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Game Profile
PlayStation 2
Insomniac Games
GENRE: Platformer
November 11, 2003
Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One

Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time

Secret Agent Clank

Ratchet & Clank: Quest for Booty

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More in this Series
 Written by Chris Reiter  on October 06, 2003

Hands-On Preview: The things heroes will do for fun...

You have to wonder if every genre has its limit. How far does its concept branch out to? What has come of it already? And what has yet to be done? These kinds of questions have put a couple known genres on hold in recent years. Once the early 1990's hit, if you weren't playing something like fighting or platform themed games, then you probably weren't playing much of anything else. Since that time, companies have tried to revive the popularity in those particular genres, but more so with platform games. It's not that the genre is gone completely. They're just drying out of ideas. As for those hardcore platform makers still around, last year came the developers behind one of the few popular franchises left to the rescue, Insomniac Games. Having left Spyro the Dragon for Ratchet and Clank, Insomniac had put two and two together to make...two, with two new heroes for the Twenty-first Century, in Sony's Ratchet and Clank PlayStation 2 release. With immediate success, naturally, a sequel couldn't have been too far behind...

Life is too neutral day in and day out, especially when two heroes' planet is safe and sound as Ratchet and Clank's adventure has climbed down the end of its rope. There are no more villains to defeat and no more need for futuristic gadgets to equip. It's almost as if without trouble, life for heroes is a danger to itself. That is of course, until the CEO of the Bogon galaxy's largest company Megacorp, Abercrombie Fizzwidget, contacts Ratchet (the furry whatchamacallit mechanic) and Clank (the malfunctioned evil robot turned good) for an immediate assignment. The company's new Proto Pet prototype has gone missing. Now Ratchet and Clank are asked to find the perpetrator who stole the device and to get it back, on a journey these two unlikely heroes have been hungering for.

It was only last year that the futuristic platforming prequel to Ratchet and Clank 2: Going Commando arrived. And you're probably wondering how exactly has Insomniac Games managed to improve on its successor in the little time it has had so far. The major answer to that is by introducing an attribute that platform games aren't generally known for: an RPG element. Where lied in the first game, the gameplay was really about creating your basic platform adventure through jumping and gadgetry usage, Ratchet and Clank 2 is going for something a little different with more action in mind. By defeating more enemies, Ratchet's HP gauge will be able to grow in number. This aspect will also apply to Ratchet's weaponry, as the more Ratchet uses certain weapons, the more experience they will absorb. When a weapon indulges enough experience, it'll then be able to transform into something different, something better. Take for instance the new Mini-turret weapon. This baby plants down miniature sized turrets that stay in place and fire laser beams at everything evil, as to provide cover fire for Ratchet and his buddy Clank (who's still strapped onto Ratchet's back). If used enough, the turrets will eventually enhance into cannon blasters instead -- which with this new RPG system installed, essentially will drive players to want to defeat more enemies rather than avoid them at all costs.

Speaking of which, the enemies this time around are no longer seemingly the generic bafoons they were in the last adventure. Insomniac is looking to serve Commando's foes with a platter of brain. Tall denizens with blaster weapons and ones that can spit out an army of robotic dogs, arachnid-like things that can use fire against you, and hovering attack orbs are just some of the differential enemy types' Ratchet and Clank will face on their journey forth. In the demo's main playable level, there were times when there'd be only two gun carrying rejects around, but then out of nowhere transporting in would be an additional five or more laser gun toting enemies. So not only will appearances look deceiving in the game, but when the enemy divides into large numbers, the odds are strongly against Ratchet and Clank's means of survival. Heroes, however, come prepared. Or at least in Ratchet's case he will. Like in the first game, Ratchet can stop by item shops in different parts of the level to buy new weapons or ammo for new weapons, which in turn are once again bought with bolts collected from enemies or item boxes using the old weapons. The weapons on Ratchet's cache range from a grenade blaster, a laser rifle, a pairing of synthoid bots that hover above the heroes and blast anything standing in the way, and even a magnetic pulling device of sorts that can drag objects blocking doorways or even slingshot bombs from a fixed device. Eventually Ratchet will be able to have up to 17 weapons in his stockpile, including ones that can be transferred from an old Ratchet and Clank save file for those who still got it.

