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Ratchet and Clank PS2 Review

/ Jan 27th, 2003 No Comments

Oh wow – here’s another PS2 platform game that looks like a quick-fix winner. Ratchet and Clank, hmmm? Let’s pop it in. Wow, great graphics. Details everywhere. What’s this? Weapons to blast the bad guys. Gadgets to reach certain areas. And this control scheme! Hold a button, flick the analog stick for instant weapon selection! Wow. Somebody should acquire the designer who came up with that control scheme and sign them to a huge free agent contract. Whoops, wrong business.

Man, what great animation. The frame rate never falters. Every movement is silky smooth. I’m actually getting into a rhythm with the controls! When was the last time that happened?! The enemies are always amusing. Hordes of evil chomping robot dogs. Bouncing spiny fish. Hey, it says here in the credits that Ratchet & Clank background engine was designed with the code created by Naughty Dog. That explains why they look similar. But Insomniac outdid the Crash and Daxter team (at least for now). And the music. Pretty cool and not at all intrusive. Wait. Uh oh. Haven’t even noticed the camera system. That’s probably the highest compliment that can be paid to a 3D platform game camera system. For anyone who does notice, the camera is customizable.

Past the first few levels with only one life lost. Bah, infinite lives, just like Jak & Daxter. Great. Here we go again. At least I can finish it quickly. Really a shame that Insomniac Games would go to this obviously herculean effort to polish every aspect of the game to a flawless sheen only to have shmos like me finish and shelve it in 15 quick hours. Well, whatever, it sure will be a fun trip while it lasts.

Can’t say I like Ratchet all that much, with his typical “cool-dude” attitude. Nor sidekick Clank, with his equally typical compassionate brainiac routine. But what a great villain! Chairman Drek, with his slug-like face and super-sleazy widow’s peak with a pony-tail haircut just oozes evil. The cut-scenes look and move like a real CGI cartoon. Let’s see, Drek is trying to assemble a new planet from the best parts of other planets to replace the homeworld his people polluted. At least the story isn’t pounding an environmental message into my skull; it’s just a plot point. The voice overs positively rule for each character. Hey, this game is funny in an easy-going Spyro sort of way. Actually, funnier than Spyro – more off-the-wall and just a little bit edgy.

Moving through the levels now. Wow, space ship traffic whizzing by in the distance! I’ll just perch up on this tall platform and watch for a moment. Talk about commitment from a design team – so much detail! Well, back to business. I need to collect bolts to buy a new gadget. Time to whack some bad guys with Ratchet’s big magnetic wrench. Crunch! Clang! Ching-ching-ching. Hey, that guy just blasted me good. This may call for something a little more subtle than a bash on the head. Equip the blaster – badda-badda-boom. That solves that problem. I should seriously consider more sniping and less wildly charging. Nah, maybe later, I can always snipe when I feel like it.

Now I’ve unlocked more levels and found or purchased most of the 35 weapons and gadgets. Gotta love this inflatable decoy weapon. For a platform game, the missions have a lot of variety without resorting only to mini-games. The missions where you play as Clank and command a tiny troop of goofy mini-robots around are priceless. Holy macaroni! A semi-stealth mission! *waves to robot guard*. That’s funny. And these magnetic-boots! Running up a metal railing to hang upside down over the level has got to be one of the biggest thrills I’ve gotten out of a platform game in a long time. Everything is still kind of easy though. It’s difficult enough to challenge casual gamers and this new generation of video-gaming kids though, so that counts for something. It’s surprising that with everything else so good, the mini-games are pretty weak and really easy! Not too many of them though.

Being Mr. Reviewer, I better track down some of the game’s secrets. The levels are really expansive – rivaling Super Mario Sunshine. Enough to keep gamer lifer’s busy hunting. And a-hunting I shall go.

Several experimental hours and deaths later…

Hey, a gold bolt. Nifty, I guess I use this to buy special weapons. I wonder where. Must be another secret. Okay, whatever, doesn’t look like I’ll need it to keep advancing. Wow, this is getting pretty hard. The infinite lives keep it going though, as does the invisible but effective checkpoint system. As long as I use the right weapon for the job I’ll be fine. This definitely isn’t as short and easy as the other big PS2 platformers.

Finally, showdown versus Drek. If other platform games are any indication, this should be cake. Wait. Hold on. This is serious. Sheez! Cripes, out of ammo. Good of Insomniac to put an ammo vendor right near the final boss area. K. Take two. No!! This has to be the most serious final boss fight I’ve seen in a platform game in a good long time. K. Time to go track down some more power-ups. I probably don’t need to, but it’ll be better than luck.

Okay. Beat Drek. 20 hours, or thereabouts I’d say, straight through at least. Would be a lot more if I hunted down every gold bolt and bought every gold weapon. Great ending. What’s this? Restart with all my weapons? Don’t mind if I do. Hey, a Goodies section on the pause menu. Let’s see. Skill points for completing certain tasks on each world. Unlockables upon buying all the weapons. This is good stuff! Even without this stuff, Ratchet and Clank has beaten the PS2 platform game rap of ease and short length, although not by much. Should’ve known that Insomniac games could do it.

Now, the real question. Mario vs. Ratchet. Mario has more involving missions, a lot more secrets, and requires a lot more skill/stupid luck to beat. Ratchet has a brilliant control system, a “mini-economy” of collecting bolts, and looks and sounds better. Mario can be frustrating, while Ratchet doesn’t make use of all his moves and lacks in the mini-game department. What’s better? Overall, Ratchet and Clank. It’ll appeal to practically anyone. And, um, there’s no Mario on PS2 (but hey, if Insomniac and Naughty Dog can three-legged race, why not Nintendo and…oh…right.) With that said, hardcore platform gamers should note that they won’t have too much trouble finishing Ratchet and Clank.

Editor's Choice Award

Roy Rossi

Roy Rossi

Roy Rossi was a long time major contributor to Gaming Illustrated before disappearing of the face of the Earth. His service to GI will never be forgotten.
Roy Rossi

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