Secret Agent ClankESRB:
Category: Action Games
Developer – High Impact Games
Publisher – Sony Computer Entertainment
Memory stick duo - 160 kb
The Ratchet and Clank series of games have been a solid franchise for Sony and all of its consoles. Most of the games have been released on the PS2. As Sony has evolved into the next-gen arena the series has seen a release on the PS3. Of course the PSP has also seen some Ratchet and Clank love too. The most recent release is a game that I have had the opportunity to review. Secret Agent Clank is developed by High Impact Games and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. Although this is the second game in the series to see a release on the PSP it takes a different spin this time around as Clank is the main star due to the fact Ratchet has been charged with a crime and it is up to his robotic sidekick to save the day.
Visually, Secret Agent Clank can be best compared to Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters, which was the duos last adventure on the PSP. Both games are handled by the same developer and it looks as though they may share the same graphic engine. On one hand I found Secret Agent Clank to be a really nice looking PSP game with some often-spectacular effects (particle effects especially). The characters, art, interface and designs are very much consistent with the rest of the series so those familiar with earlier games should feel at home. The weapons and gadgets for Clank are more secret-agent like including a briefcase flamethrower (one of my faves), bow tie-a-rangs, and holo-disguises.
The game runs at a very steady framerate throughout the adventure, even with all kinds of fancy effects going on at the same time. Stuff like exploding or swarming enemies are pulled off with little or no ill effects. The PSP’s little TFT screen is also a pleasure to look at. It is bright, sharp and really shows of the games use of colors. The cut-scenes are also impressive as they look as good as the console versions, but loading them can be a bit longer than I’m used to.
With the good does come some bad though. Secret Agent Clank stumbles a bit on the back half of the adventure. The game’s backgrounds tend to get a little muddy and somewhat bland. It is almost as if someone got a bit tired and gave a half-assed effort from the midpoint to the end of the game. Most gamers won’t notice it too much but I found that there is a definite difference from the beginning and the mid-point of the game visually speaking.
The game’s audio section is quite well done. Clank still sounds fantastic, especially when wooing the robo-ladies and such. The music, while not revolutionary, is punchy and pretty interesting throughout, almost matching the gameplay to a tee. I got a big kick out of such things as Clank’s big dance scene where Qwark absolutely butchered the song “Carmen”. It’s really something to be heard as it provides some great comedic shock value. The cast of voice actors is also excellent as they provide bright, concise and clear dialogue. It’s nice to see production values are still huge for the little handhelds. Of course I would recommend the gamer listen to all of this through headphones. While the PSP’s external speakers are entirely up to the task the audio separation and clarity you get from headphones is very much improved over the standard speakers. Explosions and bomb blasts feel like they wrap around your head making for a better gaming experience.
Most Ratchet & Clank games are about running and gunning your way through any situation or hoards of enemies. Secret Agent Clank on the other hand does a complete 180-degree about face making you use stealth skills to take down baddies with timed button presses. You can of course try the bull headed approach but you will find very quickly that it won’t work; constantly sending you back to try again. I’m not sure if this was a good idea as most veteran players of the series will have a tough time trying to re-adapt. That being said using stealth will not only get you through some rough spots but you are also rewarded for your efforts. Clank’s use of stealth has him tip-toeing his way past enemies using some very unorthodox methods. For example, in one area Clank actually tries to hide from an enemy by plucking off some leaves from a potted plant and make like a plant. It is the typical tongue and cheek style of the series that makes the game quite fun due to the humor involved.
One of the complaints I had while playing Secret Agent Clank was with the camera angles and control schemes. In terms of the latter the controls are fairly straightforward, but as with other titles for the PSP without a second analog stick there is always some type of control/camera issue to overcome in this style of game. The default scheme is difficult to deal with since the camera can sometimes swing out of place. Gamers can adjust all the button placements to how they like, and I recommend it. I found myself changing the control scheme right away to allow for strafing on the analog stick and the L and R shoulder buttons to manually control the camera rotation. It's worth the effort, as most of the issues are alleviated.
In terms of the camera itself, it could be quite problematic. At times the camera was zoomed in quite a lot and made it difficult to play the game. I noticed it most while I was fighting multiple enemies and when trying to jump back and forth on floating platforms. It is going to make you a little angry or frustrated at times as it seems to cripple your gameplay experience, but by changing your button set up the experience can be salvaged. I recommend that you start your game by first going into the options to tinker with the button placements.
The game various levels offer quite a bit of variety. They can range from you sneaking into areas to performing various styled timed challenges. It is nothing gamers haven’t seen before so it doesn’t take too long to figure out how to play each one. I really enjoyed the stealthy missions as they quite were suited to my style of gaming.
While Clank takes center stage in Secret Agent Clank he is not necessarily the only character you get to play. You also get to play as Ratchet, Captain Qwark and a Gadgetbot. Each of these characters levels is pretty good but the latter two gives us a breather from Clank’s adventure with a somewhat humorous twist to their levels. As noted earlier Captain Qwark has a hilarious rendition of “Carmen” that has to be seen to be appreciated.
On a bit of a downer the game will only take you about eight or nine hours to complete. This includes all of Clank's missions and every other character's mandatory and optional tasks. Not much meat on the bones here. As with other Ratchet & Clank games there are bolts to find in each level. These unlock a ton of different costumes, skins and specific achievements, which you will have to find for yourself. These are nice additions which add to the replay value of the game, but once you're done with this game I doubt you'll be back for more.
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