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Ratchet & Clank

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While there may be no Jak and Daxter 2 this year, Sony is doing their damndest to make sure that these 2 new oddballs more than fill the rather large gap. On first tentative looks, they seem to have succeeded; there’s a gorgeously refined Jak and Daxter graphics engine and a new pair of mismatched characters – Ratchet, a surfer dude cat, and robotic buddy Clank, brave, dependable, boring-, not to mention platforms galore. In fact this could be just the ticket you’re looking for over the Christmas period.

Coming across as some kind of bastard offspring of the aforementioned Naughty Dog release and Rare’s very own Banjo Kazooie, there is still plenty to like about Sony’s latest platformer. The plot in itself is very amusing and there are plenty of laugh out loud moments throughout the gag packed script. Environments are massive with wonderfully crisp visuals and even the sound is above average. So what is it that stops Ratchet and Clank being the new king of platformers for the Playstation 2?

Well for starters the massive, free-roaming world of J and K has been replaced with bog standard planets based around your everyday generic platformers. This in itself is no bad thing, as the actual levels are gorgeous to look at, with lovely sharp vibrant backgrounds and amazing detention to detail. No, the problem with Ratchet and Clank is that it just feels like any other platformer you’ve played over the years, and as a result rather stale.

One other niggle is the whole feature that the game is based around, namely the many weapons and gadgets you can find and purchase, to help you with your quest. Though there may be all manner of gizmos, ranging from the likes of flame-throwers to a variety of bombs at your disposal, they are linked to a rather cumbersome reward system.

Kill an enemy and it will leave a selection of bolts behind (that incidentally, can also be found lying around the huge levels). Each planet has a shop that enables you to trade your nuts and bolts in for weapon upgrades and ammo, and thus further equip your duo. All well and good in theory, however you soon find that certain quests can only be completed by having a certain amount of dosh as well. You soon come to a quandary, should you buy that latest cool looking weapon, or gain access to another level? The short answer is that whatever decision you make, it means a hell of a lot of backtracking so you can once again build up your funds, a annoying flaw and one that could have easily been ironed out.

Despite these problems(and luckily many of them are minor), there is still plenty to enjoy in Ratchet and Clank. You have a variety of sub-games that you are able to take part in (Hover Boarding being a particular favourite) and in certain sections you can also separate from your robot buddy Clank from his mate, and in turn head off for a bit of fun. These sections see you controlling other robots, and you must use them in a variety of ways to complete your latest task, great stuff!

The many weapons (while taking an age for collect), are all fun to use and add a different spin to the standard platform fare, the wide variety of nifty gadgets also need to be fully exploited, if you wish to get the most out of them. Like so many games before it, the acquisition of new items will see new parts of each planet being opened up to you, so there is always something new to see and do. The gadgets and weapons themselves are easily selectable and fit in well within the framework of the actual game. This does make for a rather bizarre marriage to begin with, however you soon get used to the repeated shooting and jumping.

While the initial game may take a while to get used to, the graphics will grab you straight away. Bright, gorgeously vibrant backgrounds are jam packed with massive amounts of detail, and no matter which of the many planets you visit, there is always something new to catch your eye. It may take well-worn ideas that you have seen countless times before, however thanks to the reworked Jak and Daxter game engine, they look startling fresh and original. The end result is one of the most impressive games currently running on Sony’s console (and not a stutter in frame-rate either).

Music is of a similar high quality, with a varied selection of jaunty tunes, all linked to the various planets. Highly enjoyable, they help to propel you through the poorer aspects of the game, and you’ll soon find yourself, humming helplessly along as your onscreen buddies get in to all manner of scrapes. The rest of the audio consists of your typical explosions and the like, however it is also boosted by a great voice cast heard that is heard throughout the game. The standard wisecracks are peppered with some wonderfully funny dialogue (well it had our forum’s Silas Greenback laughing) and you’ll find yourself desperately racing through the next part of the game, just so you can enjoy the latest cutscene.

Overall Ratchet and Clank is a decent title, it’s not in the same league as Jak and Daxter, but is it still head and shoulders above everything else currently available on the Playstation 2. Despite it’s flaws, it is well worth owning and will keep you going for some time over the Christmas period. While I’m not too sure if a Ratchet and Clank 2 would be a good move, it cannot be denied that the game has a certain amount of charm, (even if it doesn’t contain the kind of soul, Mario Sunshine has). So whether you buy or rent it, you’re bound to enjoy it, and that’s all we want from a game, isn’t it?