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Joseph Rositano
20 Sep, 2007

Ratatouille Review

DS Review | Cooking Mama has a rodent infestation.
The DS is no stranger to platform games. In fact; it’s highly likely there’s at least one in your collection. Of course, the DS is also known for being the home of a large variety of different gameplay types. One of the more interesting pseudo-new concepts came from the title Cooking Mama, an odd little game which utilised the touch screen as a cutting board allowing players to cook and prepare meals. With thse precedents in mind, it isn't surprising that the Nintendo DS version of Ratatouille was a hybrid between a platformer and a cooking sim. Although in theory the concept sounds interesting, the end result isn’t entirely groundbreaking or engaging.

For those that haven’t seen the film yet, Ratatouille follows the story of a rat named Remy. One day, Remy is separated from his family and finds himself lost in the sewers of Paris. Growing lonelier and hungrier by the day, Remy eventually decides to explorer the city above in hopes of finding a meal. As it just so happens, Remy had been under Gusteu's restaurant all along and quickly puts to work his cooking skills to aid a soon-to-be-fired chef. Presumably due to the DS’ cartridge space restrictions, the story is told through the use of still images and text-based exposition.

As mentioned, the game features two different gameplay types: the adventure and cooking modes. The adventure mode sees you take control of Remy and explore a variety of locations from the film including sewers, rooftops and, naturally, Gusteu’s restaurant. Similar to the DS launch title Super Mario 64 DS, you can choose between two different control schemes - utilising the touch screen to move Remy, or simply use the D-Pad. Meanwhile, the face and shoulder buttons are used to control Remy’s abilities including jumping, sneaking, and the interesting smell technique which has Remy smell-out level objectives like a sniffer dog.

In order to pass a level, you need to accomplish one of two main objectives: find the exit, or obtain a certain number of items. Unfortunately, this isn’t implemented very well as the objectives are fairly generic, and over time, they simply feel repetitive. It’s not so much a fault of the objectives, but rather that there’s nothing to do in the levels to break up the gameplay, such as small puzzles or even a few combat segments. That being said, there are a few hazards such as mouse traps, sparks of electricity and machines that produce poisonous gases, but in the end, they do little to make things different beyond visuals and layout. Furthermore, the game tends to reuse environments a bit too often, which doesn't help the repetitive gameplay.

  
Looks like the Socceroos have had a mascot change.

Looks like the Socceroos have had a mascot change.
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In certain levels however, players have to avoid being seen by humans, by hiding inside cups or underneath sinks. The system is implemented via an exposure meter which slowly fills when Remy is out in the open. If the meter fills up completely, tomatoes are thrown at Remy until he either runs out of health or goes back into hiding. Likewise, occasionally you’ll have to venture into a fridge which causes a warmth meter to appear onscreen. In this case, as you explore cold areas, the meter will increase but staying near a heat lamp will lower it. While it’s a simple system, it makes the game a tad more bearable.

In between levels, you’ll also be treated to a few cooking segments. Unlike the adventure aspects of Ratatouille however, everything is controlled with the touch screen, much like Cooking Mama. You can guess what to expect here – chopping, dicing and slicing ingredients and then stirring them while they’re on the stove. For the most part, controls remain tight (thanks largely to on-screen prompts). However, there are a few occasions when the game doesn’t register a motion properly, as you’ve either been too fast or slow. It’s only a minor complaint though, and it doesn’t affect the gameplay too much, although we would show some concern if there was a bigger emphasis on cooking. During the cooking process, you also have to take care of up to three dishes at a time which keeps things interesting. Once cooking has finished, you’ll be able to garnish your final products before serving. Although the cooking segments aren’t challenging, they offer a welcomed change of pace between levels and are quite fun in short bursts.

Additionally, the cooking segments can be played via single card multiplayer by up to four people. The multiplayer experience remains largely the same as with single player. Occasionally stars will appear, which you’ll be able to fire at other players. Whoever is struck by the star gets chef Skinner hindering their progress for a short period.

  
Is that Swiss?

Is that Swiss?
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Visually, Ratatouille uses of the DS hardware quite decently. The environments are 3D worlds consisting of the same locations and art styles of the film. The game features a fixed camera which sometimes causes you to miss certain items if you’re not careful, but otherwise, it never gets stuck and maintains a decent viewing area that suits the situation you’re in. The game’s audio isn’t anything special. It maintains a French theme, but is easily forgettable. We also noticed moments when the music actually stops altogether and is replaced with a 'busy restaurant kitchen' sound effect While it fits with the theme of the game, it still feels out of place.

While combing both platform and cooking elements into a game sounds like a mildly promising concept, Ratatouille is a fairly average affair. The visuals make decent use of the DS hardware, but the rest of the game could’ve used some improvement, particularly the repetitive exploration.
The Score
While the visuals make decent use of the DS hardware, the gameplay is very basic and gets repetitive even after a short period. There are a few moments of fun such as when you’re cooking, but otherwise, there’s nothing overly impressive about Ratatouille.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Ratatouille Content

Ratatouille Review
15 Oct, 2007 We smell a rat in the kitchen.
Ratatouille Review
17 Aug, 2007 Best left in the sewers?
SpongeBob SquarePants and Friends: Battle for Volcano Island Review
12 Sep, 2007 The yellow fry cook invades the DS once more.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  9/08/2007 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $69.95 AU
Publisher:
  THQ
Genre:
  Adventure
Year Made:
  2007

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