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November 27, 2002
Ratchet & Clank - Review
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One of the varied enemies.
Developers Insomniac are most well known for their Spyro the Dragon series of games on PSOne. Those games were not only fun, but also very colourful, lively and exciting. It was likely that the companies first game on Playstation 2 would be a fourth in the Spyro series, however the development team at Insomniac felt they had gone as far as they could with the series, and wanted a change in direction. So the latest Spyro game has been handed back to publishers Universal while Insomniac started work on this game, Ratchet & Clank, a platform game loaded with great characters, and big weapons. Don't be fooled Ratchet & Clank also has a pretty good storyline.

Ratchet (the big yellow guy) lives on a backwater world in an abandoned arm of a forgotten solar system. He is a young, self-taught mechanic who has a special knack for building and repairing things, and dreams of someday leaving his planet and striking out on a magnificent space adventure. Off in a distant quadrant closer to the centre of the galaxy, Chairman Drek rules a polluted planet, Orxon, inhabited by an ugly race called the Blarg. He too has dreams, but his lie along the lines of conquest and domination. The Blarg are tired of their polluted world and as their leader, Chairman Drek has come up with the ultimate solution - to build a new planet using the best parts from many of the other worlds in the galaxy. He just has to convince the inhabitants of those planets to part with a few thousand hectares of their worlds - and if they can't be convinced, the army of robots and Blarg warriors, Chairman Drek has developed can eliminate any resistance.

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The flamethrower is cool.
In one of the orbiting robot factories busy creating Chairman Drek's evil robot armies, a computer glitch creates a diminutive but brainy robot - Clank. Clank learns about Chairman Drek's plans and since he has a conscience, he flees the factory, seeking help. Unfortunately for Clank, the bad guys, equipped with heavily armed ships, shoot Clank's ship down over Ratchet's homeworld. From this moment on, Ratchet and Clank are forced together by circumstance, and the game follows them as they blast off from planet to planet through an extraordinary sci-fi universe. They'll encounter imaginative characters, and as they acquire a plethora of weapons and gadgets, they'll blow up everything that stands in their way as they uncover more and more of Chairman Drek's plans.

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It's possible to slide down rails.
As you can probably see there are many similarities to Naughty Dog's Jak & Daxter which was released last Christmas. It's not a surprise seeing as the two companies share technology and people at times. But this is a very different game with the gameplay still focused on platforming, but the heroes now come equipped with plenty of weapons. In fact, Ratchet & Clank is packed with over 35 different weapons which are discovered as you progress through the game, or can be purchased with the "bolts" which are collected after defeating enemies, searching the levels, or solving puzzles. These weapons include flamethrowers, grenades, machine guns and the ever important swing shot which acts like a grappling hoot to swing across large gaps. More exotic weapons include a Glove of Doom, which sends out suicidal robots to attack enemies, the taunter, which taunts enemies, and the terrific Suck Cannon, which sucks in enemies and then spits them out as bullets. Each level usually contains a shop where new weapons, and the ammunition for them, can be purchased prior to beginning the levels.

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Overlooking the city.
Actually controlling Ratchet is an interesting experience. Naturally he can do all the standard moves such as walk, run, jump, double-jump, climb and hang as well as attacking enemies with either his weapon, or more often then not, his large wrench. But Ratchet also builds up momentum when he's running so if you try to stop it may take a couple of paces rather then an instant halt when the finger is off the button.

Clank on the other hand doesn't really have much to do in the early levels, other then sitting on Ratchet's back looking pretty. But soon enough he has his own levels to explore and while he isn't as powerful as Ratchet he has some unique features to make it interesting. One of these features is that Clank can command other robots which he rescues throughout selected levels to attack enemies or unlock doors. Clank can also go through some improvements including a heli-pack after the first couple of levels and much further into the game, a jet-pack.

Ratchet & Clank also includes a number of vehicles to help you in your mission, including Hoverboards which can be raced, planes which can be flown to shoot down enemies and Magnaboots which allows Ratchet to walk on the side of some buildings to reach previously unreachable areas. Whatever level you are in and weather you are on foot or in a vehicle the game always remains fluid and easy to control.

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Using the flamethrower.
There really are few problems with this game - it's possibly the best platform game on the Playstation 2 beside Jak & Daxter. The only reason Naughty Dog's title gets the slight edge is a slightly better sense of humour - although that may be a personal preference - and that the weapons system, while fun, can be overly complicated. When in the midst of battle even going to the quick select menu rather then automatically having the next best weapon loaded can cause a delay of seconds resulting in your untimely demise. The game also lacks seems to lack much originality. There is nothing new to get you excited while playing with even the jetpack, rail sliding and enemy killing all very familiar. Also very slightly annoying is that there is a small load time when changing planets. This is covered by a short movie of the ship flying through space - no more then 10 seconds or so - but it just breaks up the action a little too much and considering Jak & Daxter had no load times is a little disappointing.

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Surrounded by enemies.
Graphics are one of the standouts in this title. This game isn't about realism, but rather a lively vibrant cartoony world. Go to any level and not only do the enemies move, but the backgrounds are loaded with other characters, automobiles and some wonderful buildings. The character design is splendid. Ratchet and Clank look like the perfect odd couple while their animation is second to none. The enemies are also just as detailed and while their attack patterns are predictable often have a couple of neat moves to keep you concerned upon the first encounter. The cut scenes are also tremendous. Generated with the game engine they blend seamlessly with the action. To top it all off this game runs without a hint of slowdown, even with a dozen enemies on screen.

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Clank sitting back happily.
Fortunately the sound manages to maintain the high quality set by the rest of this title. The music is varied and keeps up with the pace of the game while the sound effects are cartoony and yet meaty enough to have impact. It's the speech however that deserves the biggest mention. Although it seems very corny, and perhaps off-putting at first, you soon realise that's a deliberate style in the game, and it works well. Ratchet and Clank are always having a go at each other and it's great fun to listen to while other small part characters such as the female instructor on the training level and Big Al are hilarious.

Ratchet & Clank is a terrific platform title. While the graphics are similar to Jak & Daxter the gameplay is is quite different with a wide range of weapons to use. Both games deserve to be in your collection. The sad fact, however, is that this game will likely get lost among the other "big name" games this Christmas such as Activision's Tony Hawks Pro Skater 4, Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto Vice City and Sony's own The Getaway. The simple fact is that this game is equal to each of those games, and is also a lot funnier and child-friendly. Your best bet is to buy them all.

GRAPHICSWonderful cartoony characters, but the camera still needs more work.
SOUNDThe speech is a little corny, great music and effects throughout.
GAMEPLAYThe weapons system is awkward, but the game is terrific fun overall.
VALUEAbout 15 hours completion time, which is a little short, but replayable.
OVERALLI don't think that Ratchet & Clank is quite as fun as last years stunning Jak & Daxter, but it is very close. If your looking for a quite funny platform title this Christmas then this is certainly your best bet.

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