing and fighting as you try to recover stolen recipe cards. On each level, you collect cheese to purchase upgrades and keys to unlock more levels; the game features over 30 missions, which span five levels. Typically, there are multiple puzzles to solve on each level before you'll be able to advance. Tutorials are presented in-game by Chef Gusteau, who was a helpful, if imaginary, character in the movie.

You won't find too many differences between Ratatouille and any other platform title that's been released over the last few years. Gameplay involves moving Remy through multiple obstacles by jumping, climbing, swimming, killing insect enemies, collecting cheese and finding keys that are required to unlock new missions. The main objective, collecting a missing recipe card, usually occurs only after performing several "fetch" quests. The repetitive nature of the missions in Ratatouille started to become a bit tedious after a dozen or so missions, but to be fair, I've avoided many platforming games for this very reason.

Remy is a pretty limber little rat, and he can perform double-jumps in addition to a standard jump, as well as climb up objects, walk over ropes and swim. At certain times, you'll want to use a feature called "sticking," which allows Remy to jump on very small objects (i.e., the top of a broom handle) while maintaining his balance. As for fighting the bad guys (primarily spiders), Remy can use one of three different attacks: spin attack, swipe with his paw and ground pound. Some of these capabilities can be upgraded multiple times by trading in cheese to the rat merchant back at the colony. Ratatouille includes an auto-save feature which can be disabled if you prefer to save games at your discretion. Although there is very little replay value in the main single-player campaign, you can return to previous levels and try to find objects that you might have missed the first time around.

After collecting a large amount of cheese, you can trade it in to upgrade Remy's skills and abilities. Skills can be upgraded at least three times, but I didn't notice a great deal of difference in the upgraded abilities as I played. An innovative reward for collecting the recipe cards is the fact that you can actually prepare them. Each of the 40 recipes is accessible through the Extras section under the Options menu, and they come complete with ingredient lists and cooking instructions.

For the most part, camera views in Ratatouille aren't adjusted automatically. You'll find yourself spending a great deal of time adjusting you view using the L and R shoulder buttons just to find out what's going on around you. You have the ability to switch to a first-person view of the world, but its usefulness is limited due to not being able to properly fight enemies and clearly see objects around you. Most of your camera adjustments will be made to line up for a platform jump. The game defaults to using the analog nub to move Remy around, but if this isn't to your liking, you can change this in the Options menu to use the directional buttons instead. In addition to making control changes, you can also review unlocked movies, collected recipes and even enter cheat codes.

The graphics in Ratatouille hold up well against similar 3D action titles. The environments and the characters are well detailed and playfully animated, and menus and load screens are similar to the hand-drawn style of the movie titles. The title also features 13 videos, most of which are unlocked as you progress through the game; one of the videos is the trailer for Pixar's next movie, "Wall_E." Ratatouille features a bouncy soundtrack, which fits well with the game's action, and sound effects work perfectly and don't distract. The movie actors have even provided their vocal talents for some sound bytes.

Ratatouille provides some multiplayer fun through the PSP's ad hoc capability. By either hosting or joining a match, two players can compete in two different types of games. The first game type is a competitive collection game with three different variations. The regular game consists of each player trying to collect as much cheese as he or she can before time runs out. The second variation is the "weighted" collection, where you slow down as you collect cheese unless you return it to your designated drop-off zone. The final variation has you collecting chef hats, which materialize after you've collected five pieces of cheese. The first player to collect the required number of hats, or the player who has the most hats when time runs out, is the winner. The second multiplayer option is a basic racing game. The host of the racing game can literally spice things up in the race by allowing chili peppers to be collected, which will speed up your character.

Although you'll find very little that you haven't already experienced in a multitude of other platform games, Ratatouille provides a visually pleasing gaming experience with a single-player campaign of decent length and a respectable rewards system. Ratatouille improves on its replay value by including two different multiplayer games for two players. I would've liked to see a more automated camera control system, but the game is still very playable as-is. You'll find that Ratatouille will most likely appeal to younger gamers, but if you enjoy cute action/adventure platformers, it should make an excellent addition to your PSP library.

Score: 7.5/10

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