Written : Sunday, September 16, 2007
By: Tim Billups (GT: rocket x360a)
Somewhere in France, there lives a rat. Not just any rat; a rat considered to be one of the greatest chefs in the world. A French rat that is a chef?! That’s not possible; no one is better than the infamous Emeril! Every dog has its day, and in this case it’s a rat by the name of Remy trying to create a new home for his family in Disney-Pixar’s Ratatouille.
I thought dogs didn't care about rats.
Disney has released many of its animated film titles onto video game consoles. This is to be expected, when we all know what audience they are appealing to. The list of titles that have been released is huge, with the most popular being Kingdom Hearts. However, on the Xbox 360, we are graced with the likes of Meet the Robinsons, and of course Ratatouille (which, unlike Meet the Robinsons, is published by THQ). These titles obviously are for a younger audience, but could that be all that Disney had in mind?
You begin the adventure with a cut scene staged somewhere in the depths of France, showing your character, Remy, examining food for his fellow rats. When the cut scene ends (which you can’t skip by the way), you take control. Basic movement is simple, and controlled with the left analog stick. You are able to freely roam your area, which is a plus, as most film to video game adaptations follow a more linear approach. You can jump using the A button, and are even able to do a double jump if you press it again. For the majority of the game you will be walking around on your hind legs, because as you will learn from the earlier cut scene, Remy does not like to eat with dirty hands. However, when you get in a tight spot and are forced to run for your life, you can hold down the Y button, and you will be able to run on all fours. When you finish roaming your area and decide you want to go through with your missions, if you press the LB, Remy will begin to sniff, and you will see the “aroma” of your objectives.
With each level, there are missions that you must complete in order to move on to the next. There are five missions packed into each level, and you can’t just access any one you want. The last one of the level is always locked until the others are completed, and this is done because that mission leads in to the chase which I will cover later on. The missions require some patience as they are a bit repetitive, but still manage to be fun at the same time. All in all, the missions for each level are relatively easy, and won’t require a replay.
At the end of each level you will encounter a chase. There isn't anything fancy about these really; Remy merely gets chased along a linear path until he is able to escape. These, in my mind, could have been done better as you are tediously going in circles, through the same path with either more obstacles or in some cases less room to work with. There is one chase in which the floor boards begin to fall from underneath your feet as you run across them, as you make your way back to this area you have to jump through it rather than just simply run. A good twist, but wasn't all that necessary in my view. The added laps don't require skill, only time, which dampens some spirits when all they really want to do is get it over with already.
Also spread across the levels are mini-games, twelve in all, each with three different variations. The higher the number, the more difficult the task at hand. Most of them are easy, and don’t really require much, and you will usually finish in about half the time allotted to complete. There was however one particular mini-game that gave me some trouble. That mini-game is Rolling Rampage which you will play three times in the City Market level. With this mini-game, you have to make it from one end of the level to the other, avoiding bread rolls at the beginning, to jumping on moving rolls at the end. This can be tricky because the jumping for the game is a bit off, you can jump and then double jump and be right on top of your target and you will still not hit it. Frustrating, but fun I must say.
Today is just not my day, first a dog and now this!
Throughout the game, you will find charms. By collecting these charms you unlock mini-games as well as some of the story missions. You have a choice of whether or not to collect all of them, but if you want to complete all the mini-games you must collect at least 90 in each level. There are 525 in total, 100 in each of the four main levels, 100 in the Home Stink Home area, and 25 in the training level. There is also an achievement to be had if you can find all 525 of the little buggers around the game.
For being a game designed with kids in mind, the missions and mini-games were well thought out. They were simple, and fun, but also required the player to think about what they were doing, and what they were going to do next.
The controls of the game were okay, but could have been better. As I mentioned earlier, one of the main qualms I have is with the jumping and detecting where your character lands. You can jump straight out in front of where you are and see your shadow on where you think you should land, but you continue through the air. Also, on another of the mini-games, Conveyor Contraption, if you don’t jump over the spiked beaters, and you jump into it, Remy will get stuck and he won’t die, but he won’t move either. Forcing you to either wait out 45 seconds or quit the mini-game altogether.
Your character is not just limited to running and jumping either. You can hop onto a “rat ball” which is just a mini beach ball, and roll around. Using the rat ball is great for getting around sticky areas, stink bugs and chemical spills. You are also able to pick up objects and move around with them. And although there isn’t really “fighting” throughout the game, you do have to take on some of the creatures throughout the game. Utilizing the X button to swipe your tail at one of your adversaries which will temporarily daze them, allowing you to pass by without suffering a fur ball being shot at you or being pinched by a crab. Picking up a chili pepper bomb and blowing up one of them is also an option.
Graphics wise, it has the look of being a film, but you can also tell that it is no masterpiece. The cut scenes are nearly perfect, and look as though they are brought straight from the film. Your surroundings are surreal; objects look almost lifelike, every little detail has been covered. For being a “kids” game, the graphics on this were very well done. It is by no means a Gears of War or Elder Scrolls, but for the genre of game, it is one of the best.
The sounds of the game are also done well. Unlike many of today’s film to video game releases, most of the actors from the film did the voiceover work. The scurrying of rat paws sounds real, and if you turn on your surround sound you’ll probably think that there is a rat in the pantry. All of the background sounds are also believable, except the cat. To me, it just didn’t sound like a real cat, but sounded more like a person imitating one. The sound effects from the environment fit well within this game, bouncing on a sardine can and hearing “boing” gives it that childish feel you were hoping to see.
Which spices do I use again?
Now, when it comes to achievements for kids games, we usually think, “oh, there’s an easy 1000”, not so much the case here. 50 achievements for 1000gs and not all of them are a walk in the park. You will have to collect 525 charms, ensure you beat all the mini-games, complete the quests. Those are the easy ones, the more difficult ones are the ones where if you are not paying attention you will miss. Take for instance King of Cheese, for this achievement you have to find and stand on the stack of cheese in the Deserted Kitchen. Sounds simple, but what it doesn’t tell you is that you have to do it from a certain spot. So you will go and see the stack of cheese, there are two of them, and hop up there but no achievement will unlock. So you hop down and back up again a few times, but still no achievement. What the description doesn’t tell you is that you have to get on top of the oven hood and glide down onto it with an umbrella. Did I also mention that you will only have one chance to get it? So, it is an easy achievement, but you will miss it if you aren’t paying attention. The same goes for quite a few of the achievements in the game.
By no means is this game the greatest title to grace the Xbox 360, but for the genre of game it wasn’t bad at all. It is a fun, family oriented game that will definitely keep younger audiences entertained, not to mention a quick boost for your gamer score. I had fun playing it the first time through, and was actually quite impressed with how it was done.
Scurrying of paws, clanks and bangs of pots and pans, all the sounds for this game were right on the money. The voice over work was also a plus as the majority were the same people who did the voice work for the film.
The overall look of the game was also very well done. With the look of the characters and the environment, you can tell that the attention to detail was a high priority
Unless you miss something, you will only have to take one go at this one. With it being a kids game, the controls are not complex, which can make it seem to simple. Because of this, some of the more avid gamers will likely get frustrated by this games simple nature and often overlook how good this game actually is.
Delivered well, great visuals and audio that go hand in hand with the game.
With the 525 charms to collect, and the achievements that are easily missed, I felt the list could have been done a bit better. At the very least the description could have been more informative.
Overall the game is fun and suitable for the younger generation of gamers. I would certainly recommend this game for anyone with kids. If you enjoy this type of game and are looking for a relatively easy 1000gs, then this is definately for you!
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