Greetings humans, Monki here with the first of many articles that will be coming over the next couple of days from me.
You'll be seeing a lot more about E3, but first I've got a few reviews for Ratatouille, a game that launched a little bit ago. I took a look at the 360 version while Dr. G tried the Wii version and Kaffy took on the DS.
To relate this to what has happened at E3 so far, Microsoft announced a partnership with Disney to make their movie's available in XBox Live Marketplace...so you should see the movie version of Ratatouille in a few months. Hooray connections!
I picked up Ratatouille for the XBox 360 with the full intention of playing through the entire thing in the mindset of a kid. I would assume the target audience of this game consists of...what...8 to 12 year olds? So...that is where my mind was when I started it.
You start off in a country ranch going through the tutorials. You control Remy the rat, a little chef that was destined for big things. Basic button moves...A is jump, X is swipe-tail, oh, and you can double-jump too. I love double-jump.
Immediately I was struck with the scale of the game. You really do feel like a tiny rat running around in a human-sized world. When you make it to the top of a building, peering over that edge does give you a sense of, "oh shit, I'm totally dead if I jump."
That being said...that was just about the only thing that I came to enjoy in this title.
Problems start showing up with the camera as you start traversing around the world. You end up in the street just outside of Gusteau's famous restaurant. (I won't go into details on the games plot...if you've seen the movie, you get the basic idea.) In the street you are treated to more eye candy and more annoying gameplay. Take five minutes to claw your way to an awning just to miss a simple jump and go tumbling to your death. Take five more minutes to get back up and then slip again...repeat.
It really dawned on me about two hours into the game...it's just not any fun. At no point was I truly excited about the gameplay whatsoever. The level of difficulty is just so insane for a game that you have to imagine is directed towards children! There are chases in the game where you actually run TOWARD the screen...as in, you are facing the camera and running away from a giant human trying to catch you. It looks kind of cool, but you have little to no reaction time of stuff you must avoid in order to survive. Annoying as hell. Basically you just have to memorize the route and attempt it a few dozen times to complete the levels.
I mentioned this in my wrap-up, but as the game progresses you collect "charms." These charms unlock more mini-games and missions for you to play as the game wears on. I've admitted I'm an achievement whore...so one of the larger achievements was gather all 525 charms in the game. Here's the problem though, if you skip or miss a charm during some missions, there is absolutely no way to get back to it again. Poor design.
Oh, and the mini-games in this...holy hell. I've been playing games now for two decades and these were some of the most frustrating "mini-games" I've ever punished myself with. I nearly destroyed my LCD with a remote toss at one point during a 45 minute attempt to get through a single of these "fun diversions."
To wrap it up, I made it a point to perfect gamerscore (1000/1000) the game just so I know for a fact I never ever have to return to it ever. I just wish this kids game was actually developed for kids.
Okay, enough of my ranting, here is Dr. G checking out the Wii version of the game.
When I was young, I was a sucker for licensed games, from more obvious game material like "Batman" or "Silver Surfer" to "how the hell are they going to make a game out of that?" material like "Cool Spot" or "Yo Noid." Therefore, I can't really fault this game on any moral grounds as even when I should have known better, I still paid $7 just to find out how/why someone would make an "Aquaman" game. So, particularly in this hyper commercialized age, if you have a kid, they're probably going to want to check out this game. Hell, you might be dying to "live the movie" yourself and if you're just looking for a short review, here it is: If your kid loves finding shit, this is your game. For those still unsure, read on...
Before playing "Ratatouille" for the Wii, I spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out how I would make a game based on a movie about a rat that cooks. While actually playing "Ratatouille" I spent a fair amount of time trying to process how it felt to spend $250 on a system that allowed me to pretend I was a rat that could cook. I still don't know how I feel about it. I mean, It's not that I was expecting "Ratatouille" to revolutionize the way I viewed video games or even the way I viewed video games based on Disney/Pixar animated films, it's just that I didn't have a lot of fun playing it.
Here's the general pattern of the game: you crawl out of the sewer, some rats guide you on an elaborate plan to steal food, you play a couple of minigames, run like hell from someone and then slide down a pipe and back into your home.
The action opens up with the standard tutorial level, which is only being mentioned here because it had my favorite moment in the game. During the portion where they are teaching you to hit things with a wooden spoon, you totally clock a few baby chickens into oblivion with your utensil of justice. I actually had to stop for a minute and wonder if the designers actually wanted me to knock these darling little creatures out, but it didn't really matter because I was already using my wii-mote to scramble some not-so-fresh eggs. It made me feel a little bad, but not bad enough to stop smiling.
Past that, the rest of the game is fairly standard stuff. Each level starts with some crazy plan to either steal something or help your human friend Linguini stop making such terrible meals. Everything is laid out fairly well for you, as anytime you get stuck you can just hit the "B" button and Remy (for those completely out of the loop, that's your character's name) will use his sense of smell (here represented by some form of blue aura) to guide you to where you need to be. Every once in a while something interesting happens (like when the kleptomaniac crabs get their comeuppance for stealing your shit by stealing your hot sauce and promptly exploding), but on the whole I found a lot of this to be terribly frustrating. Not frustrating in the "Wow, this is really hard" sense, but more in line with the way you feel when your wife asks you to take out the garbage: I just took out the goddamn garbage, how much trash can there really be?
