Monday, 25 August 2008

Secret Agent Clank - PSP

The Ratchet and Clank series has proved to be extremely popular across all Sony’s platforms. The pair's blend of colourful, platform-driven fun, coupled with insane weapons and a healthy dose of humour have lifted the Lombax and his metal chum above the humdrum array of 3D platform games that flood the market.

Now, for the first time, Ratchet’s loyal sidekick Clank gets a game of his own, but does it do enough to differentiate itself from the classic R&C gameplay?

Well, for a start, forget about the crazy weapon sets which have come to define previous games in the series. Yes, shooting does play a part in proceedings, but most of the emphasis this time around is based around stealth.

Ratchet has been accused and imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, so it’s up to Clank - resplendent in his James Bond-style tuxedo - to solve the mystery and get his long-eared friend off the hook.

Along the way, Clank gets access to gadgets to help him through the quest, such as the tie-a-rang – great for taking out a succession of flying robots – and a blackout pen – which is used to blot out security lasers. While there's nothing wrong with the gadgets at Clank’s disposal, nothing here comes close to the the previous games’ weapons, such as the magnificent Groovitron or the awesome Jell-O gun.

For a game based on stealth, it's vital that proper camera controls are in place. Unfortunately the camera controls are frustrating and require constant manipulation. It’s such a shame as there's an entertaining game waiting to break out.

High Impact Games have tried to mix up gameplay styles along with the sneaking about. Clank will also have to undertake rhythm action sections, which are good fun, if a little fiddly. Guard robots can also be taken down by creeping up behind them. This initiates QTE sequences which must be entered quickly to succeed.

Ratchet fans will also be pleased to know that you're also able to play as the Lombax in levels reminiscent of the arena sections from Tools of Destruction. Captain Quark also makes an appearance and like Ratchet’s shooting sections, Quark’s inclusion is there to inject a different pace to the game.

The downside to these missions is they feel shoe-horned in. Playing as Clank is good fun, but just as you’re getting into the swing of things, you're dragged out of the experience to play a Ratchet or Quark mini-section which spoils the flow of the game. I would have preferred these sections to be added as unlockable extras upon completion of the main quest.

Secret Agent Clank’s graphics are certainly above average, although they’re not quite as polished as titles such as Monster Hunter 2 of even Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters on PSP. Voice acting is thankfully spot on, while the sound effects and music all carry the charm associated with the series.

Clank's first outing on the PSP is entertaining, but it ultimately suffers from trying to do too much.

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