The Name is Bot… James Bot.
What is a sidekick without his hero? Nothing, right? I mean, imagine if you looked up while mugging an old lady to see the fluttering cape and righteous tights of… Robin. Would you stop what you were doing? Or if the detective in charge of recovering your stolen emerald necklace was none other than… Dr. Watson. You’d take out additional insurance on the matching earrings, wouldn’t you? Or if, after hours of putting up with jostling crowds and mediocre opening rock bands, the surprise headliner was… that other guy from Wham. Your $6 Bud Light would be flying toward the stage faster than you could say, “jitterbug”.
At first glance, Secret Agent Clank would seem like a similar mockery of the natural order of things. After all, the dry-humored, tin-plated Clank has been teamed up with his fuzzy buddy Ratchet for six titles already. What powerful force could tear these two apart? The answer to that question is at the heart of the game. In the opening sequence, Ratchet is caught red-handed trying to (rather clumsily) steal the Eye of Infinity gem from the Boltaire Museum. Shocking the public with his criminal ways and unrepentant attitude, the former hero is tossed unceremoniously into jail. But this all seems so strange and out of character? Could there be more to the story than meets the eye?
Well, duh, yeah. Otherwise it wouldn’t make for a very interesting game, would it?
Separated from his blaster-happy partner, Clank must undertake a series of missions to unravel the plot and clear his friend’s name. From his first task, investigating the museum for clues, it’s clear that Clank’s fighting style is different when Ratchet isn’t around. While Ratchet’s battle credo would best be described as “shoot/zap/incinerate/implode first and ask questions later”, the more civilized Clank has a subtler approach. Taking not just a page but several thick chapters from the James Bond playbook, Clank is at his best in stealthy situations, hiding behind potted plants and taking out enemies one at a time, silently. When spotted, he certainly isn’t above beating the crap out of the baddies that come at him, but if you try to play the game barging into every room like the Incredible Hulk on steroids, you won’t last long.
One of the strong points of the Ratchet and Clank series has always been its willingness to switch up the gameplay to keep things fresh. Secret Agent Clank builds on this strength, consistently offering a change of pace so that you never get bored. The standard stealth level, for instance, will be broken up by a tetris-like lockpicking puzzle, or will end with a musical Zeta-Jonesian laser-avoiding sequence where you better be light on your fingertips if you want to avoid getting zapped.
You don’t even have to spend your time on the main plot if you don’t feel like it. Mini-games abound in Secret Agent Clank. If you’re jonesing for a more straight-up gunfight, switch over to poor jailbound Ratchet, who’s battling against every badguy he’s ever captured, desperately trying to shank the entire cellblock before he gets shivved in return. Or exercise that under-used brain muscle by working out complex mechanical puzzles with the Gadgebots. Or unleash your inner Megaman as you re-enact Quark’s battles against giant lizards in a suspiciously Tokyo-like landscape. What do these mini-games have to do with the story at hand? Not a whole heck of a lot! But they’re fun and well-executed, and the bolts you earn by completing them help Clank buy valuable powerups for his guns and toys.
Because of course, it wouldn’t be a
Ratchet and Clank adventure without an overflowing arsenal of bizarre firepower. The majority of the more potent lacerators, wallopers, and launchers are in Ratchet’s hands, though Clank needs to discover them in story mode before they can be used. But Clank has his own Q-worthy gadgets. His Tie-a-rang, for instance, converts formal neckwear into ninja stars of high-fashion death that Clank can fling at enemies and wires. His Cufflink Bombs not only blast enemies to bits, but also match the cummerbund.
Visually, Secret Agent Clank doesn’t stray far from its PSP predecessor, Size Matters. But that’s not a bad thing, as the cartoonish, Incredibles-inspired animation works well with the fun and irreverent feel of the game. The art direction is better for some levels than others. At its best, it looks like a cheerier, animated Blade Runner; at worst, it looks like they recycled leftover footage from The Black Hole.
The controls work better here than in previous games, though the camera angles can still be tricky. Nothing is worse than having to scramble around to fix your angle when you know a guard is about to round the corner behind you. And the music sounds like it was lifted straight from the soundtrack of Octopussy, which is of course, perfect. Even the voice acting is above par. Though some of his action movie one-liners come off a bit forced, Clank wears his new Roger Moore personality as well as his spotless black tuxedo jacket.
For his first time stepping out from under Ratchet’s… er, forepaw, Clank does a good job of running the show. I’m not sure if he’s ready for a solo career or anything, but he certainly has a brighter future than Andrew John Ridgeley. You know, that other guy from WHAM! Remember? No? At any rate, Secret Agent Clank delivers a fun grab bag of gameplay options that will keep you entertained. Not bad for a sidekick.