Gamer Savings Time has covered alot of games, but I’ve never reviewed a Ratchet game. As a staple of the PS2 the Ratchet series, developed by Insomniac, sold well and established weapons as a major element in modern 3D platforming games. Lets look at 2 games on current platforms and see how they stack up.
Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction
As Ratchet’s PS3 debut and most technically ambitious title to date, Tools of Destruction does a few things that have not been attempted in previous installments of the franchise. Luckily these differences don’t change what it is to be a Ratchet game. Most of what is new is piled on top of the already perfected formula.
Where the previous games focused on tight combat and carefully crafted weapon design, TOD adds a new focus on set pieces. With the added PS3 processing power, Ratchet (the character) has never looked. His rudimentary character design easily interacts with enormous and plentiful highly polygonal enemies and never once sacrifices the solid 60 FPS. At times, It almost seems as if Insomniac is trying to distract you with the amazing visuals happening behind you. Vibrant colors and lush environments help prove that Ratchet and his sidekick can take advantage of this current generation.
Another thing that is new to the series is continuity. The previous 4 games were held together with character inclusion alone. The stories were all solid but they had no common enemy, no common story threads and other than weapons and gameplay, nothing carried over to the sequels. Tools of Destruction very quickly establishes that story is paramount in this generation.
Ratchet is a Lombax and always has been, however while it’s been established that there are no other Lombaxes in the galaxy, the story as to why, has not been revealed. Tools of Destruction tackles this loose end head on. This leads to the most emotional RAC game to date. Yes, the trademark tongue and cheek humor is still there, but there is more of a serious undertone than in any other previous installment. I don’t want to give away any plot points, but let’s just say there’s a big cliff hanger that I’m sure will be resolved in Quest for Booty and A Crack in Time.
As for the gameplay in TOD, if you have played previous games, then you will get the gist. Its a platformer with a heavy focus on over the top weapons and frantic twitch based gameplay. Much of the combat is dodge based, with alot of the weapons auto aiming. Even with auto aim, it can get rather tough at parts. Each weapon upgrades 4 times in addition to the incremental improvements that can be purchased. Devices have been added to the roster this time around, but they don’t seem to be too integral to the combat.
Some of these devices like the Groovetron (a disco ball that causes large groups of enemies to dance) and the Leech Bomb (a bomb that sucks life out of the enemy and gives it to Ratchet) are useful, but since they have to be selected like a weapon, they really slow down the action of the sequences. A dedicated device button would have been handy. That way the the game changing devices can be dropped on the fly. Also, with the addition of devices the weapon select menus are getting really crowded. This needs some tweaking before the sequel.
Finally, with this title being released in 2007 at the height of the rhythm game craze, TOD couldn’t omit some sort of rhythm aspect. While not as egregious as the one found in Secret Agent Clank (I’ll get to that in a moment) the pirate dancing sequences should have been axed before going gold…I’m just saying.
For a a Ratchet game, its solid and beautiful. For a PS3 game, its light yet satisfying. Unless you have a some sort of ill will towards 3D platforming, and since this game can be purchased for $17.00 on Amazon, if you own a PS3, you really don’t have a reason not to buy Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction.
Secret Agent Clank
As for the PSP, Ratchet has already had one successful title in Ratchet and Clank Size Matters. It successfully shrank the RAC experience onto a handheld. However, like the criticism of many PSP games, it didn’t bring anything portable to the formula. It was so much like the PS2 titles, it was subsequently ported to the PS2. Secret Agent Clank, while technically a spin-off, takes almost all of its game play techniques from other Ratchet games.
Clank has taken on a secret agent persona before, but it has never played as major of a role as it does here. The biggest addition to the formula is stealth gameplay. I use that term very lightly in that most the game is action based and the stealth is dumbed down to a series of quick time events. Many sequences in the game would have been much easier had Clank been able to just fight through the enemies rather than sneak around them.
Ratchet fans need not worry, he is still a big part of the game, as he has been imprisoned and must fight a series of inmates in a formulaic wave after wave (Battle Arena) fashion. The Ratchet sequences are the hardest parts of the game, but the difficulty feels very artificial. Its nice to see Ratchet, but the execution of his sequences would have been better if they were either omitted (or given to Clank) or more fleshed out as playable levels. The Battle Arena aspect of the Ratchet series was played out in Deadlocked and isn’t welcome in the Clank-centric spin-off.
The overwhelming high points are the Captain Qwark levels. Qwark is being followed by a writer and attempting to describing his past heroic adventures as to be included in a documentary. As he describes the stories, you play through them. In true Qwark fashion, he embellishes a little a lot and the levels end up being bizarre off the cuff hilarious feats of impossible and absurd heroism. Qwark is the narrorator of his own past and each of these levels had me laughing out loud. It is about time for a Captain Qwark spin off game.
The absolute worse part of Secret Agent Clank are its rhythm sections. Clank is given tasks where rhythm is completely arbitrary, yet the developers chose to solve these story problems with terribly timed and executed rhythm game mechanics. These timed guitar hero like button combos are applied in a tacky almost cringe worthy fashion. This is a blatant cheap cash in of the “hot trend” in games of the time and will stand a blemish on the Ratchet franchise for years. Luckily it only comes up 3-4 unbearable times.
Overall Secret Agent Clank is pretty good and surprising hard. I had to play numerous parts upwards of 6-8 times. It’s hard to recommend this title to anyone that doesn’t already have an affinity for the RAC games, so I say casual fans need to stay away. Oh, and Secret Agent Clank has also been ported to the PS2 as well.
Verdict: Next Game – Super Hero Quark