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August 09, 2005

Review: Ratchet and Clank (PS2) - A new breed...

VGP Score


Being the following act to Jak and Daxter as far as platformers go, Ratchet and Clank would have to put on quite a show to impress the loyal JaX fans. Its safe to say that Jak and Daxter and Ratchet and Clank are quite different platformers, but both are part of the same genre in every sense of the word. Its easy to label these two series as part of the same kin, but actually, these iterations of each are nothing alike, but will please both game's audiences either way.

Ratchet and Clank is developer Insomniac's new baby, now part of the Ps2 Hall of Fame. It single handedly redefines how far you can take the platformer genre, when mixed with the different facets of other genres, like puzzle, first person shooter and action/adventure games. Simply put, Ratchet and Clank is a platformer first and foremost, but is also an amalgamation of so many different popular genres, and creates something so new, and so fresh, it breathes new life into what was almost a dead genre (with the exception of Jak and Daxter). It combines the fast paced platforming of it's kin, Spyro the Dragon, Crash Bandicoot, and Jak and Daxter (some of the more memorable moments in platforming), and combines them with gunplay on a massive scale.

Ratchet and Clank starts of simple enough, with Ratchet being a mild mannered mechanic, working on the planet Veldin. His soon to be classic side kick Clank, is a defunct failure of a series of destroyer robots, who in turn realizes the peril the galaxy is in, due to the menacing scheme of the money hungry "Supreme Executive Chairman" Drek. (Yes, the name is rediculously long and weird, but it fits the humour this game offers like a fitted tee.) Clank then leaves the robotics factory in search of help, only to crush his clunker of a ship into Ratchet's planet. Clank teams up with Ratchet to find Captain Qwark and heed his attention, and get him to save the galaxy. Along the way, you'll meet dead beat Hover boarding champions, zaney mechanics, and uncover the true scheme of both Drek and Qwark...

The game plays pretty simple. The level design is top notch, and right off the bat, is one of the most notable things about Ratchet and Clank. In lamens terms, the world is alive. Harmless creatures roam about, and hovercraft and space-age vehicles literally bring the planets to life. Not only that, but all these things are 100% destructable, as well as almost every machine, box, board, lamp and light...and it feels so good. The amount of detail is astounding, as even the smallest of plants and pebbles, even though purposeless, add an element of realism that only enhances the expansive worlds and locales. The presentation is also up among the best. The levels are not linear by any means, and usually end up being very circuitous, which adds a level of efficiency to the game; it saves back tracking, and allows for faster progression through the game; again, this is but one more thing that adds to the games fast pace, and overall intense action oriented attitude. There isn't one thing displeasing about the level design, and each level is isolated as a "planet" in the galaxy. The visual appeal of the game is not limited to the level design however, and reaches much further into the character models and weapon effects.

Ratchet himself (with Clank as a modified backpack per ce) is very smooth, and detailed wonderfully. The number of polygons rivals some of the best looking action adventure games out there, and his motions are also fluid and add a touch of realism. The best of the best, and the cream of the crop, the weaponry of this game is probably one of its main selling points. Its stock loaded with more weaponry than most traditional first person shooters. With over 30+ weapons and gadgets, Ratchet's arsenal is one to behold. Each weapon is unique, and offers new and interesting ways to dispose of the competition. Not only do the weapons look cool, the after effect of blasting one of them off is also cool. The Devastator, your cliche rocket launcher, peters out with an explosion of particles in the same fashion as a common firework. The Tesla claw is handheld lighting storm to put it bluntly, and the Pyrocitor lets loose with a stream of flame. Some of the more innovative and intriguing weapons are the Decoy Glove and Visibomb. The Decoy Glove releases an inflatable doll of Ratchet which confuses the enemies and tricks them into attacking that, leaving themselves vulnerable to the real Ratchet. Lastly, the Visibomb is a remote controlled missile, a la the Nikita missle launcher. This is but a fraction of your arsenal, and it gets more and more powerful as the game progresses.

The actual gameplay consists of typical platforming, the foremost example is on the planet Kerwan, where you must scale 3 huge towers up and down, to reach your goal, which incorporates not only a three dimensional scaling of the walls, but is also very challenging from a strategic standpoint. Secondary to that, are the heavy duty gun battles, and giant boss battles. The game gives a real sense of accomplishment as you buy new weapons, complete new objectives, gather new infobots (which give co-ordinates to other planets) or increase your health which is reminiscent of RPG qualities. These and a wealth of upgrades for Clank, which adds new dynamics to the platforming aspect of the game, and you've got some top notch gameplay here.

Audio wise, the game is fairly normal. Nothing stands above and beyond anything else in the actual score, with the exception of the sound effects. The sound effects, primarily from the guns and weapons, really stand out, and really offer a wide array of aural pleasures. You'll have to hear it to experience it, but fear not, you won't be disappointed.

The game controls very well and is fairly intuitive. Even though this game is a blast to play, the gameplay isn't what will keep you coming back for more. It's the sheer number of unlockables. The game offers a melting pot of cheats, secrets and unlockables. Throughout the game, you'll discover Gold Bolts, which in turn, allow you to purchase Gold weapons, which are upgrades of some of your already strong weapons and increases their damaging qualities one hundred fold. On your first play through, you'll only be able to purchase 6 Gold Weapons, but upon starting a new game, you'll be able to carry over all your weapons and bolts (currency) from the previous play through, and then be able to purchase up to 10 Gold Weapons. Not only this, but the use of Cheats will be unlocked, and the the Skill Point list, which will further unlock more hidden features. Upon completion of the skill points you will open up interviews, behind the scenes videos, as well as some quirky closure to some of the open ended points of the game through the epilogue. Its these features and many others, that will keep you coming back to this game. Even though the gameplay is insanely addictive, the number of unlockables adds that extra incentive.

Like it or not, Ratchet and Clank is here to stay, and it will be remembered, and it will be put in the ranks of the Jak and Daxters and Super Marios of platforming history. Some of the best production values ever, and an ass load of fun and innovation, this game is the re-definition of platforming.


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