Like the majority of GBA games these days, Ratatouille is geared toward younger players. However, this 2D adventure based on the popular Disney/Pixar film isn't so dumbed down that older players can't enjoy it too. Watching lavishly animated Remy the rat go through his acrobatics while you help him find the food items hidden in each level is good for a few laughs. The cooking minigame also really gets across the whimsical chaos that chef Linguini went through trying to prepare gourmet dishes in the movie.
The game consists of 40 levels spread across eight chapters. For each chapter, you'll have to complete five side-scrolling levels and a cooking minigame. In the side-scrolling levels, you have to track down hidden food items and garnishes. Once you've found all of the necessary ingredients in a chapter's levels, you'll be able to play the cooking game, which is where you mix ingredients and cook dishes by following the onscreen prompts. Every time you complete a chapter, you'll see a story scene put together with text and still images from the movie.
You won't do anything in the side-scrolling levels that you haven't done in similar games, but the layouts are intricate and Remy has a good variety of moves. He can run, crawl, jump, double-jump, latch onto walls, inch across clotheslines, and climb up dangling cords. You can also have Remy use forks and drink umbrellas lying around in the level to jump exceptionally high or float across long distances. There's no telling where you'll find the food items in each level because the different movie-themed environments are all expansive and nonlinear. Some of the jump sequences you'll have to navigate are crazy; thus, you'll have to watch out for mousetraps or gas turrets that can knock you back and cost you precious time. Many levels also contain tiny holes that you can enter by tapping up on the D pad, which lead to top-view areas. These areas involve pushing balls around and using toy swords or ropes to uncover secret stashes of cheese, as well as other foods.
Running into a hazard in a side-scrolling level won't hurt Remy, but it will knock him back and cost you some time. The only way to fail a level is by allowing the timer to run out, which is nearly impossible. Timer refills are plentiful and regenerate every time you enter or leave a hole that leads to a top-view area. Finding the food item hidden in a level is never a matter of if, but when. Because of that, the game definitely feels like it was made with younger players in mind.
To an extent, the intricate nature of the level layouts helps atone for the softened difficulty. Sure, the game may be easy, but it'll still take you a solid four hours to get through all eight chapters. The artsy presentation also makes the process of working through each level a relatively pleasant experience. Plants, overturned containers, and shelves full of packages convey the sense of what it must be like to be a tiny rat trying to survive in man's oversized world. The backgrounds look like they were painted by hand and everything is colored in muted pastels, giving the game a cartoonlike appearance not unlike that of the movie on which it's based. Loads of animation frames went into each of Remy's actions. It's hard not to crack a smile and be a tiny bit impressed when you watch his tail, feet, and body contort as he runs, does backflips, or pulls himself up to a ledge. Meanwhile, the Parisian style music and goofy sound effects provide an uplifting complement to the onscreen action.
The cooking minigame at the end of each chapter does a great job of making you feel the zaniness that Remy and Linguini went through trying to prepare dishes in the movie. A 2D representation of a chef's station at Gusteau's Restaurant depicts three pots sitting on burners and a shelf with food items sitting on it. Using the D pad and buttons, you have to drop the indicated items into the appropriate pot then manage the cooking temperature by moving the pots around. When all of the ingredients are in and the thermometer turns green, you have to press a button to plate then garnish the dish, which initiates a brief Dance-Dance-Revolution-style arrow-matching game. If you manage to mix, cook, and garnish the dish, you'll have completed one entree on that night's menu. It only takes a few seconds for a dish to burn, so with three pots constantly going, mixing and cooking upward of 10 entrees quickly turns into a frenzy of flighty glances, as well as button presses. Wisely, the developers chose to include the cooking game as a stand-alone option from the main menu, which means you don't have to replay the story just to make a mess in the kitchen.
Thanks to the game's exploratory focus and pushover difficulty, Ratatouille for the GBA isn't for everyone. With that said, players who like mastering tricky jump sequences, and who have an appreciation for animated rats and gorgeous hand-painted backgrounds, should enjoy themselves.