Ratatouille from THQ Wireless was, like the film itself, a pleasant surprise. Unlike the Pixar instant-classic, the game doesn't exactly blaze a trail of originality, making its peers look foolish in comparison, but I still enjoyed my time with the title.
The game initially comes off looking like a Diner Dash clone, but set in the kitchen, instead of the dining area itself. Instead of serving drinks and dropping off meal tickets, you're dropping meat onto the stove, and collecting orders as they come in.
But to THQW's credit, the game is actually a lot more than a Diner Dash re-skin. The big difference is that Linguini's right and left hands are controlled independently, with the right and left softkeys, respectively. So it's possible to go to the cooler to get meat in one hand and cheese in the other, quickly drop off the meat on the stove and then move on to other tasks, while still keeping the cheese in your off hand.
It sounds like a small detail, but in later levels, where time is very much an issue, it can make a big difference. The route you take through the kitchen as you prepare all the orders really does effect how quickly you get the order completed and out the door. And managing what item to keep in each hand at any given time is a big part of preparing orders rapidly.
It's also a nice feeling when a big, complicated dish is prepared rapidly and efficiently. Each "order" is broken down into anywhere from 1-5 basic ingredients - meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, sauce, cheese, and others. As orders come in, a big portion of the game's challenge is figuring out how to tackle them. Should you get all the meats first, or maybe the fruit? - and so on.
Other additions to the formula don't work quite as well. Since all of Linguini's actions are actually being controlled by Remy the Rat, you have to avoid the other roving chefs, lest they discover the truth. This creates frustration more than actual complexity or difficulty. Sometimes you'll be able to do nothing but wait, as precious seconds tick by, until the chef leaves the cooking station you need to use.
My other big issue with the title is that there just isn't enough depth. The story mode ramps up in difficulty nicely, but I was disappointed to see that after its completion, there was nothing more to do. It's almost criminal for a game like this to not have an 'endless' mode, to test out just how quick your thumbs really are, or a hard mode. Something like the ability to create recipes of your own to drop into the single player would have added a little depth and replayability as well.
Still, the overall experience was an enjoyable one, and younger gamers used to their movie-licensed games being cute platformers would do well to have their gaming horizons broadened by Ratatouille.
What's Hot: Does a lot to build on the Diner Dash formula, instead of just aping it
What's Not: A little too short and a little light on modes/extras