RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on Oct 19th 2008 at 04:29:00 PM by (Sirgin)
Posted under Review, Modern Gaming, PS2, Sony, Insomniac, Platform, Ratchet, Clank

Just like fellow Playstation platform developer Naughty Dog did with Crash Bandicoot, Insomniac Games decided to sell their PSone franchise Spyro and start with a fresh game on the PS2. Furthermore, Ratchet & Clank (2002), too, features a main character and a side companion that stay together during most of the games. Coincidence? Not really, because both studios used to be located in the same building on a Universal Studios backlot and continue to have a close relationship.

In Ratchet & Clank, you play as Ratchet, a creature that doesn't really fall under a specific animal-category, but can be best described as a sort of cross between a lynx and a human. Ratchet lives on the planet Veldin, where he spends most of his time working on his spaceship, dreaming of leaving Veldin in search of galactic adventures. One day, a little robot named Clank crashes near Ratchet's home. Clank comes form a robot factory on the planet Quartu, where he discovered an infobot that revealed that Chairman Drek, leader of the Blarg race has decided to start building a new planet for his race, made up from pieces of other planets. When Ratchet finds Clank, Clank shows him the infobot and says he fears that Drek is going to destroy the universe. After some compromises, the odd duo sets of to rescue the galaxy from Drek's madness.

The rest of the story is brought to the player in a similar fashion: after reaching a certain point in each level, a new infobot plays another cutscene and gives the coordinates for a next planet. The game makes handful use of this concept to make each planet/level completely different in terms of environment, backgrounds and "feel", thus making the game varied from start to finish. Along the way you'll find yourself on space stations, polluted planets, tropical planets, urban-themed planets and more. As you can expect, the story is very light-hearted and the well written cutscenes are often hilarious, making the game enjoyable for both young and old.

When arriving at a new planet there's usually several directions you can go in, each leading to a different objective. Pressing start will reveal a map of the planet you're on, along with the objectives you've found so far. You can also watch the corresponding infobot again in case you missed out on anything.
To keep frustrations on a low, backtracking is kept to a minimum with the ability to teleport back to your ship after reaching the end of a certain path. There's also plenty of invisible checkpoints on each planet so gamers won't have to replay most of a level because they died right before the end.

Compared to other platform games, Ratchet & Clank's focus mainly lies on the many different weapons and gadgets in the game than on jumping about from platform to platform. At the start of the game, Ratchet is equiped with his Omniwrench 3000, your main melee weapon that you can smash or throw at enemies or boxes. Still on Veldin, Ratchet receives the free Bomb Glove, a glove that, you've guessed it, throws out bombs at unsuspecting enemies. The more progress you make, the bigger your weapons assortment will become. Some weapons have to be bought at the Gadgetron vendor, which can be found at each planet, others are prizes for completing objectives. Besides the first two, you'll be able to have fun with the Blaster, Pyrociter, Devastator or the more exotic Glove of Doom, Suck Cannon and Morph-o-Ray.
All weapons are fun to use, although you'll find yourself using two/three of them most of the time. To change weapons, you can display a quick-select menu on screen by pressing the triangle button. Sadly enough, the game doesn't pause when you're changing weapons, something that was only added in Ratchet & Clank 2 (= Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando in North America) Not all weapons can fit in the quick-select menu at once, but you can select which ones you want it to contain in the main menu. The Gadgetron vendors also serve as ammunition shops for the weapons you've aquired.

Despite being more combat-orientated than most games in the genre, there's still a fair bit of platforming and puzzle-solving to be done. For these puzzles you'll need to use certain Gadgets, similar in use to the weapons. Gadgets are devided into 4 subcategories: hand items include things like a Trespasser (to open sealed doors in a mini game), Hydrodisplacer (a device that can store highly compressed water) and Swingshot (a hook shot that latches on special floating balls, which you can swing from).
Then there's backpacks: modifications for Clank that let you glide through the air or swim faster under water. Third are head items for Ratchet like an O2-mask or Pilot Helmet. Lastly there's foot items which include the awesome Grindboots. With these boots you can grind on rails which is something you'll have to do on several ocassions.

The gameplay itself is a lot of fun. After defeating an enemy with your weapon of choice, he'll burst out into Bolts, the game's main currency. You can also collect Bolts by smashing crates that are placed on all levels. For those who can't get enough of the game there's also a select number of Golden Bolts to be found on each planet, usually in hidden areas. These are then tradable for rare goodies.
To keep the game exciting at all times, there's also mini games in which you'll have to fly in your spaceship in a 3D-style shooter or stages that you play with Clank. Those are particulary fun because you'll get to control tiny robots than will follow Clank's instructions such as "Follow", "Wait" or "Attack".
The controls are good and even the camera adjustment has been done right (a rare thing in 3D Platform games) with a camera that stays where the player wants it. I do have to admit that I missed the possibility to strafe as seen in the game's sequels but then again, this never bothered me when I first played the game in 2002.

At the time of its release, Ratchet & Clank gained much praise for its fantastic graphics. Although not as good as later games for the PS2, Ratchet & Clank's graphics are still very much enjoyable. The levels are big, there's no load times (except when moving from one planet to another) and textures are detailed and colorful. There's very little glitches and the frame rate is constant at all times. Animations are very well done, especially in cutscenes. Speaking of the cutscenes, despite them being funny, some of the jokes between Ratchet and Clank are a bit lame compared to those in Jak and Daxter.
The game's sound is on par with its graphics with a funky up-tempo beat on each planet, good voice acting and solid sound effects. Nothing felt out of place to me, usually a good sign that the audio is good.

With its light-hearted story and humor, wide range of weapons and gadgets and beautiful graphics and sound, I think Ratchet & Clank is what you could call a "perfect" game that'll interest a broad range of gamers, not just platform fans. Recommended to all. 9.0/10


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
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