|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: High Impact 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: June 17, 2008||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 Matt Cabral
February 28, 2008 - Sony's PSP has proved a promising platform for sidekick-centric games; Jak, of the successful Sony first-party franchise Jak and Daxter, took the backseat to his better ottsel half with the aptly named portable hit, Daxter, back in early 2006. And this summer, Sony's other dazzling duo, Ratchet and Clank, will spin-off into the Clank-starring PSP action/platformer Secret Agent Clank.
Fans of last year's console-rivaling PSP effort Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters will be happy to hear High Impact Games is once again in the developer's seat, and they plan on pulling out all the stops for bolt-collecting gamers. This includes sticking to the silly style and addictive gameplay formula the franchise is famous for, as well as adding plenty of new promising play mechanics. It also means utilizing additional playable heroes beyond the mini-metal sidekick, like the wrench-waving Lombax himself, as well as oversized annoyance Captain Quark. Still, this is mostly Clank's show, and we were happy to give him our full attention at this year's GDC.
While Sony's swanky Gamer's Lounge was packed with players looking for a little quality ass-kicking time with God of War: Chains of Olympus, we were psyched to discover a vacant PSP demo unit that'd escaped the bald baddie's dominance in favor of spinning Secret Agent Clank in its UMD slot. We quickly grabbed a couple of comp Red Bulls and hunkered down for a hands-on session with this stealth-driven gem...yep, we said "stealth." Now, before fearing the series' staple action, puzzling,and platforming has been traded for some Sam Fisher-style sneaking, understand the new stealth mechanics are only a part of Clank's solo outing. They're also the game's most defining feature, separating it from previous titles in the popular platforming franchise. All the bot-blasting and bolt-collecting you've come to expect from the series is still intact, but the focus of this particular demo was Clank's new stealth skills.
After watching a well-polished cutscene that pegs Ratchet as the bad guy--something is definitely amiss, here--we set out as Clank to find some answers behind his friend's troubling situation. We soon found ourselves outside a well-guarded museum, where swarming searchlights and prowling robo-dogs patrolled the perimeter for intruders. Some stealth mechanics were immediately introduced as we were directed to maneuver Clank through the shadows and past the lights, lest we raise the alarms and alert the metallic pups. But wanting to see what Clank had up his jacket sleeves--he's decked-out in a slick Bond-like tuxedo--we ran directly into the searchlights to attract the guard dogs. Some Clank-versus-canine action unfurled as we took out our attackers with effective melee maneuvers; we unleashed the "Clank-Fu" via simple button-presses that cued some super-cool Jason Bourne-ish chop-sockying.
Our robo-dog-dispensing behind us, we made it into the museum, which held even more difficult stealth-focused challenges; large robo-rent-a-cops with flashlights and motion-sensing lasers stood between us and our path through the museum. Thankfully, the game introduced a variety of new moves and spy gadgets to assist us with the heavy security presence. In fact, the many options open to us made for some cool gameplay experimentation, and even had us replaying some sections so we could check out all the gaming goodies. The guards, for example, could be avoided with some fancy footwork, stealthily taken down via a button-matching mini-game, or we could fool them into thinking Clank was an exhibit by posing on a pedestal--very cool. Additionally, we could toss out the stealth mechanics altogether and take on the twice-our-size security bots with bow-tie-a-rangs--cool boomerang-like projectiles that reduced our adversaries to piles of collectible bolts. Taking on the Mission Impossible-like lasers offered a similar variety-filled experience; we could jump through and around them, or, even better, disable them with Clank's ink-squirting pen. This nifty gadget covers laser and camera lenses with a nice spurt of black goop. The creative combination of stealth, gadgets, and melee combat made for a fun, diverse, and addictive romp through this demo level.
This shadowy mission, with its darker lighting, probably wasn't the best showcase of the game's visuals, but even still we did glimpse some of that candy-colored pallette the series is known for. We also noticed plenty of details like destructible crates and boxes filling out the environment. The obvious point of this demo was to show off Clank's stealth side as well as some of his cool gadgets. And both of these areas, we're pleased to report, impressed with their tight controls, fun gameplay, and subtle (and often not so subtle) nods to serious--Splinter Cell--as well as silly--Get Smart--spy games and movies. The brilliant blend of classic Ratchet and Clank play, new stealth options, and the whole James Bond vibe really got us excited to dive into the completed experience when Secret Agent Clank infiltrates PSPs this summer.
CCC Freelance Writer