Review: Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal (Playstation 2)

In this review, we take on Dr. Nefarious in the Playstation 2 game Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal. We find out how well this adventure game plays.

This game was released in 2004 and is the third game in the franchise.

We have an idea of what this franchise is all about already. Previously, we reviewed Ratchet & Clank. That game got a great score. From there, we tried Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando. That game for an even better score. So, we thought it would make sense to try the third game to see what the follow-up is like.

Ratchet finds himself playing a game of chess with Clank. When Ratchet loses, an episode of Secret Agent Clank starts airing on TV. In the episode, Clank is depicted as an action super hero akin to James Bond. At the end of the episode, Clank makes an appearance as a mere assistant tasked with demeaning tasks such as fetching Clank’s vehicle. When the episode ends, Ratchet finds himself disgusted and demands the channel be changed. When Clank doesn’t comply with the request, Ratchet grabs the remote and changes the channel. On the other channel, Ratchet and Clank learn that Ratchet’s home world is being unexpectedly invaded by Dr. Nefarious and his Tyhrranoid forces. Furious, Ratchet makes the executive decision to intervene.

This game features a lot of what players experienced in the previous game. The moves and controls are pretty much the same. The map system is also similar save for a few altered icons. Of course, there are changes. Instead of symbols to denote health, the game employs a number system. In the initial run through, players can collect up to 100 health.

Another notable difference is the fact that you only start out with a wrench. This is decidedly different from the previous two games where you are typically given an additional weapon or two. This really doesn’t last long because players are quickly introduced to the Galactic Rangers. Different soldiers hand Ratchet a weapon or two in hopes that Ratchet will save their protective mission. The Galactic Rangers would be a continuous ally throughout the game whether it be in the occasional mission here and there or in many of the several optional side missions.

In addition to this, there the order players tackle different missions is slightly altered. Instead of simply hopping from planet to planet, players routinely find themselves to the Starship Phoenix – a home base there to help re-supply players. It would also be the main location for armour upgrades – a necessary kind of upgrade because enemies in later missions hit harder, necessitating the extra defensive power for more practical play.

Making a return to the series is the level up feature. As you defeat enemies, you gain experience points. These points count both towards the players total health as well as weapon upgrades. Unlike the previous game, weapons can be upgraded more than once. In the initial play through, players can bring their weapons all the way up to level 5. Some of the weapon features such as lock-on mod and electrifying damage is transferred from Slim Cognito’s merchant menu to the weapon upgrades. Slim Cognito retains his place in the game, but largely to sell certain weapons (and their respective ammo) from previous games.

If you are like me, you’ll notice that some weapons come free thanks to the save file you stored on your memory card. If you saved a previous game, you can be eligible for free weaponry. It’s limited, but a few free weapons isn’t bad, is it?

You can also collect platinum bolts and skill points for bonus features. Additionally, you can collect various trophies while you are at it.

While the breakable boxes do make a return, there are two new boxes players can find. The first is the double up box. Break this and, for a limited time, players can earn double experience and double the bolts. Definitely useful for an added boost part way through your missions.

The other is the fire power up. With this, players will gain temporary invulnerability from enemy attacks. Players will be limited to using a wrench attack, but the attacks will also be substantially more powerful. Useful for getting through some tough areas.

Crystal collecting makes a return, but there is only one level that features it. In addition to this, there are no other real forms of an alternate currency unlike the previous game.

What is also changed is the fact that you do not do any space combat. Instead, this has been modified to flying a hover ship with slightly different controls. This means that upgrades to your ship are ultimately cosmetic. You can also drive a few land vehicles for short periods of time. While vehicles are not significant parts of the game, they do offer to break up gameplay from time to time.

Another item of note is that there is now a Quark side scrolling mini-game. This five level side feature carries a number of references to other side scrolling games. This can include Super Mario Bros. (think collecting the 100 Quark icons), Contra (think the multiple angles you can shoot a weapon), and Crash Bandicoot (think of the various traps you encounter along the way) to name a few. Playing these games wind up being necessary, but also carry with it bonus bolts for higher Quark icon collecting counts.

Bolts have been slightly altered. In this game, it is slightly easier to collect them as you do get greater amounts all over the place. Just know that it is still difficult to afford some of the most expensive items in the game in the first run through.

You’ll no doubt notice my many references to “the first run through”. This is because if you beat the game, you’ll be given a chance to take on challenge mode. In this mode, you basically play the whole game over again, only you’ll face tougher opponents. The up side is that you keep your arsenal and upgrades. Additionally, you’ll be given a chance to obtain an additional bolt multiplier just like the previous game. Other rewards is the ability to take your health all the way up to 200 to name one of the additional benefits to playing in this mode.

One thing I do like about this game is that it both keeps a lot of what makes the previous games great. At this same time, it tweaks things and introduces new mechanics to keep experienced players interested in the game. A lot of the tweaks I do see in this game not only make this game better, but also easier to understand.

At the same time, the help desk lady makes a return. So, if you’ve never played any of the previous games, the help desk lady will help by dropping a few hints here and there to help new players grasp the mechanics of the game quickly. It’s nice because you aren’t actually given half a textbook worth of dialogue in the process.

A minor issue I do take with this game is the fact that, although many levels are well conceived, some levels tend to get overly simple. There are a couple levels that feature a mere hallway with a couple of turns to a final area. While these levels to simplify the gameplay a bit too much, this generally winds up being a minor complaint from me in this case. This is because some of those levels are already quite difficult to begin with thanks to enemy placement. Also, there aren’t that many levels that suffer from this issue.

Another complaint I do have about this game is that some of the later levels suffer from excessive difficulty. What I mean by this is that a few levels are less about skills and quick reflexes and more about memorization of enemy spawn points. This can be quite frustrating for newer players. Luckily, this only occurs late in the game, so there is still that chance most players will find themselves entertained by this game even if they can’t make it past some of the more annoyingly difficult levels.

Still, this game has a lot to offer. A lot of what made previous games so great is found in this game. A large number of minor tweaks have been made that ultimately make for a better gaming experience. This is by no means a perfect game in my view as some levels wind up being a bit too simple in terms of layout while others wind up being excessively difficult at times. With everything about gameplay taken into consideration, this game winds up being a very solid game in my books. Well worth the play by itself.

Graphics have always been a strong point in this series. This game is no exception. With various bloom effects as well as other interesting effects thrown in, this game is already off to a good start. There are plenty of great environments and nice modelling. The animation sequences are also nicely done. Overall, this game is great from a graphics perspective.

An area I think has been improved over the previous game is audio. In previous games, the voice acting and special effects largely carried the day for this game. The aspect of a nice range of effects and nicely done voice acting does still hold true in this game. In this game, the music actually goes beyond providing some interesting atmospherics and is much more memorable in my view. In fact, I can finally name a highlight or two which is the Obani Gemini music as well as Kavu Island. While I am going to give this game full marks, it is probably one of the weaker full marks in terms of audio.

Overall, this is definitely a great game. It definitely continues to be a strong franchise going into the third game. While I wouldn’t say this one stands out as being particularly exceptional compared to the previous two games, it is still a strong instalment to the series. It has a lot of the features that made the previous games great and tweaks things to keep things interesting. While some of the level designs and later difficulty are a bit lacking at times, these are minor flaws in the game. The graphics are great and the audio winds up barely getting full marks. Definitely a worthwhile game to play.

Furthest point in game: Beat the game.

General gameplay: 22/25
Replay value: 8/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 5/5

Overall rating: 86%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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