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Ratatouille: Food Frenzy

For: DS

Kitchen nightmare

Product: Ratatouille: Food Frenzy | Publisher: THQ | Format: DS | Genre: Party/ mini- games | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Ratatouille: Food Frenzy DS, thumbnail 1
It's easy to see why companies like Disney get a bad press. On one hand, to many people around the world it's a venerable institution that's created numerous entertainment icons like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy.

But just as many would argue that Walt's firm is overtly commercial and exploitative, mercilessly sucking up cash from easily manipulated youngsters (and their parents) in a whirlwind of low-quality licensed products and crass, overpriced merchandise.

And when reviewing a game like Ratatouille: Food Frenzy, you come to realise just how valid the latter argument seems.

It doesn't feel like five minutes since we reviewed the previous Ratatouille game for the Nintendo DS, yet here we have another offering lined up to snatch away the hard-earned pocket money of many a wide-eyed nipper.

Anti-capitalist dogma aside, first impressions of Food Frenzy are undeniably positive. The developer wisely hasn't attempted to ape the highly detailed CGI look of the movie, instead opting for a 2D appearance that not only catches the eye but also works well within the somewhat meagre limits of the host hardware.

Food Frenzy is essentially based around a series of mini-games, each focused around a certain kitchen-related activity. Unlike Cooking Mama, which sees you preparing and constructing a wide range of different dishes, Food Frenzy is a little more light-hearted when it comes to handing out objectives.

For example, the opening scenario - entitled 'Mollusc Madness' - sees Remy (the mouse hero of the piece) using wet sponges to repel a monstrous league of snails that happen to have been let loose inside the kitchen. By flicking the stylus in the direction of said molluscs, you can clear the screen and head onwards to victory.

'Food Fling', on the other hand, sees our mouse chum assisting in the preparation of a dish by sorting out different ingredients; the screen has four bowls in each corner and the player must ensure each item is placed in the correct container.

It's worth noting that before jumping into the game proper, it's highly recommended that you tap the 'help' icon in order to learn the controls for that particular event. This isn't something that happens automatically and once the action has started you get no indication of what it is you're supposed to be doing, which is unfortunate as some of the events make use of several buttons, as well as the touchscreen and microphone.

While a cursory glance at Food Frenzy might suggest that it takes a large portion of inspiration from the previously mentioned Cooking Mama, it only showcases two mini-games that come anywhere close to replicating the experience of Office Create's title. And even then they ultimately prove to be pale imitations, despite some rather fetching 3D visuals that set them apart from the rest of the game.

The scenarios themselves are perfectly enjoyable for a short period of time but they never really succeed in entertaining beyond a very superficial level. This wafer-thin level of enjoyment is further stretched to unreasonable lengths by the developer - during each game you have a bar that is constantly being eroded as you play and the only way to fill it up (and ultimately clear the stage) is to perform well within the mini-game itself.

Sadly, with some of the activities this can take an age to accomplish as the bar is constantly decreasing as time passes. Throw in the fact that the more tricky games are usually the ones that are least enjoyable and you thus end up repeating the same arduous task over and over. Considering this is a product aimed at youngsters, it's all worryingly unaccommodating and most pre-teens will probably baulk at the amount of effort required to clear each stage.

It doesn't help that a handful of the games are poorly conceived and no better executed. 'Soup Du Jour' is one such culprit - it sees you stirring soup in what appears to be some kind of vegetable-matching puzzle game, but it's particularly poorly thought-out and we imagine that most kids will get hopelessly befuddled by it.

However, the challenge posed by the various activities isn't insurmountable and once you've cleared all of them there's precious little else to keep your attention. You have the option to play any game at will and try to improve your score (which is judged by a five star rating), and there are a few token pieces of still artwork from the movie to unlock, but that's it. Even the most dedicated Ratatouille fan is unlikely to maintain their interest in this beyond a few days' play.

Ultimately, Food Frenzy does nothing to elevate Disney's reputation amongst those who view the company as only concerned with making a fast buck rather than attempt to genuinely engage the player. If these mini-games were part of a larger scheme then you might be more inclined to forgive their shortcomings, but serving up this undercooked, lukewarm selection as a full-price DS game makes it a seriously unappetising affair.
Ratatouille: Food Frenzy
Reviewer photo
Damien McFerran | 13 March 2008
A disappointingly half-baked piece of video game entertainment that should be returned to the chef immediately
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