Besides the addition of Commando's RPG influence, Insomniac figured something else was missing from its former Ratchet release, something like a batch of minigames. As Ratchet and Clank 2 isn't going for that cutesy look anymore however, Insomniac decided to toughen even the smallest of things by changing the mini name into that of maximum power. Maxigames are what Insomniac's calling their "mini" tournaments, from which it looks like Ratchet and his metal buddy are going to have a lot to work with. The main maxigame challenge will lie in a gladiator arena of sorts, where by choosing from whether you want to eliminate 60 enemies in 60 seconds, test your mettle against dozens of foes in an endurance challenge, or feel you have the courage of fending off an enormous boss monster, you'll win bolts for your actions. Special items can be won too, provided you actually manage to pound on every ounce of enemy around you. Other maxigames take place outside the arena, and inside levels in which you'll be able to compete in hover bike racing challenges (like the rocky surface level I was able to rocket ahead in with collectible booster packs and turbo inclines laid out separately across the track) and a top a spherical moon base in a mission to destroy five light grids all spread out across its round surface.

Fortunately for fans, Ratchet and Clank 2's control scheme hasn't been altered -- which is good considering that it's a fairly simple game to get into from the start. This means that Ratchet's moves are also the same as before. He'll still be able to run around with the left analog stick, rotate the camera 360? with the right stick, strafe with L2 and R2, aim in first person with L1, crouch (in order to leap higher) with R1, jump around (and scale walls by leaping back and forth between two of them) with X, select weapons with triangle, fire weapons with circle, and swing Ratchet's trusty wrench around with square. Clank in turn, while only attached to Ratchet's back the whole time in the demo, provides his arms and legs as transformable propellers that spread out whenever Ratchet is airborne. Popup directions also appear frequently throughout the demo, so everything's looking intuitive enough to ease players into a control system they can feel comfortable with.

Ratchet and Clank took players into a world of futuristic interactivity to gaze at. Ratchet and Clank 2 is doing the same thing, only better. How much better? As the original Ratchet and Clank already appeared fine, Insomniac is intended on one upping its last iteration with some improved light sources and even nifty new gear for Ratchet to wear (he'll come across different armors in his travels). So far, the game's eye candy splendor is developing rather nicely. The main level itself takes place in a spacy quadrant of flat, inclined, and shifting surfaces. Surrounding the heroes is the darkness of outer space, where lighting sources derive from lamp posts and spotlights operating everywhere. When Ratchet fires his weapons too, bursts of flames, twirling energy rays, and so forth flow everywhere creating massive explosions. And when enemies fire back, green globs flare through midair anywhere. Affected by all of this are Ratchet and Clank's shadows, which adhere to the two like paper and glue.

Everything else moving is of course Ratchet, Clank, bad guys, and everything in between. Ratchet's motions while performing perfect backflips or jumping from a high point and landing slowly in a twirl with the help of Clank's fan power all looks neat in performance. Enemies also have their share of good points as they act and react to the duo's presence with certain villainy in their mind. Big guys with guns will blast fast as Ratchet charges in, and when springing into the air and falling with a whack of the wrench, they're quick to cower. Lastly, the models of Commando are definitely coming along crisp and clean. While not heavily textured, the enemies are distinctive in their robot ways (tiny, razor jawed heads and little bodies for the robot mutts and bulky, oversized laser weapons to lift for the robot guards for example). Ratchet on the other hand is shaped snazzier than ever while sporting his new militaristic attire. Helmet, transparent green goggles, tail sticking out and all, Ratchet's character in GI wear is something hot to look forward to in the final release...oh, and Clank looks alright too.

With all the gun blasting, wrench clenching, enemy obliterating action going on, the sounds are another big act to the play called Ratchet and Clank 2: Going Commando. What's good about listening to Ratchet and Clank's new brand of adventure is the tons of energetic and explosive weapon fires that are spot on every time. When Ratchet runs, you can hear his footsteps paddling down the surface; and when he jumps, Clank's whirling fans kick in; and when enemies spot the team, they blurt out an alert noise and begin kill mode. What's bad about listening to the game is not really a problem, but isn't the most impressive of aspects either. The music in this space-age platformer is a continuous flow of your ordinary kind of filler-in electronic rhythm. In short, the music works but doesn't embody enough mojo to win any awards. Unfortunately, it's also sad to see that the demo doesn't contain any moments where the furry wonder and his metal partner speak. Albeit, the gladiator announcer does talk, and though his game show-like impression is decent, again it's nothing to write home about.

Final Thoughts
Only a year in the making Insomniac Games knew they had to paste together another working platform creation in the world of Ratchet and Clank. I know a year isn't that much time, but by all means, it certainly looks to be enough limit for the hard-working crew over at Insomniac. At least with a new and much improved battle system, new outfits to wear, new enemies to defeat, and new maxigames to beat, you can wait and wonder all the new that's looking to give old a kick in the behind. Now sit tight and stay tuned for the announcer as he asks you irrelevant inquiries such as: Can Ratchet and Clank save the universe a second time? If they do, will they complain again until they get their way? Will Batman escape the Joker's Hall of Laffs trap? Find out next month on...Ratchet and Clank 2: Going Commando!

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