Secret Agent Clank Playstation 2 and PSP Developed by High Impact Games Released in 2008
I am sorry, but why? Clank segments were usually a part I never looked forward to and having an entire game based on him was not something I would call promising. However, I was more intrigued when I saw High Impact Games was behind this installment, and Ratchet & Clank has been a solid series for the most part, so maybe there was a chance for something worthwhile. Who knows, we all learn from our mistakes, right?
Clank could learn from 007 or Solid Snake
On a mission to keep a stone called the Eye of Infinity safe, Clank is caught by surprise when he sees his friend, Ratchet, in a hooded cape inside of the museum where the stone lies. Stepping on a red-laser, Ratchet gets caught by the police and is thrown in jail. With the stone gone as well, Clank sets out to find it and clear Ratchet’s name.
This is a forgettable story, with the stone being traded from one villain to another, and only showing the “big” twist in the end. I might sound shallow, but this is all there is to it, with poor puns and terrible attempts at humor. Some scenes even seem missing. One good example is in a rescue-mission where you are suddenly riding on a boat through the sewers, which I have no idea how or where it was. The characters are also forgettable and even our main heroes feel underwhelming. The only one that at least got a chuckle out of me was Quark. Even if he had no reason for being in this game, he is there to tell silly lies or even sing about them, which was a highlight for me. But honestly: you can skip every cutscene in general.
Story Score 2.5/10
Identity Crisis: The Game!
Unlike previous entries, we start off playing as Clank in some kind of semi-stealth genre. What I mean by this, is that the game at times forces you to be stealthy while at other times head-on combat is the only option for defense or there are simply just enemies sprinkled around the area. It feels uneven, especially since upgradable weapons are back, but can’t be used if you decide to be stealthy, and the stealth-gadgets can’t be upgraded at all. You get some sneak-bonuses after the mission is over depending on how stealthy you were, but they feel unrewarding due to limiting your options for using purchased equipment. Instead of giving you a clear choice in your approach and the possibility to be diverse, it comes of as a mess instead.
The stealth parts have some good ideas at least. With the holocam, for example, where you must take a picture of someone faced towards you. When you take the picture, you will become a holographic image of him/her, and can avoid suspicion from enemies except for the one you took the picture of. You will also have to avoid lights and hide in context-sensitive areas, but they feel streamlined and do not require any skills. Some other examples of poorly implemented stealth segments are the sneak-attack, where you must also do a quick-time event with 4 button-presses. Should it not be enough that I snuck up behind them? Also, the camera can be way close too you, due to some areas being cramped. This makes stealthing needlessly hard, and often a pain. More open areas or an overhead/isometric view could have helped.
The action-part is ok, thanks to the returning D-pad for strafing and analog for free-moving. The weapons are kinda cool, being inspired by Bond-items, such as a briefcase which is a flamethrower, and many have secondary-uses for context-sensitive moments. This is kinda neat, but there is a small selection unfortunately, and you won’t be able to play with them much, making upgrading weapons or experimenting hard. Platforming is doable, but also few and far between. Clank can double-jump and float, and while these abilities are used, the platforming is basic for the most part.
One part where I actually enjoyed playing as Clank a lot were the rhythm-stages. They are intense from the beginning, having X, Circle and Triangle, plus the D-pad needed to be pressed. Failing a rhythm-section will make you lose some health, which is a nice touch instead of outright failing the stage. Even one part is a boss-fight and it works well. This might also be the most challenging part of the game and they get incredibly difficult compared to the rest of the game. One big downfall however, is that the music is not in sync with the rhythm, making it feel unfinished. Clank will also skate and use a hover-vehicle in on-rail events, with the latter having missiles. You can ram into people with L and R to trick them into crashing, and use bombs or mines to attack enemies or destroy environmental objects, such as bridges. These are fun, having you dodge stuff, and attack enemies at high speed. You can even trick them to shoot at each other! However, the skate-parts lasts for too long, and the hover-parts feels a bit slow.
The familiar strategy-parts from previous entries with the bots also return. This time, you command 3 at the same time, with X to switch which unit to control manually, give commands with triangle, and circle to stand on each other. Again: these parts have some minor cool ideas, such as guiding an electrified bot over a pond of water, but they are not common. More often than not, you will have a straight-path with simple and dull objectives, and even more tedious combat. One area tries to give some meat to this play-style, with a big environment and more puzzles, but it unfortunately gets repetitive and goes on for too long.
Clank and his bots are not the only ones you will play as. Ratchet has his arena segments in his prison, where the goal is to shoot and kill everyone, similar to his previous entries. These are a great joy, with fun weapons to level up and insane amounts of enemies. But they too have problems, since these parts are short and won’t be revisited often, it makes upgrading weapons and acquiring mods for them, rare. Finally there is Quark. Why he was even in this game, I have no idea. He basically does the same as Ratchet, with different weapons for each fight that can’t be upgraded. He also has about the same amount of stages as Ratchet, so why was he even included? Some parts are fun, but they can easily get long and very repetitive, especially his third stage where you are shooting at the same enemies through 4 battles.
This is somewhat of a running problem: they don’t know when to end a segment, or how to make them more interesting or developed. Despite being 5 hours long, I could not help asking more often than not: “when does it end?”. It has some ideas that could be fun, but nothing is fully expanded upon. I think this has to do with the big variation in gameplay, which certainly was not needed. Adding to this mess is a checkpoint-system that saves the game this time, and are frequent. However, returning to a saved game, will put you in the beginning of the stage! This is unnecessary and especially for a handheld: unforgiving.
Gameplay Score: 4/10
I thought agents could show charm
Even the presentation is uneven, with environments that look uninteresting, and unbreakable boxes taking up space. Some areas are impressive, but I can only remember 3 out of 9 places that were pleasant to look at, such as the snow-mansion or a volcano factory. It is technically decent, but can look dull and lifeless. Even the museum is uninteresting. The CG is decent, but not engaging, due to basing itself on the in-game presentation. Characters are neat for the most part, with diverse looks. Even if 80% of the characters are robots, they got some fun costumes, making them at least different from each other. The music fits, but is unfortunately a generic spy-cliche, with el-guitar, violin, bongo-drums and trumpets filling up most of the soundtrack. The sound-effects are pretty good and the voice actors do a fairly decent job, but the PSP can definitely do better overall.
Presentation Score 5/10
The familiar challenge mode returns, with skins that are awesome and entertaining, titanium bolts to find, and skill-points to achieve and unlock cheats with. You can even get some costumes for Ratchet if you have a save-file from Size Matters. However, due to the game being such a mess, going back for another run is not something recommended. The plenty of side-missions do not help either.
Extra Score 5/10
It is a shame really, since there are clearly some good ideas here that either should have gotten more attention, or some that they should have scrapped. It is a bizarre mess: Quark had only his story going for him, Ratchets part don’t add anything to the story, but are enjoyable, and Clanks different gameplay parts are a mess of good ideas and bad executions. It can be seen as an interesting failure of quantity, but not something worth picking up.