- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 5, 2007

Here’s a look at some video games that turn current films into hands-on challenges.

Ratatouille, from THQ for Xbox 360, rated E for everyone, $49.99. A rat who dreams of being a famous French chef has wowed moviegoers but will only do a decent job of dazzling gamers.

The latest Pixar-Disney film to be turned into an interactive challenge looks as if it was ripped from the computer animators’ screen as the player controls the young rodent Remy and takes him on an adventure through Paris.

Clearly made for children (is that so wrong?) the game offers a comfortable, repetitive feeling in every environment’s “collect and explore” missions. The player has Remy amass an assortment of food, coins and other stuff by running and climbing through nearly every type of obstacle one could imagine a rat might encounter in the big city.

Our hero can perform some slick stunts as he roams around sewers, kitchens and back alleys, and he will find an assortment of 20 activities and minigames to keep the story moving along.

The missions are of the Rube Goldberg variety, requiring multistep maneuvers that eventually deliver food to the rat population or help fix a pot of soup, for example.

Remy also has some cool moves, including balancing on a rubber ball to bounce around, carrying and setting off exploding chili peppers, and taking a sniff to see the path he must follow.

Whatever the game lacks in original platforming, it excels in the beauty of the graphics as environments pop out from the screen and characters, which are voiced by the movie cast, look as detailed as their movie counterparts.

Additionally, toy maker Mattel offers a tie-in with the game through codes found on the back of “Ratatouille” merchandise that will unlock game content. Especially worth a mention is the 12-inch Little Chef Remy interactive plush ($39.99). The fellow offers a couple dozen phrases, dances and even stirs with a spoon, blinks his eyes and moves his ears.

Shrek the Third, from Activision for Xbox 360, rated E10+ for players 10 and older, $49.99. This third-person button-mashing adventure gives the green ogre’s younger fans a way to take part in the latest animated chapter of his life.

This beautiful game incorporates the famed cartoon cast from the film and the lands of Far Far Away as the player eventually can control six of the stars with signature moves.

Unfortunately, the fun cooperative party mode from the last Shrek movie game is gone, replaced with child-friendly, God of War-type action. It allows a solo player to pummel enemies constantly and finish them off in action-movie-style splendor if the player hits specific buttons at the right time to generate humorous moves.

Those who liked the teamwork scenario can choose from a selection of multiplayer minigames, many as fun as those found on a carnival midway. A pair of players also can battle each other in a more elaborate challenge as they knock down the opponent’s castle towers using catapults.

Surf’s Up, from Ubisoft for Wii, rated E10+, for players 10 and older, $49.99. What works as a great surf simulation for the younger crowd could have been so much more if developers had remembered the powerful platform they were working with.

Junior skateboarders will most appreciate the action that finds stars of the film hanging 10 in a variety of environments. Tricks and successful navigation through the watery obstacle courses lead to achieving point totals (for slick moves) and other objectives that unlock customizable characters, boards and new environments.

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