Title: Ratatouille (PS2 Version)
Price: $1.99
Developer: It's complicated
Publisher: THQ
Release Date: June 26, 2007

In 2007 Pixar released a film called Ratatouille, a heartwarming tale about a rat named Remy who longs to cook. Inspired by the famous chef Auguste Gusteau, he forms an unlikely alliance with a garbage boy in Guesteau’s very own restaurant to live out his dream. It’s a charming tale, and a film which ultimately casts a critical eye on the act of critique itself. Ego’s review at the conclusion of the film has rocked many self-proclaimed critics to their very foundational core.

A week later, far too many companies released a video game based on this critically acclaimed movie, and helped assuage any doubts Ego’s revelation may have bestowed in my own heart. If anything, my heart has shrunk three sizes and grown extra cynical barbs.

You may be wondering why I’m telling you about Ratatouille at all. A fair question. The answer is shortly before our new quarantine lives began, I made a stop by my favorite local game store, Live Action Games. There I was given something that is the stuff of horror stories on circa-2008 message boards.

Ratatouille for the PS2...

...with my name already inscribed on it.

This is it, isn’t it? The game that kills me. Ratatouille (PS2) is my personal Polybius.

Best to document the journey, in case anything gets spooky in here.

First impressions — an outrageous amount of companies had a hand in making this game. Just to put things in perspective, Here’s every title card before the game starts.

Now, it could be that like the kitchen in any famous restaurant, each of these companies had a clear role. The sous chef, the executive chef, the escuelerie, the garbage boy. Each performing some necessary task to support the final result. Or it could just be too many cooks in the kitchen, throwing whatever they can in an already burnt soup to try and salvage it.

It does not take long to figure out which result we got.

Let’s go on a magical journey.

SOMEWHERE IN FRANCE

Ratatouille (PS2) opens similar enough to the film, with Remy serving as a poison-checker for his colony on a farm “somewhere in France.”

Things get off the rails pretty fast though, when Remy’s father sends him with Emile to collect food from the house. Now granted, this did happen in the film, but Remy and Emile find way more than just floating apple cores. There was also far less acrobatics and spoon bashing. And they actually did go inside the house, something that never occurs in this opening except for one brief detour through the attic.

It is remarkable how often Ratatouille grinds to a halt during this level so Emile can tell you to do the thing you were already doing.

These screenshots are all from the first level alone, which encompassed about 18 minutes.

It’s at this point I realize I have been playing Ratatouille — a game about a chef rat, I remind you — for almost a half-hour and have yet to cook anything. So far I’ve mostly done carnival stunts and collected apple cores, stopping all the while to listen to Emile tell me how important it is I do some carnival stunts. And collect apple cores.

After this mercifully short level, we are whisked away on the river, where Remy is separated from his rat colony.

There’s nothing too egregious or remarkable here, but the fail-state screen where Remy drowns is haunting.

Now, if your memory of the film is pretty good, you remember what happens next, right? Remy washes up in the sewer beneath Gusteau’s famous restaurant, where he witnesses new hire Alfredo Linguini ruin a soup. Then Remy rushes in to fix it, thus precipitating the events that lead to their unlikely partnership.

If, like me, that’s what you’re expecting to happen, you are half-right.

We do fix the soup, which presents us with our first cooking mini-game.

You know how in Cooking Mama, you press a button or wiggle the wiimote or whatever to chop? What if it was like that, except after each chop the game scrambled up what button to press next?

It takes forty seconds to fix the soup, but it’s an atrocious forty seconds. If this is what cooking looks like I’m not sure I want to do any more of it, but we’re in too deep now. My name is on the disc and everything, we can’t quit.

After a brief detour to the sewers, we arrive in...

THE CITY OF LIGHTS

Okay, new game for those who’ve seen the film; lets pause here and ask a question. The question is... what was your favorite part of Ratatouille?

Was it when Remy reunited with his family immediately upon arrival to Paris?

