You can hide under boxes, so it's just like Metal Gear Solid!
Ratatouille is arguably the best film released so far in 2007. The magical combination of fantastic plot, smart writing, and jaw-dropping visuals come together so well, it's almost hard to believe. What's also hard to believe is that the Nintendo DS game based on the film is good. It doesn't approach the near-perfection of the source material, but it manages to re-create it well enough to entertain the film's younger fans.
If you somehow managed to miss the film (go see it right now), Ratatouille follows the adventure of Remy, a rat who lives in France, loves good food, and is quite a good little chef. His family, however, would rather eat garbage. Through a series of mishaps, Remy is separated from his clan and ends up in Paris, the city of cities when it comes to gourmet food. He quickly finds himself in Gusteau's, a once prominent restaurant that is now considered to be a middle of the road eatery. Through yet another series of mishaps, Remy falls in with the establishment's garbage boy, Linguini, an aspiring chef with absolutely no skill in the kitchen. The two form an unlikely alliance and set out to become the greatest chef in Paris.
Unlike the console version of the game, Ratatouille DS does a fairly decent job of sticking to the story. The first act is entirely faithful to the original story, though the game does stray a little bit once Remy and Linguini team up. It's forgivable though, as spending 2/3 of the game sitting under Linguini's hat wouldn't be very fun, would it?
The game features three main gameplay types. First, there's platforming. In this mode, you control Remy as he wanders around an environment trying to get to a specific location or collect a certain number of items (ingredients, recipes, etc.). It's fairly generic, but the environments are well designed, and Remy can pull of a good number of maneuvers beyond running and jumping. Similar to the platforming levels are the stealth levels. These are essentially the same as their platforming counterparts (in fact you will some re-visit areas and play them in different ways), with one big difference. The emphasis is placed on sneaking about. Remy can't be seen by the humans or they'll catch him, so he must dart from cover to cover in order not to raise suspicion. The main goals in the stealth missions are the same as they are in their regular counterparts.
Finally, there's the cooking mode. Really, what good would a game about a cooking rat be if there was no cooking? Cooking is broken down into three stages: preparation, cooking, and plating. You'll first prepare the ingredients by chopping them up. The game utilizes the DS touch screen very well for this, showing you where to stroke the stylus and in what way. The time limits allotted for preparing ingredients are long enough to make sure you finish, but not so much so that there's no pressure. From there, the ingredients are heated. You'll have to keep your eye on three burners and dump ingredients into them when they're ready. In addition, you'll have to watch the temperature. Stirring the pots will heat them up, and if they get too hot you'll have to blow into the DS microphone to cool them down. Plating is similar to prep, in that you follow on-screen guides to complete the dishes. The cooking mode is available for separate play outside of the story mode, so you can play whenever you want. This is a great feature, considering it's easily the best part of the whole package.
It's worth noting that the developer made some very smart decisions in adapting such a stunning film for the DS. First off, they don't try to replicate the film's visuals. It would be foolish to try to do so on the DS. Instead, much of the game is inspired by the art of Ratatouille, which resembles French artwork. It keeps the game from looking ugly and also manages to give it a good amount of charm. Secondly, the music is very well done. It's got a very Parisian feel to it, and fits perfectly with the rest of the game. The only downside is that once the songs are done, there is a strange period of silence until they start back up again.
Considering that games based on summer blockbusters are typically terrible, especially when the film is kid-friendly, it's nice to see that Ratatouille DS came out as well as it did. It manages to stick to the source material and present a decent amount of enjoyment, and it does so with a good amount of style. The cooking mode is very enjoyable and manages to best Cooking Mama in most regards, which is impressive considering Cooking Mama is only about cooking. Older audiences won't find enough challenge in Ratatouille DS, but the film's younger fans are sure to eat it up.