"There are license-based adventures on the Game Boy Advance that provide a fantastic experience. Ratatouille isnít one of them. It doesnít even come close. Without ever truly failing on a technical level, the game sucks all of the fun out of its license. The resulting product isnít entertaining in the slightest."
On consoles, Ratatouille is one of the best license-based games in recent memory. It nicely captures the elements that make the movie such a neat idea and combines them with solid gameplay and terrific production values. In short, itís everything a fan could reasonably hope for, all wrapped up in a delightful package that should make any but the most jaded and cynical person smile. Asobo Studioís project was a success.
THQ wanted to launch a version of Ratatouille on all platforms, so while Asobo Studio was busy laboring with Heavy Iron Studios to produce the exemplary console version, developer Helixe was producing an effort of its own for the Game Boy Advance. Bottling similar magic was a tall order, certainly, but the right developer would have been up to the task. Unfortunately, that developer is not Helixe.
From the very first stage, itís clear that something has gone awry. On consoles, Ratatouille began with a charming tutorial mode that introduced the player to the characters and explained how to play the game in a natural, even entertaining fashion. On the Game Boy Advance, that memorable segment is replaced by a few text screens. The artwork on those screens is good, with nice detail, but the accompanying text is uninteresting. The loss seems acceptable and even expected considering the platform, so youíll probably be willing to forgive the sacrifice while anticipating the great gameplay to follow. Unfortunately, it never really comes.
Following the two or three static screens, players are placed in control of Remy the rat, where they immediately find that he controls more like a slug might. As the player runs and jumps around the introductory stage, screens periodically interrupt him to let him know how to play. Remy can double jump, just like he can on the consoles. He can also wall climb and duck, moves exclusive to the Game Boy Advance. He can even pick up objects like forks and olives that heíll find lying around various stages.
Each standard stage operates on a timer. You have to locate an ingredient for a recipe and then get to the end of the stage before the time expires. That may not sound all that bad, but thereís a problem: just getting around the various areas is extremely irritating. It feels tedious and redundant, even though youíll explore each stage from two unique perspectives.
The first perspective of those is the standard one youíd probably expect. You view things from the side as Remy moves through stages decorated by detailed but unsurprising backgrounds. Then heíll find a hole he can crawl into and suddenly the camera switches to an overhead angle. Youíre looking down on Remy as he crawls through passages, breaking open walls and pushing objects around to solve simple puzzles. These areas are pseudo-3D. Ropes and chains connect the individual levels and try to make the player feel as if everything is taking place on multiple levels.
In either perspective, players have to avoid traps. Early on, these are quite generic. The floors are littered with giant mousetraps that will clamp down if you come within range. Although Remy has the ability to move out of his plodding march and dash around the stage if the player holds down the ĎBí button, there are so many of the traps flooding each area that moving in a hurry isnít recommended. In fact, it often isnít permitted at all. Even if they can avoid hazards, gamers will soon arrive at narrow ledges or ropes that force them to move at a crawl that somehow makes Remyís slow-motion walk seem like a full-on sprint. Tightrope walks are often followed by more of the same, then large spaces that seem like they would be ideal for making up lost time. OnlyÖ there are traps. When the traps arenít of the neck-breaking variety, theyíre some other household item that fires projectiles capable of knocking you backward so that you must advance again.
Escaping into holes and viewing the action from overhead doesnít improve matters any, since there are more of the traps and since there are the afore-mentioned puzzles. Pushing a ball slowly around a maze while stepping wide of too many traps is hardly likely to entertain even the most patient of gamers, and will more likely leave them frustrated and bored. While crawling between segments of an area, you also have to wait through animation as Remy leaves one platform behind in favor of another. It just seems unnecessary.
Once players head back outside, matters donít improve. The ingredients needed to complete a stage are often hidden some distance off the beaten path, which forces the player to wade through more of the annoying traps and across more of the sleep-inducing narrow ledges. Working through to the end of a stage only to be reminded that youíre not carrying the appropriate ingredient is exasperating, and backtracking is difficult at best. Even when everything is going as it should, playing Ratatouille feels like punishment.
Perhaps sensing that exploring the large stages would eventually grow tiresome, Helixe decided to break things up with mini-games that can be completed at the end of each in-game world. The problem is that these also are tiresome. Cooking fits the theme of the movie well enough, but it seems like the developer could have implemented that throughout the game more efficiently. There wasnít much about the mini-games on the PlayStation 2 that felt particularly impressive (or that the Game Boy Advance hardware couldnít handle), yet they were fun. What we get in the handheld version is just inexcusable.
Licensed games donít always have to be bad. With the console releases, THQ proved that it has competent developers capable of turning a popular license into something thatís truly a blast to play. There are license-based adventures on the Game Boy Advance that provide a fantastic experience. Ratatouille isnít one of them. It doesnít even come close. Without ever truly failing on a technical level, the game sucks all of the fun out of its license. The resulting product isnít entertaining in the slightest. Avoid it.
Staff review by Jason Venter (July 22, 2007)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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