Was it when Remy slingshot a bone across the sky to distract the wild pack of dogs who guard Gusteau’s door?

Was it when Remy got caught by a dog and scrambled for his life?

Or maybe it was when Remy jumped across cheese wheels in the sky?

Or maybe you remember when Remy helped his jacked friend disarm mousetraps.

Everything happening for the next hour here feels like madness. Like I slipped into some Mandela Effect reality where the makers of Ratatouille (PS2) saw a version of the film that was like Chicken Run, with dog and cat villains everywhere.

We are now two hours in. Here’s a quick breakdown of what we’ve seen so far.

From the movie:

  • Visual confirmation Linguini exists
  • We fixed a soup
  • Music from the Michael Giacchino soundtrack
  • The main character is named Remy

Not from the movie:

  • A pack of wild dogs protect Gusteau’s
  • Endless list of D-tier rat friends who need your help
  • Remy runs around dreamscapes full of food
  • Remy is more of an acrobat than a cook

According to the pause menu, we are now 25% of the way through Ratatouille on the PS2.

It’s at this point I’m starting to wonder if we’ll ever end up controlling Linguini in the kitchen, but finally, finally, the fated meeting between Linguini and Remy happens.

And it’s weird.

Instead of capturing Remy in a jar, Linguini violently chases Remy through the city streets in a sequence akin to the Killer Whale in Sonic Adventure. He heaves bottles, throws metal sheets — the man is truly out to crush your fragile rat body.

At the end of this maniacal chase sequence, Linguini bashes his face into a trash can, defeated.

Somehow, despite having zero leverage on Remy, Linguini still gets the little chef to help him in the kitchen.

Then we go right back to the sewers to hang out with our rat friends. No living with Linguini, no montage of learning to communicate. Just back to the rat colony until later.

After this brief interlude, we finally get our first mission in Gusteau’s Kitchen — and we’re already breaking in to steal from storage.

LITTLE CHEF — BIG KITCHEN

This scene happens late in the film, when Remy is slighted by Linguini. Remy feels he’s been cast aside after helping propel Linguini to stardom, so he allows his family to ransack the kitchen in an act of defiant frustration. But in this game, we’re just kinda doing it because our family asked us to, with the help of our D-List rat crew.

To be fair though, this level is closer to what I expected from a Ratatouille game. We’re running around a familiar location, collecting random objects, and evading characters from the film. The game also reuses its stealth mechanics from the dog section here — if Remy gets caught, he gets dangled in the air.

The only person who won’t snatch up Remy is, of course, Linguini. You may also notice, however, that I’m still not cooking anything.

After assisting the first two rats, my constant wish is answered — Colette tells Linguini the chef’s special is needed now, and we get to work.

It ends up the chef’s special could be many things. Sometimes it's just a salad...

..sometimes it's a bunch of potatoes...

...and sometimes, it's all the above and a giant birthday cake.

No matter what you make, Colette will say “not bad,” Remy and Linguini do a handshake, and then it's back to helping the rat crew until Linguini needs assistance again.

Let's talk about these cooking mini-games in more detail.

For salad, Linguini places his hand over an ingredient. If it's the right one, you click yes. If it’s the wrong one, you tell him no. Repeat until the salad is done.

The soup is just like before and still terrible. Buttons and ingredients scramble after each press. I hate it so much, I refuse to provide another picture of it.

The potato chopping game is the closest thing to an actual game. First you rotate the stick to peel, and tap X to cut. It’s the only cooking event where the controls aren’t randomized on you, which means you can actually improve at it.

Finally, there’s the cake mini-game, which has all the semblance of a rhythm game, but without the score. Or rhythm. Or fun.

I wanted to cook, and here we are. Careful what you wish for, folks.

After this is all done, we order our rat friends around to rob the restaurant’s storage.

In the movie, this leads to a major schism between Linguini and Remy. Here however, the only person who notices at all is Skinner.

And yup, he chases us.

