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Monday, July 16, 2007

Game Review:Ratatouille

The movie smells good, but the game smells bad.

The wait is long. The wait for the Big Daddies of Rapture from BioShock to land on my console is very long. That is the time when I need a time-filler, but this is unfortunately, also the time where the gaming river runs dry. I checked out some of the recently-released games – none of them seems very appealing to me. Ratatouille is my best bet for the DS platform when it is put up with other new games like Cookie and Cream, Hoshigami Remix, Touchmaster and Nervous Brickdown. Being a movie tie-in, I was not having high hopes for it; I just wanted to have some enjoyment and that is it, but even then, my wish was hardly fulfilled … …

Ratatouille, for a start, follows the film faithfully and that’s great. I, seriously, do not want to play another game like Spider-Man 3 or Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer that is supposed to be based on the movie, but apparently, when you start playing these games, you realize that they aren’t based on it. To complement the movie’s storyline, Ratatouille even supplies you with direct images from the film in between chapters, so even if you, like me, haven’t watched the movie yet, you can still understand what is happening.

The graphics are acceptable for a movie-based game. Overall, the game has some good 2D-3D visuals, but like Brothers in Arms DS, the visuals are not consistent. There is one particular chapter where the rat is on the roof of a building. I cannot help but notice that the other buildings in the background are just represented by blur masses of pixels. It does not affect the overall experience that much, though, because most of the chapters take place in internal environments. However, from that point onwards, the game slides downhill.

I must say that the developers really need to work on the volume of the audio. Sure, the game cranks up some nice tunes both during gameplay and the intervals between chapters, but I was surprised when I could barely hear the game when I was playing it on the train (for the record, the train was quite quiet at that time with only the sound of it moving audible). And I try playing it at home as well. The game was audible, yes, but I felt it was still kind of soft – even at the volume’s zenith, it was really, really soft. That being said, I fully recommend that you put on a pair of earphones when playing Ratatouille so that you can get the full audio experience – that’s the way I have been playing the game all the time.

There is a more severe flaw at hand than the soft audio. Yes, there is – the gameplay. For once, I thought that I had bought a good game when I started playing it. Yes, a good game it was – but only for the first 30 minutes or so. Basically, Ratatouille is a 3D platforming game where you just proceed from level to level assaying to find food items (most of the time), hidden documents or a key, or just trying to escape a place. There are stars, coins and cheese to collect, all of which are used to increase your life. There are so many of them around that it makes the game relatively easy. Okay, it’s a kid game, afterall, right? All these fresh Ratatouille content would only last you 30 minutes, as I mentioned before. Why? Because after that 30 minutes is over, the environments will repeat themselves over and over and over again for the next - believe it or not! – 4 hours. Well, I just revealed that the game lasts 4.5 hours. It is short, but I take that as an advantage because the game becomes one repetitive mess after half an hour. You can be forgiven for thinking that you are playing the same level all over again even if you are not. And if you thought the objectives could save you from all the repetition, forget it, it is (be warned) just as repetitive. For ALMOST the entire game, you are finding food items! The game does close to nothing to introduce something fresh. The reason I say it’s close to nothing is because a few chapters have cooking challenges, but I will leave that to the next paragraph.

Eh, cooking challenges, huh? Like Cooking Mama, you ask? No, it is in fact not like Cooking Mama. I own Cooking Mama too, which my younger sister occasionally toys with, and I can tell you confidently that the cooking challenges in Ratatouille are so much worse, worse than Cooking Mama. A limited amount of dishes is one thing, but I do not blame the game for it, because those cooking challenges are not supposed to be the focus of the game, but for a gameplay element that is put in by the developers just to make the game feel fresh, I must say they have failed to refresh me – terribly. Instead, the cooking challenges just bore me even more. Unresponsive touch-screen controls, anyone? The cooking challenges aren’t any exciting, either. All you need to do is to slice the food items (unresponsive touch-screen controls kill – remember it), stir, stir and stir them in boiling pots and lastly, garnish them (again, unresponsive touch-screen controls kill). Yes, the activities are boring and are worse than the platforming levels.

After all have been said and done and the single-player game has ended, you browse through the game to see what’s more in store. A stand-alone cooking game challenge with difficulties of easy, normal and hard? Pass it. Wait, I just realized that you cannot replay chapters that you have already completed before. No extra content? There is nothing to unlock - you are right about that. Ah, after 4.5 hours is gone, the game treats you to an audio-less credits run. Way to go! And what a game Ratatouille is!

Final Comments
Get over the faith shown to the film by the game and the mostly good visuals and you will find a game worthy of the bin. Repetitive gameplay with recycled-way-too-much environments and objectives, boring cooking challenges with unresponsive controls and super soft audio that cannot make it without earphones plugged in. You cannot replay chapters you have already done. No bonus materials to unlock. It is a short and very easy game and an audio-less credits run at the end of the game. This game is small on minor positives and big on serious flaws. The game is decent at best. It is playable, sure, but will you be able to play through the whole thing? Enough said.


Good points:
- Game follows movie faithfully and supplies direct images from film
- Mostly good graphics
- Nice tunes playing in the background

Bad points:
- Repetitive, unenjoyable platforming levels with recycled environments and objectives
- Game is way too easy (it’s a kid game; if you are above 12, skip it)
- Game is short at 4.5 hours
- Cooking challenges are boring and feature unresponsive touch-screen controls
- Very soft audio (Earphones are a must)
- No extra content to unlock
- Inability to replay chapters you have already done
- Audio-less credits run at the end


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