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October 22 2008
Secret Agent Clank - PSP Review
Release Date Distributor Publisher Developer
18/7/2008SonySonyHigh Impact Games
Save Size Difficulty Players Rating

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Taking on the enemies, up close!
The Ratchet & Clank series seem to have become a staple platformer on Sony's consoles since they first appeared on the scene in 2002 with the first Ratchet & Clank title for the Playstation 2. In fact in the 6 years since then, Insomniac seem to have taken a page out of the EA book of tricks, and have released more than a game-a-year with 8 separate Ratchet & Clank titles. While Secret Agent Clank is only the second game of the series to make an appearance on the PSP (following on from Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters), you'd be forgiven for being weary that this is 'just another' platformer starring a lombax and a sentient robot. And is it? Well… kinda. Let me explain…

In a new twist for the series, Clank is not just Ratchet's sidekick anymore, and actually plays the main role in Secret Agent Clank. The game begins with an (admittedly very pretty) cut-scene showing Ratchet being caught red-handed stealing the Eye of Infinity, a giant sparkly diamond. Clank witnesses this going down, but he knows his furry partner better than this, so he sets out to prove that the feline wasn't responsible for the crime and to find the actual evildoers.

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Clank takes to the icy slopes.
Aside from the fact that your controlling character in the middle of the screen is a robot and not the Lombax which we're used to, Secret Agent Clank initially appears to be the same as previous titles; the look and feel of the game is very similar to what we're used to, down to the destructible objects and collectibles throughout. Where it starts to veer of from the norm though is the stealth and sneaking aspect of the game. Like the title suggests, Clank plays the role of a secret agent throughout, whereby sneaking past enemies rather than confrontational fire-fights is beneficial as well as being encouraged and even required in certain stages. Sneaking up behind certain enemies will give you the chance to mirror a 4-button on-screen combo (similar to any music-rhythm game) to perform a stealth takedown – eliminating an enemy without causing a ruckus (which would then cause yet more to come after you).

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Visuals in Secret Agent Clank look great.
Over the course of 17 levels, with a few extra side-levels thrown in for good measure, there's an almost RPG element of building weapon experience with weapon upgrades. Clank begins with nothing (relying on stealth alone, or his fists if you're discovered) and throughout the game gains a plethora of spy-related weaponry (cufflink bombs anyone?). In a further attempt to make Secret Agent Clank stand out from the platformer crowd, rhythm based minigames also feature right through; be it dancing the tango, dodging lasers Entrapment-style, or playing a game of poker, they too continue with the game's secret agent theme.

While the secret agent theme of Secret Agent Clank is a welcome addition to the typically predictable Ratchet and Clank series, it unfortunately burns out too soon in the game, and returns to being a standard button-mashing platformer. There are several stages in the game too where you get to play as Ratchet (who is locked up in prison, fighting waves of baddies), Captain Qwark (reliving his imaginary adventures) and others – unfortunately the gameplay and 'fun' factor of these cameo roles aren't quite up to par, and end up dragging the polish of the main 'Clank' side to the game. I guess it's quite possibly a case of quantity rather than quality – while Secret Agent Clank attempts to cover a broad range of gameplay types, with a large range of characters, minigame types and sub-storylines, none of them are really adequately 'deep' enough.

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The game will include plenty of battles.
The visuals of Secret Agent Clank are a bit of a mixed bag, as can be seen in the screenshots; the cutscenes throughout are game are great – well produced, very pretty and fit in to the storyline of the game perfectly. Level designs and landscapes aren't so pleasing to the eye though, and can be very bland and sparse. The in-game camera managed via the L+R shoulder buttons, which is perhaps a little touchy, especially given that you'll find yourself manually managing the camera more often than not – the camera AI is by no means the best that we've seen.

Adding to the depth of the cutscenes and story is the backing audio track and dialog; both cutscenes and in-game dialog is fully voice-overed as we've come to expect from the Ratchet & Clank series. Sound effects are the standard bunch of box-breaking, bolt-collecting noises with nothing overly special here, though the background music suitably keeps with the secret agent themes. Afew extra tracks wouldn't have gone astray through – you'll find yourself hearing the same background tunes repeated a little too often, particularly later in the game.

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Watch out for the light.
It had been a little while since I played my last Ratchet and Clank title, so I was looking forward to putting in some quality time with Secret Agent Clank on my trips to and from work on the train, getting reaccustomed with the Lombax and his metallic friend. Sadly though, High Impact games have dropped the ball here and let the series down, with a game that is enjoyable in parts, but let down with the whole package.

With the jumbled mess of gameplay types (some definitely more enjoyable than others) and a camera that needs to be wrestled with after every corner, Secret Agent Clank soon becomes more of a chore to play rather than a fun experience. And it's really a big shame – some of the screenshots and cutscenes show how much potential this game had, yet I guess that'll live in the heads of Ratchet and Clank fans knowing what could have been. If you're after a more memorable portable Ratchet and Clank platforming fix, Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters is still the title to stick with.

Review By: Chris Gobbett

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GRAPHICSAbove average, but let down by some bland environments.
SOUNDNice voiceovers, but the music is like a looping record.
GAMEPLAYQuantity over quality; needs to pick a good thing and stick with it!
VALUEIt’ll last a good 10 hours as a platformer, but you won't come back.
OVERALLSecret Agent Clank is unfortunately a bit of a miss for the Ratchet and Clank series – trying to do too many things at once rather than sticking with something enjoyable and perfecting it. One for the fans perhaps, but there’s not a huge amount of urge to finish the game, let alone replay it for the unlockable extras.

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