Review by CrimsonGear80

Reviewed: 07/01/08 | Updated: 07/08/08

So I guess that makes him Agent 0100111001010101...

About a year ago, Sony and High Impact games gave PSP owners some Lombax and robot sidekick love with Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters. While this pint-sized version offered up the same platforming and action as the Insomniac Games console versions, I felt that the bland levels, iffy controls, and not-as-cool weapons made the affair a definite step down from said versions. So here we are now and High Impact has graced us with another R&C spin-off for our handheld, this time giving everyone's favorite robot sidekick a (sort of) solo adventure. Can Clank and friends give us a better PSP outing?

STORY

Hey, did you know that while he's not riding on the back of his best friend Ratchet helping him save the universe, Clank moonlights as a James Bond-like secret agent…saving the universe? Well, he does! He's got his own tuxedo and everything. Well, Clank's latest mission has him finding out who just stole the Eye of Infinity, a very precious gemstone. Arriving at the museum where the gemstone is housed, Clank spots the burglar making off with the stone…only to find out that it's Ratchet, who is then caught by the fuzz and carted off to prison! Of course, Clank doesn't believe for a second that his friend would do such a thing, so he sets out to find the real culprit of the crime. Meanwhile, Ratchet, who of course has no memory of being a thief, must survive in a prison full of bad guys that he helped put away. If that's not enough, Captain Quark is also up to some of his usual shenanigans. As you have probably figured out, the story is pretty much a spoof of every spy movie you've every seen, but it is pretty funny thanks to the usual R&C personalities. Fans and newcomers will be entertained enough from beginning to end.

GAMEPLAY

If you've played Size Matters, then the controls for Secret Agent Clank should be very familiar, as they're exactly the same. Of course, this is a good and bad thing, because while they're responsive and easy enough to eventually master, you'll have to fight the user controlled camera quite a bit. Requiring frequent readjusting with the L and R triggers, be prepared to go to war while it constantly gives you bad angles and gets stuck. I was hoping and praying that High Impact would give SAC a Syphon Filter-like third-person control upgrade that Size Matters desperately needed, but alas many deities seem to hate me. The best advice I can give you is to make the analogue nub the strafe controls and keep your fingers on L and R at all times, and hopefully you'll get yourself into a groove.

It's only natural that in a game called Secret Agent Clank that features three playable characters, most of your time will be spent controlling…wait for it…Clank! Clank's stages follow the basic R&C formula: get through a fairly linear level taking out baddies along the way to trigger an event that gets you to the next level. Clank thankfully has access to awesome spy-themed weaponry to help him combat the baddies that easily bests Size Matters offerings. From bow-tie throwing blades to electricity-shooting umbrellas to briefcase flamethrowers, Clank makes it look good. One of cooler weapons is the Tanglevine Carnation, which is basically a man (and robot) eating plant that Clank can throw out into battle. Also, Clank knows Clank-Fu. Yep…Clank-Fu. Please save your Matrix jokes. Clank also gets to use the black-out pen, which will help him pass by frickin' laser beams much easier. Weapon acquiring and leveling up is done in the same way as every other R&C game: buying them with bolts and constantly using them.

Being a secret agent and all, a new R&C gameplay element is available for Clank to utilize: stealth. Clank's main way to be all stealth-like is to sneak up behind unsuspecting enemies, hit the square button and press the four buttons that appear on-screen in the same order in a certain amount of time. If successful, Clank takes down the enemy with…Clank-Fu, and without alerting anyone else. Clank can also pose as statues, hide behind bushes, and use his holo-monocle to disguise himself as enemies. Now your probably saying to yourself “Ratchet and Clank? Stealth gameplay? DOES NOT COMPUTE!”…and you would be right. Being stealthy turns out to be flat out boring, thanks mostly to lame AI that, while formidable in all out battle, are just plain dumb when being sneaked up upon. As long as your not directly in from of them, Clank would be able to throw a party right behind them and they wouldn't notice. There were a couple of times that I would actually bump into the back of an enemy while trying to take him down, and nothing. Bleh! Granted, most of the time you can choose to go stealthy, however there are times when it is mandatory. Even when it's not, there are also times (especially in the beginning of the game) where choosing not to go stealthy will get you murdered as enemies surround you and beat you senseless as you run out of bow-tie blades to kill them all with. Not exactly the fun R&C gameplay I know and love. Clank will also have to occasionally call upon the help of his three gadgebot buddies to solve some basic lever-pulling and platform moving puzzles, which prove to be fairly entertaining if not a little too simple. Clank will also participate in button-pressing rhythm events that can be quite a challenge to pass, Tetris-like lock-picking puzzles, adequate vehicle segments and an awesome Star-Fox like space battle as Giant Clank that was also a bright spot in Size Matters. Don't say that an R&C game never gave you any gameplay variety.

