279th played so far

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Genre: Action/Platform
Platform: Playstation 2
Year of Release: 2002
Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America

The systems of Sony seem littered with attempts at mascots. While Microsoft never set out to get one (focusing on shooters and characters like Master Chief more) and Nintendo and Sega were set with Mario and Sonic, Sony seemed to have developers trying to come in with some middle ground. Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Dexter, Sly Cooper and, today, Ratchet and Clank.

The resemblance is, at first glance, quite obvious. It makes you wonder how the guys behind Banjo-Kazooie felt when this came out. All games in the 3D platformer mold as created by both Crash Bandicoot and Mario 64, they feature distinct characters with little special personality that seem designed for spin-offs from the start. This is not to say they are bad games – we enjoyed Sly Cooper – and the developers do tend to go for their own gameplay mechanics. It’s just that none seem to have been associated with Sony as much as Mario did with Nintendo.

Our Thoughts

Now here’s an odd bit of association for you. It might be because we’ve been addicted to Lego City Undercover lately, but this game had more than a few Lego game associations for us. Why? First of all, there is the extended bolt and nut and parts collection that copies the other series’ stud collection. Second, there’s awkward platforming and camera screw.

Sure, I get it. Camera controls are difficult. The player will want to look at more different things than you can anticipate, and you may need to get the camera to a certain place. But give a bit of leeway then, and don’t rotate the camera while the player is doing their actions, screwing with movement. It’s never game-breaking, but a few of the longer sections feel awkward for this reason, especially when you’re defeating some enemies. One thing that has come to amaze me when it comes to games is how near-perfect 3D platformer controls were available in Super Mario 64 so the fact that it is still an issue to this day is… puzzling.

That part, on the other hand, is a lot more interesting. Aiming can be a tad difficult, but is often helped through various methods. More interesting though are the variety of weapons you can employ.  You soon gain hold of five different ranged weapons (some of which sort-of double as ways of moving around as well). The variety in both is actually quite wonderful and fun to mess with.

You’ll need them too. There are lots of enemies dotted around the level, some of which might be easy, but many are just tricky enough to defeat that facing them over and over again gets unhealthy. It’s, to be honest, where another annoyance comes in.

You see, yeah, the game has auto saves at a few points in its levels, that it automatically returns you to when you die. The problem is, though, that the save points are fairly infrequent and at badly placed moments. And all enemies respawn too. In fact, getting near the end of one level, I was once sent back to the very start, taking fifteen minutes to get back. Defeating enemies and solving puzzles I’d done several times before.

I can see why you’d want to not have too many save points, but good placement is as important. Before bigger fights. After you’ve covered some ground. When you get something important. Yeah, dying is meant to be a step back, especially when it happens once or twice. But when it gets too frustrating and you die twice on your way back to where you were in the first place, it’s a bit too much.

Don’t worry, most of the time it plays fine. There were just a few places where it really gets to you.

In terms of characters, I must admit that I found the titular main character, Ratchet, the less fascinating of the two. He’s just the generic, boring action hero style character who doesn’t care much to start but goes out to do the right thing.

Clank just grabs me a bit more. While he could have easily become the cute funny character – Gir from Invader Zim (MY TAQUITOS!) came to mind early on – but he’s smarter, tougher and more focused. Not sarcastic, but his drive just grabbed me. He’s a lovely, well-written character. He is also remarkably well spoken for a robot character, I was actually expecting more of a silly robot… I’m glad I was wrong.

The story beyond that is engaging enough – going a step beyond what’s necessary for a game, driving a couple of the side quests or goals. You have to save galaxies from the evil corporate empire – simple so far – but the way how to (first of all by finding another hero to do it for you) is interesting and novel. There’s some colourful characters along the way, which at least makes reaching your next step in the game a pleasant treat.

Final Thoughts

Although it’s a game with some flaws, the story and writing is charming to care quite a bit along, and the variety of weapons and options makes for some pretty decent action. The game is good fun to play, just as long as you as you are willing to put the time in to get past some initial warts.

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