|System: PS2, PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Sanzaru Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Sony||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 29, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Tony Capri
Ratchet & Clank (R&C) has been a fruitful franchise for Sony, with Insomniac Games creating some of the most prolific and interesting platform shooters of all time. The torch has now been borrowed by Sanzaru Games, who are porting High Impact Games title released last year for the PSP, giving the series sidekick the spotlight in one of their latest action adventures, Secret Agent Clank. Does the tin man hold his own against the forces of evil, or is he merely a bucket bolts in need of rescue?
Our furry Lombax friend, Ratchet, has been framed and taken away to a high-security prison. Knowing the true nature of his pal, Clank sets off to prove Ratchet's innocence. The presentation here takes cues from games in the main canon, with ample cutscenes tossed in between missions that help to both round out the story and add entertainment value to the experience.
The game starts you out with a pseudo-stealth-action mission, and you'll guide Clank through the level in a manner that should feel quite familiar to folks who've played other traditional R&C games. Clank can jump, execute melee-attack combos, and utilize a host of weapons. For all intents and purposes, you're playing Ratchet with a Clank skin. However, there are quite a few, pretty cool stealth options throughout levels, though the level design will often prevent you from making proper use of these extra additions.
For example, in the first action level, you can have Clank sidle up to a mantle and then press the triangle button to have him pose as a statue, which will effectively cloak him from enemies while out in the open. Other times he can move close to vendor stands and pretend to be perusing the wares, so as to not be noticed by a mark he's following. In one particular missions where Clank is tasked with following someone, there's a gauge onscreen that lets you know whether you're getting too close or if your target is getting away. However, the A.I. is programmed to often turn to check their surroundings well before you have a chance to utilize cover spots properly, and you'll instead be forced to simply hide behind environmental objects in order to stay hidden.
Level movement is very similar to past games in the series, and Clank will collect plenty of bolts (by breaking boxes) along the way. Health containers are another familiar item to be found, and Clank will acquire new weapons, gadgets, and other goodies as you move deeper into the game. There are the obligatory vendors, which let you spend bolts to purchase new weapons and upgrades, and again, most of this will feel like old hat for long-time fans. Some of the new weapons and gadgets, however, are a real treat, such as the Holo-Knuckles, which make a giant fist appear to waylay nearby enemies. Other additions such as the Cuff Link Bomb are just clones of items we've seen before.
In many respects, the action levels in Secret Agent Clank play quite well, adding some new elements that are truly refreshing. However, the camera is a bit too close-in this time around, and it gets quite finicky when Clank finds himself in tight spaces. The platforming can occasionally be entertaining, but the level design, on the whole, is pretty uninspired and often frustrating.
Unfortunately, Clank doesn't actually keep the stage entirely to himself, either, and you'll be forced to play through challenge-type levels as Ratchet. Unlike the challenges from something like Up Your Arsenal, the Ratchet levels here are repetitive and completely lacking originality. These sidesteps in the game seem like a blatant attempt by the developers to pad the adventure, though they're wrapped in the guise of periodically throwing you into the perspective of the captive Lombax.