All this, and Clank's escapades still only represent one-third of the game. In SAC's arena battles, you'll take control of Ratchet as he fights to survive his prison stay. As you can probably guess, most of these battles have you killing off waves of bad guys and dodging obstacles in a circle-shaped battleground. Now most R&C fans wouldn't mind the repetitiveness of the arena battles thanks to the awesome R&C weaponry, however Ratchet will be using his boring and pretty lame Size Matters weapons, so in turn the arena battles became boring and repetitive for me. There are a couple of pretty humorous objective-based battles, like keeping Ratchet's towel on in the prison showers while fighting baddies, but I found myself slogging through the mandatory story battles and skipping the optional ones. Thankfully, the third part of the SAC threesome, Captain Quark, provides some very entertaining boss levels. During the events of SAC, Quark follows Clank around and dictates all the “true” stories of his heroics to a robot biographer. You will then take control of Quark with blaster in hand and fight through these often hilarious segments. One has you fighting a giant mecha-Godzilla boss when all of a sudden Quark decides that there were also giant robot ninjas with laser eyes there as well. The best one has you taking part in a Quark musical number that is just ridiculously fun to play AND listen to. Playing through these tall tales is easily the brightest spots of SAC, and makes me hope that the next R&C spin-off is an all-Quark game. I should also point out that SAC does not include an online multiplayer mode like Size Matters did, but seeing as how that online mode was terrible, that's no big loss here.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

Nothing has really changed from Size Matters when visuals are concerned. Some levels, like the museum and the outside festival are nicely designed and look nice, but most levels are full of bland corridors and boring colors. I know were working with the limitations of the PSP hardware here, but I'm more used to seeing the often jaw-dropping environments of the console R&C's. Characters models, especially Clank's, are at least sharp and look good. Cut-scenes are also pretty and well-done. Weapon effects and such also get the job done well enough. A decent enough effort that isn't mind-blowing for a PSP game.

The games music is basically what you'd expect form a spy-spoof: very James Bond-ish with the twanging guitars and such. You'll either love it or hate it depending on your liking for this kind of music (I personally have no problems with it). Voice work, including returning VO's for the three main characters, is all very good and what you'd expect from the series. Sound effects are also solid, which pretty much sums it all up.

OBVIOUSLY, I COULDN'T COME UP WITH ANY SECTION TAGLINES :(

After beating the 6-8 hour main quest, you get the option of going through it again in the mandatory R&C challenge mode, where the enemies are tougher but you can earn a ton of bolts for some new weaponry. There is even a secret alien code you can find in each level to unlock a new world. Don't forget all the skill points to earn and titanium bolts to find, which unlock various cheats and such. You can also beat all of Ratchet's prison challenges if you find them fun…unlike me. If you found good replay value in previous games, you'll definitely find it here.

Secret Agent Clank is only slightly better than Size Matters. Fans won't care, as it includes enough R&C goodness to warrant a purchase. Everyone else may just be happy with a rental, as the cool bits of being a secret agent saving the galaxy from evil definitely comes with it's not-so-cool bits.

KEWL
+Classic R&C gameplay for the most part
+A decent and humorous story with familiar characters
+Cool spy-themed weaponry
+Controls are OK considering your options
+Captain Quark's segments are a blast to play
+A good amount of gameplay variety
+Decent graphics and sound
+Replay value

LAME
-Fighting the camera system will make you wish for proper third-person controls
-Stealth gameplay mechanics are lame and not very fun
-Ratchet challenges are repetitive and boring thanks to lame weapons
-Levels are mostly bland and un-exciting
-Seriously…Clank-fu??

Rating:   3.5 - Good

Product Release: Secret Agent Clank (US, 06/17/08)

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