After the unstoppable surge of cross-platform releases at the tail end of 2007, the frantic pace of game releases has thankfully died down as the New Year games lull kicks in. It's a good time pick up a few of the games we've overlooked as we gorged on the brilliance of the Q4 '07 line-up, or perhaps return to the titles we never quite had time to finish, eking out the final ounces of gaming excellence.
For me? A chance to take a look at a range of recent cross-platform titles that somehow failed to make their way into the Christmas period features, and combine them with an in-depth look at what is easily the best game released so far in 2008.
You all know the score by now: impartial criticism of each cross-format release is duly delivered, serving to supplement the original reviews with console-specific commentary. Gameplay matters take precedence, but technical matters are also discussed. Think of it as a running commentary on the state of multiformat games development, if you like. Or the opportunity for a big ruck in the comments section, I really don't mind.
I must admit, I was a little apprehensive about reviewing this. I hadn't seen the movie and here I was playing the game. Pixar's animations are always an event, this one especially, being the next one from Brad Bird, director of the excellent The Incredibles. I wanted to go into Ratatouille fresh. I didn't want to spoil the experience by learning the plot through in-engine cutscenes and level goals when the silver screen experience lay so close to hand. Still, what could I do? I had to obligingly follow my reviewer's oath and get stuck in.
I needn't have worried. There was a reason for this game coming out a couple of weeks before the movie's release. Having done my fair share of movie license reviews, I should have known by now that this would bear little relation to what actually happens in the film. True, I know how the story ends and I know where it's set, but I still know nothing of the journey; the dialogue, the humour, the characters, and what makes it sparkle. Ratatouille the game doesn't so much follow the plot of the movie as get stuck to its shoe and dragged helplessly along.
There's not much you can really do with the tale of a rat turning his hand to cookery in a Parisian restaurant. A Cooking Mama-style game where you probably want to avoid the sultanas, maybe? No, THQ has followed tradition and plumped for your bog standard platformer. A jump and climb adventure in a rodent-sized world with minigames to partake in and dozens of charms (read: coins) and tokens to obsessively collect just because they're there.