One of the key themes of Pixar’s latest animated film, Ratatouille, is not settling for junk food–literally. The hero, a rat named Remy, is always telling his brother to eschew eating any random garbage he finds in favor of working to find something more flavorful, and ultimately, satisfying. At the same time, the evil chef, Skinner, is conspiring to turn now-deceased master chef Auguste Gusteau’s image into a mascot for cheaply made frozen cuisine, a plot that the heroes of the film have to thwart. So it’s a bit disappointing and slightly ironic that the video game based on the film has more in common with the cheap junk food the film decries than any well-prepared, savory dish. This is especially true of the Xbox 360 version of Ratatouille, which not only is about as satisfying as a lukewarm microwaveable burrito, but also feels as though someone at the factory ate about half of it before shoving it into its packaging and sending it off to stores. It, like other recent films based on computer-animated flicks, is a simple, kid-friendly platformer that loosely ties into the plot of the film, but unlike many of these other recent platformers (and even other console versions of this very game), Ratatouille goes beyond merely being middling kid-friendly entertainment into being a sloppy and periodically frustrating mess.
Both the film and the game tell the story of Remy, a rat living in France who dreams of becoming a master chef–a dream that doesn’t quite jibe with the others in his rat colony, especially his father. Unlike all the other rats, Remy won’t eat just any piece of garbage lying around; he pines for more unique and expansive flavors, and actually has the crazy idea to try preparing his food with herbs and spices. So it is with great fortune that circumstance brings Remy to Paris and the doorstep of the restaurant once owned by his favorite TV chef, Gusteau. From here, the film launches into a brilliantly funny plot about Remy and a hapless garbage boy, Linguini, teaming up to create a master chef tandem. The game addresses a few of the key points from the movie, but for the most part, it skips over any potential spoilers and keeps its focus on missions involving Remy and his rat-colony buddies stealing food from various Paris locations. Oddly enough, there’s very little cooking going on in the Xbox 360 version of the game, with almost all the focus being on the platforming gameplay.