Ratatouille was one of the best movies released this year. Cute, charming, creative, and inventive, it filled the screen with lively characters that avoided the expected, even when the plot veered worryingly close to cliché. So why are the games so incredibly uninspired?
Ratatouille: Food Frenzy is the second game based on the movie, and it's just as lackluster as the first, despite playing nothing like it. Each level is composed of a selection from the seven mini-games that make up the whole game, and most them feel like the between-level bonus you'd get from a title with some meat on its bones.
Food Frenzy has an interesting visual style based on the ending credit sequence of the movie, but that's not enough to spice up the repetitive nature of the gameplay.
In no particular order:
Flip the Fish. Linguine walks by every now and then, and tapping him makes him drop a fish into one of three frying pans. Drawing a line from the fish into the air sends it flying, and juggling the fish among the pans earns a score multiplier. In the meantime, waiters walk by in the background, platters held high. Flipping a cooked fish onto the platter earns the points its accumulated, but raw or overcooked fish can have unpleasant scoring effects. It's actually pretty fun once you figure out how to control the fish, but later levels can have as little as one frying pan to cook with, taking away the fun of fish juggling.
Slice & Dice. Cut up vegetables with the stylus, just like in Cooking Mama, except with less gameplay. You can run out of time on each individual veggie if you don't cut fast enough, but it'd take real effort to fail completely.
Mollusk Madness. Snails are crawling on the wall, and Remy shoots sponges to knock them down and clean the slime trail they leave behind. Drawing a line causes Remy to shoot, but his aim always feels off. You can also hold down the stylus to charge up a power shot, which can clear several snails at once, but if it wasn't for the combo it earns it would be no more effective than rapid-fire. To top it off, it's another game that's harder to lose than win.
Food Fling. Remy's brother Emile is tossing food from the top screen, and you need to grab it with the stylus as it falls, and sort it into the proper bowl. At first it's the easiest game of the lot, but later levels have the bowls, or even the food itself, randomly change. Dropping an orange into the orange bowl, only to have it randomly turn into a strawberry, was the point at which my indifference turned into outright dislike. There's a difference between a challenge and simply pissing off the player, and this is the point where Food Frenzy crosses the line.
Soup du Jour. Ingredients are rolling from the top screen into the soup pot, and when five of a kind meet they cluster together. This was almost a decent little PuyoPop-ish game, but the way ingredients would frequently roll out of place after hitting the mass made precision more difficult than it should have been. Keeping an eye on the top screen for the next color while positioning the growing pile on the bottom also doesn't work that well, leading to relying on luck as much as skill.
Cooking With Remy. This is another game that almost works, with Remy juggling multiple pots and pans on up to three burners at once. Adding food cools down the pan, while stirring (just accept it as a gameplay element) heats it up. Temperatures range from burnt, too hot, just right, cool, and too cold, and you can only add ingredients at just right. In theory, the upper heat levels might be a problem, but temperatures rarely get that high because you're always adding ingredients, bringing the heat back down. Juggling the three burners could be a lot of fun, adding ingredients and stirring to bring the heat back up while mentally timing the other dishes, but it only takes a small amount of efficiency to keep everything cooking right.
Dinner Rush. This is actually my favorite of the lot despite its simplicity. A series of dots and lines appear on the plate, and tapping and tracing them creates a fancy dish that looks as good as it probably would taste. Just the right amount of speed and precision are necessary to get a good score, even if it does get a bit repetitive as the dishes repeat themselves.
And that's the whole game right there. Food Frenzy has an interesting visual style based on the ending credit sequence of the movie, but that's not enough to spice up the repetitive nature of the gameplay. A few mini-games that don't actively suck combine with others that eventually do, and the game quickly turns from mildly inoffensive into a chore. While its mini-games are a bit meatier than average, there aren't enough of them to make Ratatouille: Food Frenzy anything but an unfulfilling snack, rather than a meal worthy of the license.