|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|
Basically, each of the Ratchet levels tosses you in an arena where you're tasked with warding off several waves of enemies, with subtle changes here and there from level to level. Thankfully, you're only required to complete a handful of these challenges, though you can opt to sign on for additional punishment (and bolts) if you've got the stomach for it.
The variety doesn't stop there, however, and you'll even find yourself in the shoes of old Captain Quark. Quark's the "hero" from past games in the series, and his missions are mostly boss battles. They're not terribly challenging levels, but they often serve to break up some of the game's other, less-than-stellar components.
In addition to playing as Quark and Ratchet, you'll also get to take control of Clank's little-robot helpers, and surprisingly, these are some of the more enjoyable moments in the entire game. These missions play out almost like a mini-RTS, having you control three of Clank's robot minions. The robots always move as a group, controlled with the left-analog stick, and you can select various commands with the triangle button. The action is clever, and there are some fun yet simple environmental puzzles weaved into these levels.
There's definitely no shortage of variety in Secret Agent Clank, but that's also one of its biggest shortcomings. There's too little in this package that hits the mark, and too many elements that fall flat. There are rhythm levels where you'll have to hit buttons in sync as markers scroll across screen, but it never feels like your button presses correspond to the rhythm of whatever music happens to be playing. There are other times when you're forced to engage in context-sensitive micro games (also involving quick button presses), and the timing is unforgiving, there's no feedback from the controller, and if you fail one of the micro games, you're forced to redo the entire level.
Supporting this hodge-podge of a game is a presentation that just doesn't represent the Ratchet & Clank name with pride. In an attempt to utilize the old "hidden load times" technique, the developers borrowed the idea of flashing Clank's spaceship onscreen. When each load takes literally a full minute or more to get through, you know something's up. The load screens are also very plain Jane to look at, and it's just another cheesy element that kind of makes this game reek.
The visuals aren't terrible, though the textures are low-poly and there's an overall lack of polish. The graphics here get the job done, but only in the most basic sense. Slowdown can be a real problem as well, even when the screen is somewhat vacant of enemies and action. The performance overall just lacks the quality we're used to seeing with this franchise. Additionally, when selecting gadgets/weapons, the selector is very bare-bones and clumsy to navigate.
The cutscenes, however, are commendable, and the humor and dialogue feels genuine. The music is typical fare for this series, though the stereo separation is unremarkable. The gentle, chiming sound of bolts from broken boxes, though, never gets old, and it's surprising just how much the sound effects add to the enjoyment of the game's action levels.
It's completely expected to see Clank venture out on his own. The Ratchet & Clank franchise has been good to both Sony and fans, but that's likely due to the folks who made it famous - Insomniac Games. There are some really fun nuggets to be found in Secret Agent Clank, but for every one thing the game does right, it does two or three other things terribly wrong. The game doesn't completely run off the rails - not by any means. However, there's a standard that has been set for this series, and unfortunately, this game falls well below par. Younger gamers might find it mildly amusing, but diehard Ratchet & Clank fans should cry foul.
CCC Freelance Writer