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PlayStation 2 Fantasy







Ratchet & Clank  
Better than Batman and Robin, weirder than Jak & Daxter? A new dynamic duo lands on the Playstation 2.

HarryInsomniac Games makes its debut on the Playstation 2. This team of talented game designers, programmers, and artists created the successful Spyro The Dragon games for PsOne. Now that the purple Spyro has passed into the hands of Equinox Entertainment, Insomniac decided to focus their efforts on another project - another platform game that takes full advantage of the technological prowess of the Playstation 2. And they did such a fine work that if someone still has doubts about the potential of the Playstation 2, it's because he hasn't seen Ratchet & Clank in action on the system.

Yes, it's that good. A technological achievement from many points of view, the game is also a blast to play - taking a road completely different from the excellent Sly Cooper and The Thievius Raccoonus, Ratchet & Clank is an ideal continuation of Naughty Dog's Jak & Daxter.

The story
You guessed it from the title, Ratchet & Clank's storyline narrates the adventures of a dynamic duo - two heroes with different attitudes that perfectly complement each other's defects and strengths. Unlike Jak & Daxter though, where Jak was basically the smart but too serious guy and Daxter was a likeable idiot, both Ratchet and Clank will make you laugh. Ratchet is a furry alien, an anthropomorphic rat-cat-opossum, with a passion for mechanics and a teenaging attitude that may result annoying for some players, but that I surprisingly liked. Ratchet adds to the game that touch of Michael J. Fox and 80s I loved in Back To The Future. Clank is a tiny cute robot, but you shouldn't judge him by his size. He's small, but he wants to save the universe from the evil plans of his own creator, Chairman Drek.

Chairman Drek is the bad guy of the game. He wants to take the best parts of each planet to build a new home for his wicked species, the Blargs. Of course, this will cause the destruction of all the other planets in the galaxy. To accomplish his goal, he's building an army of powerful robots, and Clank is the result of a computer glitch in one of Drek's robot factories. For some reason, Clank looks more like a coffeepot than a deadly machine, and he hates his own creator to the point he decides to embark on a journey to save the universe with the help of the legendary Captain Qwark, the defender of the galaxy.

Clank's spaceship accidentally crashes on Ratchet's planet. Call it luck, destiny, or simply the usual plot, these two strange fellows will immediately become friends - and the only ones willing to save the galaxy.

Gameplay : 9.0

Not exactly innovative as it may seem at first, Ratchet & Clank is nevertheless a source of constant fun for the player, a toy able to deliver the kind of stuff you should expect from a next-generation platform game.

The game is divided into 18 big futuristic planets/levels, but Insomniac Games did everything to give the player a continuous gaming experience that, as a whole, feels similar to last year's Jak & Daxter. This is achieved in many ways. First of all, loading times occur only before each level, and they are reduced to few seconds - many players will not even notice them, because a brief sequence of Ratchet & Clank's spaceship travelling from one planet to the other is shown on the screen; once you've entered a new level, the game continuously streams the data off the disc eliminating any possible loading time.

But more important than this, the feeling of a continuous, unique game world - sorry, galaxy - is conveyed thanks to a solid game design that breaks many rules of the platform genre, and enters the realm of action and adventure games.

Ratchet & Clank is an objectives-based game; in each level you have a mission, divided in many objectives, plus many additional secondary objectives. While the progression of each level remains linear - you never get lost in Ratchet & Clank - the player usually has to complete many objectives on a planet "A", travel to a newly unlocked planet "B", and then find some sort of cool gadget that can unlock a new huge portion of the planet "A". This never gets tedious, because most of the times a "cab" at the beginning of the level will bring you to the place where you are supposed to make use of your new gadget. Even when you have unlocked 10-12 planets it's not difficult to remember which is the planet where you should use your new cool gadget, thanks to a simple menu that displays all the completed objectives on each level.

Did I say gadgets? Yes, you read it right. Ratchet & Clank is a weapon-gadget based platform game: during the adventure you'll get your hands on more than 35 different weapons, gadgets, and incredibly cool stuff that would make James Bond envious. A platform with weapons: obvious, right? Sure, but like Columbus with his famous egg, Insomniac Games did it before anybody else. By itself, the level design is pretty straightforward. The wonderful graphic engine can distract you, but the game would be your usual platforming experience without all the weapons and the gadgets available. Weapons are so important in Ratchet & Clank that they become the greatest source of fun, one of the main reasons to proceed in the adventure. Considering the whole game is about 20 hours long, and considering there are more than 35 weapons and gadgets, you come across a new, ultra-cool hyper technological device every 30 minutes - the first time I played the game, I had my eyes glued on the screen, my hands glued on the controller, for 3 straight hours just because I had to "find the next thing".