Just like Linguini, he’s also a real murderous asshole, heaving bottles and trash can lids in our direction. Just absolutely trashing his own restaurant to kill one rat.

We escape, slide down to the sewer, and chill with the rat fam again.

Well, this hasn’t been great, but at least the kitchen level resembled the film in some capacity. That was nice... and I hope you enjoyed it, because next we’re off to do a bunch of unrelated nonsense at a street market in Paris.

God dammit.

THE CITY MARKET

There’s nothing terribly remarkable here at first. We scurry across a bunch of food stalls, evading children with comically oversized lollipops.

This is a good time to remark on an obnoxious trend in this game — the amount of “bonus” levels where Remy jumps across giant mounds of food.

Welcome to “Pasta Persuasion.”

And here’s “Veggie Vault."

How about "Desserted Wonderland?"

Every stage is littered with dishes lying out in the middle of nowhere. If Remy takes a sniff, he falls into a coma and reappears in one of these giant foodstuff dreamlands.

I hate them. So much. They are obnoxious, lazy platforming zones full of unappetizing food models. Eventually I started skipping them, and I do not feel anything of value was lost.

Once we’re ready to say goodbye to this quiet street of Paris, it’s time to get to work. We direct the rats, shove food into this old lady’s bag, then scurry to safety.

This time, the chase sequence escalates quickly.

Rather than introduce someone new, Skinner happens to be taking a stroll down the street when he spots us and gives chase again. I get Skinner wanting to catch a rat in his own restaurant, but this is an awful lot of dedication to murder a rat he spotted on a street corner.

BUT WAIT. That’s not all. Halfway through the chase, a new challenge appears.

That’s right.

It’s Grandma.

Grandma’s just as bloodthirsty as the rest. An absolute monster in pursuit of poor Remy. Out to crush this poor rat with anything she can find.

After a brief return to the sewer (which I only now realize serves as our level select hub, like the castle in Mario 64 but incredibly shitty), we’re back to the restaurant.

THE DESSERTED KITCHEN

Oh no! Linguini has been left to run the kitchen all alone! The rats need to get to work to help!

Hold up a second.

This is the end of the film, right?

Linguini is left all alone in the kitchen after he tells the truth about his amazing skills. Remy comes back to help, and the whole colony runs the kitchen. We didn’t just skip some of Ratatouille, we basically skipped the whole goddamn movie. We spent exactly one day in the kitchen with Linguini. He’s basically a side-note in our rat lives, not a cherished friend.

But here we are, coming to help. I guess.

Anyway, first we gotta put Skinner in the locker. In the movie he’s already been ousted from his job at Gusteau’s by now, but in the PS2 game, he’s kinda just here, smirking in a corner. I guess he’s just not letting Linguini cook? Weird way to get back at your employee, considering it would tank his own restaurant too. But hey. We work with what we got here on Ratatouille for the PS2.

Getting him locked in the closet mostly involves running around countertops and knocking over plates. After we do this twice, I guess he’s close enough to lure into the closet by turning on this floor buffer.

Great.

Next, we have to help Colette get Gusteau’s cookbook out of the office. The actual office itself is an okay platforming experience, but let's talk about what you have to do to get in there. Because that’s the real shit.

First off, this kitchen is an absolute war zone. Crabs and lobsters are loose everywhere, while bagged shrimp fly around like skee balls.

What’s worse is the crabs appear to be Jedi, because they can just yank any can or spoon into their claws from feet away. This wouldn’t be such a problem if I didn’t need both a can and spoon to get into the office. Just getting a weapon close enough to hit a deadly sea urchin blocking the entrance took probably a half hour, thanks to all these goddamn force-sensitive crabs.

The office itself is fine. There’s some light platforming in here to reach the cookbook. The real disappointment is there’s no advertising mock-ups of Gusteau’s frozen food line from the film.

At this point though, I should probably just be grateful the office looks like an office. No one tries to crush me to death in here either.

