The Leap Frog Leapster video game system has built quite a hefty library of games. While I have not played them all, I can confirm that Ratatouille is the most fun I have had with a Leapster title to date.
It took me a while to figure out why Ratatouille was an entertaining title, but the answer was quite simple after it hit me. Previously, all Leapster games that I have played seemed like the designers of the title built the gameplay around an educational topic. Instead, Ratatouille feels like gameplay was first designed, then learning topics thrown in the mix. This allows for a lot more entertaining gameplay.
In comparison to the recently released Cars title, Ratatouille has many different gameplay modes instead of just one (ie. just driving a car in Cars). This gives the game a true video game feel as it somewhat mimics a Mario Party mini game style of gameplay. This game will have players mixing recipes, surfing in sewers, matching things togethers, and sorting different types of food. Plus, this variety of games will have the player switching control styles between the D-pad and stylus generating a nice balance of gameplay.
The player will control Remy, the protagonist of the film, in some way throughout each game. Emile, his dopey rat friend, brings a nice amount of comic relief to the title as well. Besides offering good gameplay, the player will learn about comedy, food preparation, as well as the typical Leapster topics such as phonics and matching.
Each game in Ratatouille is surprisingly entertaining. For example, the window matching title offers a nice Where’s Waldo type clone, teaching the user the importance of matching and memorization. The sorting mini game, while being the most humorous, is a great way to get youngsters more familiar with different types of food. But perhaps the most entertaining game was the cooking/food preparation game. Here, the player will actually use the stylus in unique ways to perform different actions, similar to Cooking Mama on Nintendo DS. The player will have to select the proper ingredients, mix them together, and use other food preparation techniques. The stylus will be used to select specific food items and even stir the ingredients together using a back-and-forth motion.
The box claims that this title is best suited for gamers ages 4-7 (Pre-K-1st Grade). I agree with this statement, but because the title is so entertaining, I can see even 8 or maybe even 9 year olds enjoying this title. The voice acting is also well done. It feels more natural as opposed to being more acted like some other Leapster titles. And the visuals look pretty decent, just as you would expect from an online Flash game. The mouths even sync up with the spoken dialog very well.
Ratatouille was built with entertaining gameplay in mind, and the developers nailed it right on the head. The variation in gameplay alone is enough to set this game apart from other Leapster titles. And as proof the developers wanted to go that extra mile, the power off screen animation features the characters from the movie saying good-bye, a first that I have even seen in a Leapster title. While I think this game is the most entertaining Leapster title to date due to solid gameplay modes, I believe this because it takes the educational content on a different direction. Instead of drilling letters, numbers and words into the minds of the user by using repetitive voice acting or bland gameplay, it uses other techniques to get the point across such as humor, colorful and active animation, and engaging mini games. Using the friendly theme from the movie is also a great way to draw in young gamers. Plus, the more you play, the more recipes you unlock – a common tactic used in today’s home console games to give the player replay value.
If you are an active Leapster user, there is no reason why you should not have Ratatouille in your game collection. Parents, you will even have fun playing this title. Thumbs up.