You can get new weapons in many ways: you can find them completing secondary objectives, but usually you must pay for them. Unlike other platform games, in Ratchet & Clank you have to collect money, more precisely "bolts", thousands and thousands of them. You can find bolts by smashing crates, killing enemies, finding hidden rooms and in each level you'll find a "Gadgetron" shop, where you can buy some cool weapon. Encounters with characters willing to sell you special weapons and gadgets are not rare, so remember to have some extra cash in your pockets.

Weapons and gadgets come in the most different shapes. The "Blaster" is your classic sci-fi pistol, the "Pyrocitor" is a juicy flamethrower, the "Devastator" is a terrific rocket launcher, the "Bomb Glove" throws bombs at your opponents, the "Doom Glove" unleashes deadly little robots that will attack your enemies, the cruel "Suck Cannon" can "suck" smaller creatures and then spit them out like deadly bullets - and these are just a few examples. Gadgets occasionally add a new dimension to the platforming experience, with exhilarating results. With the "Magneboots" you can walk upside down on special magnetic rails, the "Hoverboard" will let you compete in a great extreme trick-based competition, the "Grindboots" will make you feel the excitement of a roller coaster. Other gadgets will add new moves that you must use throughout the game: the classic "Helipack" is necessary to glide and perform longer and higher jumps, the amazing "Swingshot" is the equivalent of Spiderman's webbing, the "Hydropack" lets you swim faster, etc. etc.

The control system is well tuned, and in a couple of minutes you'll be good enough to perform all the basic moves. Occasionally, on-screen messages will give you hints to make good use of your recently acquired weapon or gadget. The left analog stick is used to move your character; X is the jump button: press it twice and you'll perform the classic double jump; Square is the main attack button, used to brandish Ratchet's deadly wrench, while Circle is the fire button to use your equipped weapon. R1 can be used to switch to a handy first person view; you can't move while in first person view, but you can aim and fire at enemies. Since Ratchet & Clank is so heavily based on the use of weapons, Insomniac had to create a menu to let players easily select one of the many weapons available. By holding the Triangle button, you can select one of the nine weapons you've decided to include in the Quick Select menu. If you want to select one of the remaining weapons in your inventory, you must go through the in-game menu and select it.

Not everything is perfect in Ratchet & Clank. The first limit of the game is the lack of a solid targeting system. With one of his long-range weapons equipped, Ratchet will usually auto target one of the closer enemies; anyhow, this automated targeting system is sometimes too slow to be truly effective, and it becomes completely useless when you try to hit groups of faster enemies. A good, classic lock-on target button would have been much more effective, and it would have given the player the chance to easily switch target.

I also found some small problem in the few portions of the game in which you control the robotic Clank. These sections add a touch of "Pikmin" or "Abe's Oddysee" to the game. In fact, Clank is unable to perform double jumps, use weapons and do all the other cool things that Ratchet can do, but he can command little robots that will attack enemies, unlock doors, follow you, and help you solving puzzles. These sections are undeniably brilliant, but when you have to simply control Clank in narrow bridges or in places where precision is needed, Clank's slow movements are painfully uncertain and inaccurate, far from being responsive as Ratchet's.

The camera usually works fine - especially when compared to the cursed camera in other 3D platform games (Super Mario Sunshine included) - but sometimes you have to continually adjust its position with the right analog stick or the L1 button. Anyhow, the camera can get really annoying only during some of the boss battles. In order to make things less confusing, the developers decided to force the camera to remain always focused on the boss, making impossible to switch to a view from behind of Ratchet: in this way, you have to jump from one platform to the other, trying to avoid the enemy's blows, but you are unable to see where you are exactly going.

I don't know if this should fall in the list of drawbacks, but it's a fact that Ratchet & Clank is definitely an easy game, like almost any other platform in the latest years. You can like it or not, but the time of truly challenging platform games is finished many years ago - completing games like the first Super Mario Bros and its clones was sometimes so difficult the players had to develop Jedi powers. Ratchet & Clank is a very forgiving game: you rarely die because of your enemies' blows, you never are completely out of ammo, the puzzles are simple, and even if you die you have infinite lives - if you die, you'll just restart from the nearest continue point.

Sincerely, all the issues I listed above had little influence on the overall impression I had playing the game. The truth is that Ratchet & Clank is one of the most enjoyable platform games I've played in a long time. It's a huge, intuitive, action-packed platforming experience like no others, with all the strengths, good ideas, and surprises necessary to become a classic.

Page 2: Graphics, Sound, Replay Value, and Overall Opinion


Scores
Gameplay
9.0
Graphics
10.0
Sound
9.0
Replay Value
9.0
Overall Score
9.0



Developer
Insomniac Games
Publisher
SCEA
Origin
U.S.
Genre
Adventure
Action
Platform
Players
1
Peripherals
Dual Shock 2
8MB Memory Card
Release Date
North America
November 4th, 2002
Japan
December 3rd, 2002
Europe
November 8th, 2002
Sections



Ratchet is the furry one, Clank is the one on his shoulders.

"Amazing" is the right word here.

You'll love the Pyrocitor!
More screenshots of Ratchet & Clank



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