And now, we’re here. The big finale. Colette loudly shouts “that critic” has placed his order. You know what that means! Just like the title of the film, it’s time to make...

A birthday cake?

A smoothie?

A... salad?

Ego appears to have ordered everything the kitchen has to offer except ratatouille. Mercifully, it’s the last time I’ll have to do any of these mini-games, but it doesn’t make the whole process any less excruciating.

Special shout out to the truly awful salad-making mini-game, where instead of having to deal with one indecisive Linguini, I now have to contend with three dumbass rats.

Finally, finally, we send the food out the Ego.

But nothing could’ve prepared me for what happens next.

Skinner busts out of the closet, and wouldn’t you know it, he chases us into the restaurant.

This is it. The final level. We run around the interior of Gusteau’s as Skinner trashes every inch of his own establishment. He chucks wine glasses, heaves soup across the dining room. He is truly a man possessed.

So possessed, in fact, he literally brings the restaurant down, killing dozens.

And then, uh... well.

Um.

Uh...

Wow.

Where to begin with this wrap-up? Gusteau’s literally collapses, but it's okay I guess because we opened our own restaurant after. Nevermind all the souls who died in the name of fine dining.

Also, remember that profound ending I talked about at the start of this? Ego’s transcendent ratatouille dish that changes his life forever? Not only does this scene not occur, Anton Ego never appears in the game. Never modeled, or rendered.

In watching the footage, I notice I am stunned into silence for about five minutes while the credits roll. As you might imagine when six companies are involved, there are a lot of credits.

And with that, we’re done. Finally, finally done. Thank God.

IT'S OVER

So what's the takeaway here? Ratatouille (PS2) was bad, sure, but that was a known expectation. So forget bad, this ending is actually astonishing. I could’ve never predicted how far it would deviate from the events of the film, culminating in the literal violent destruction of Gusteau's. The game also happily jettisons about 80% of Ratatouille's plot for the sake of foodie dreamlands and paris streets, even going so far as to completely exclude the principle antagonist.

So, if you wanted to play a game that was more like Ratatouille, does it exist?

The answer is yes. And it’s called Ratatouille — on the Xbox 360 or PS3. See, after playing the game, I took a look at the wiki page and, well... here’s what Wikipedia said the plot to the level "Big Kitchen — Little Chef" was:

After that, Remy befriends Linguini and helps him with what he is forced to do for Skinner, the head chef. The next day Remy helps Linguini cook the food for the customers while also helping his colony that he has reunited with by stealing the kitchen's food. Skinner catches Remy, and another chase begins, ending with Remy discovering a letter that proves Linguini's right to inherit the restaurant, leading to Skinner's firing.

I found this curious, because as you’ve now seen, something this close in approximation to the film was certainly not my experience. After some brief research, I discovered these scenes do exist, but were cut from the PS2 version. In fact, there’s a number of extended sequences and cutscenes in the “superior” versions of this game. I guess.

So, here we are, having finished a subpar version of an already subpar game. Am I going to go back and compare the two? Make a return trip to LAG to hunt down a more advanced copy?

Nope! Fuck that!

We’re done with Ratatouille forever.

I live with a fair amount of self-loathing, it’s true — I must, to play a game like this to completion — but it ends up I have some standards on what I’ll endure. More Ratatouille games is far beyond those standards, it ends up.

The good news for me though, is the curse is lifted. This game may have been out for my blood, but I endured the gauntlet and survived. Until the next horrible game shows up with my name written on the disc, I live cowards.

At the end of all of this, I highly recommend Ratatouille — the film. If these were two similar dishes, the film would be a delightfully plated medium-rare Fillet Mignon in a fine restaurant, and the PS2 game would be a burnt steak prepared on wooden planks over a burning trash can in a trailer park.

Had Anton Ego been served Ratatouille (PS2), forget a scathing review. He would've given up on fine dining, then burned down Gusteau's himself for good measure.

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