"I need you to get a fuse for me."
"Then I need you to go knock down three pieces of prize winning food."
"Then I want you to follow around an old lady and knock the food into her bag."
"But I just knocked it down!"
Then by the time you mumble something about her being lucky that you accidentally knocked her up or your bill-paying ass would be cruising for an upgrade, she asks you to rig a fork lift to steal the old ladies' bag . Hooray!
Anyway, after you've completed what ever soul crushing tasks the main part of the level asked you to do, you are then treated to a couple of short mini-games. Sometimes it's peeling potatoes, sometimes it's pulling a rope, but it's never terribly involving or interesting. The worst of the minigames involve pointing the wiimote at a picture of a button on the remote, then hitting that button to lead your friends to safety or something like that. The best involves using timed button presses to make a cake. Somewhere in the middle are the rope pulling game, which uses a meter much like a golf game would, and the game where you point at food and knock it into some soup. There are other games, but none will make you call up your friends and invite them over for an all night "Ratatouille" tourney (especially since you can only unlock these games for stand alone play after you've completed a certain percentage of the game...and then you still have to use the points you earned in the game to finish the job).
Upon completion of the minigames, you normally have to run from something, in the visually interesting but mechanically frustrating manner of you running towards the screen so that you can't see what's in front of you. There's always someone chasing you and they'll catch your rat-ass if you didn't move out of the way of the box of fish that you couldn't see a second ago. It kinda reminded me of that speeder bike level in "Battletoads", but not nearly as expletive inducing...though just thinking of that pisses me off.
After you've finally outrun whatever the hell you were outrunning, you have to slide down the sewer system and back to your home. This is generally the most exciting portion of the game, though I have to admit there were a couple of times where the wii remote almost slid through my tv. There's nothing quite like making it just about to the end of a level and then flying clean off your slide 4 times, bringing you right back to the beginning of the level. If I had a kid, that'd probably piss him off.
Once you've finished the slide portion of the level, you end up back in your sewer home, ready to set out on another adventure, which follows the same basic pattern I laid out right there, though every once in a while you'll also stumble into a "dream world", where you collect stars laid out on rotating piles of food. I eventually ended up avoiding these levels as best as I could, because it just pissed me off when I just missed the jump to the next baguette.
I imagine I'm being overly harsh here, but this game just didn't do anything for me. The graphics are fairly decent looking (though some of the between level cutscenes are just captured footage of the game engine and look pretty damn close to what my Sega CD used to put out) and I can't really fault the control (though I did biff a jump or two and it sure didn't feel like my fault). It all just feels far too standard. This plays exactly as you'd expect a platform game based on a Disney/Pixar license to play, so estimate your mileage based on that.
Oh, and I eventually did figure out how I'd make this game: I'd just rip off "The Incredible Machine." Most of the things the rats tell you to do are elaborate ways to drop things, so I feel like some form of rip-off/3-D update of "The Incredible Machine" would be a little more engaging,
But, then again, we all know how the ol' "3D update" trick works out,
That's right...Dr. G just referenced "Cool Spot" in his first review for AICN Games. Freakin' sweet.
And to wrap up this whole shin-dig is our resident girl-gamer Kaffy with her take on the DS version.
Ratatouille for the Nintendo DS is the typical movie based video game you would expect to find on the shelves right after the movie's release. It has all the archetypal bad guy, good rat story line you've come to expect from Disney.
You follow your nauseatingly cute little rat, Remy, through his adventures, and help him along the way. The game is rated E for everyone, but is decidedly for younger children. However, sometimes the controls are a little frustrating, especially when Remy has to jump from one small surface to another. He tends to end up falling more often than not, and I would think little kids would get frustrated quickly.
The best part of the game is when Remy asks you to help him cook. You actually get to use the touch screen for this task. As a matter of fact, it's the only time you get to use the touch screen with this game. You use the stylus to cut, chop, and slice foods that you then add to pots to make different recipes. If a pot gets too hot you have to blow on it so it doesn't burn, and there is nothing like blowing on a video game in a public place. After you add all the ingredients you stir the pots with the stylus and then you plate the food. You add swirls of sauce and sprinkles of herbs, etc. THQ must have realized this was the best part of the game since you can choose to play just the cooking game without helping Remy at all. Damn you to hell little rat...but I digress...
The game uses the same 3 or 4 backgrounds for the entire game, and gives you different tasks to accomplish in those few backgrounds in each level. You do a lot of searching for food and collecting stars, and cheese pieces to keep your life meter up and to get extra lives. There isn't a lot of play time with this game, and as far as I can see the replay value is nil. Also, if you loose all your cheese wedges you have to repeat everything you did from the very beginning of that level, and for me, repeating equals not fun.
The moral of the story is you can't keep a good rat down. Unless you make a video game about his movie and force feed it to innocent little children...but again, I digress...