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Secret Agent Clank
Score: 69%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: Sanzaru Games, Inc.
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Platformer (3D)/ Stealth/ Action

Graphics & Sound:
Everyone's favorite robotic sidekick is starring in his very own adventure (no, not Bender!) Clank takes the forefront in Secret Agent Clank. Known for their Pixar approach to game making, the Ratchet and Clank series has always walked the line between being a game for kids while still enjoyable to adults. It seems Secret Agent Clank has changed allegiance and targeted just the kiddies in this PSP to PS2 port of a decent spy game.

First, Secret Agent Clank does not look nearly as good as other Ratchet and Clank games in the series. It was originally a PSP game last fall and there wasn't much done to improve the visuals. The entire experience feels like the PSP version has been reformatted to a bigger screen, and that isn't a good thing. The reason games look good on the PSP is because it has a bright LCD screen with a relatively high resolution for its size. On the PS2, everything looks blurry and flat, and for a series that is known for being so vibrant and full of character, it is a shame that it wasn't done justice.

On the other hand, the entire voice cast returns to their roles with great performances. The music also returns in traditional Ratchet and Clank style with a futuristic/ sci-fi vibe, but now there is a bit of a James Bond influence thrown in for good measure. Sound effects are generally not worth mentioning, but Secret Agent Clank sports decent gun shots and bad guys, but numerous audio glitches made we wonder if there was enough time spent play testing to catch them all.


Gameplay:
Since this is Clank's solo adventure, he is a super sexy secret agent complete with tuxedo and bow tie. Clank is on a routine mission when Ratchet is framed for stealing a priceless jewel and thrown into prison for his crime. It is up to Clank to find who framed Ratchet and ultimately free him from his false incarceration and go through nearly every spy cliché imaginable. If that wasn't enough, while Clank looks for clues with the help of The Agency, Ratchet and Qwark have their own problems to deal with in between Clank's never-ending search.

Clank sneaks around each level with an ever-expanding arsenal of weapons and gadgets that range from deadly bowties to suitcase flamethrowers (sweet!). As with every other game in the series, weapons and gadgets earn experience over time and each one upgrades to become more useful and effective. What was meant to be a stealth platforming game is hurt by poor A.I. and devolves into searching for the nearest ammo crate. Enemies only notice Clank if you are stepping on their toes or shaking their martinis, so the easiest way to get through most of Secret Agent Clank is to simply take out the baddies as you see them.

To break up the monotony of bland platforming, Clank has either a rhythm action sequence or a vehicle segment at the end of each level. It is nice to see variety in the gameplay, but since both aren't done particularly well, it still doesn't compare to an explosive Bond style chase scene.

After Ratchet has been thrown in jail, the warden thinks it would be a fun idea to host some moderate prison combat. Ratchet's parts are lifted straight out of the arena fights from previous games. Ratchet is all by himself with his trusty wrench to defend off the swarming inmates. Ratchet receives new weapons sent to him in conspicuous birthday cakes from Clank as he finds new tools in the field. Just like Clank, Ratchet's tools upgrade over time and although there are only a few of these arenas that need to be completed to move forward, there are still extra missions to earn more experience and extend the enjoyment.

While Clank is sleuthing about the galaxy searching for his arch-nemesis, Captain Qwark is producing his biography by re-telling some of his heroic tales. Again, I applaud the variety in gameplay, but Qwark's adventures are funny, but not fun. He battles space-dragons, plant people, and even puts on an operatic production of his fight with a sea kraken. The only option Qwark has at his disposal is point and shoot. Much more action-oriented that Clank, Qwark serves as a buffer in between story chapters. Qwark's stories have always been a comic relief in a series that had enough humor between the two main characters. In Secret Agent Clank, it feels like Qwark shamefully crosses over to the absurd. While it is still funny, I smiled more than I laughed.


Difficulty:
Since Secret Agent Clank has so much gameplay variety, getting accustomed to any one section doesn't lead anywhere because it will be over shortly thereafter. The driving sections are fun, but easy. The dancing/ rhythm sequences go on far too long and the hardest part will be testing your patience. The main story has a steady difficulty curve, but there are two levels near the end that are so frustrating because there are no convenient checkpoints.

For the seasoned gamer, it might take around seven - eight hours, but for completists, there are plenty of side missions to keep you occupied until you have had your fill of cheesy spy goodness. Secret Agent Clank's difficulty is even and natural throughout most of the journey, but when it spikes, you will notice and your controller may need a trip to the E.R.


Game Mechanics:
The problem with PSP games is obviously that it lacks another analog stick. When moving to the PS2, camera controls always suffer because it wasn't designed with another stick in mind. Camera controls in Secret Agent Clank aggravate because of either two extremes; it either doesn't follow Clank well enough or it locks on and doesn't move to a better angle.

Other than a poor camera system, Secret Agent Clank is okay at everything else. The platforming is serviceable, but not memorable. The guns and gadgets handle well and the placement of the fire button to (R1) makes it feel more comfortable like a shooter. Now that Clank is on his own and doesn't have a partner for jumps, he compensates with jet boosts to make long jumps more manageable.

Secret Agent Clank is just like the previous PS2 title Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters. They both began as a PSP game and were ported onto PS2 months later. They work well for short pick-up-and-go gaming, but translating to home consoles doesn't have the same effect because it feels schizophrenic in variety. Everything about it is just "okay." This is one of the low points for the series and not a strong showing for anyone that hasn't enjoyed one of their games yet. Secret Agent Clank fails to seduce anyone that isn't a die-hard fan. By the time you are finished, your enjoyment will be shaken and stirred and then strained because Secret Agent Clank should be the fall guy in an otherwise exceptional franchise.


-HanChi, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Hanchey

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