Review: Ratchet & Clank (Playstation 2)

In this review, we get to the nuts and bolts in the Playstation 2 game Ratchet & Clank. We find out how well this adventure game plays.

This game was released in 2002 and is the first game in a much larger series.

The story is that Ratchet is stuck on his planet. Unsatisfied with being there, he gradually builds a space ship to get off the planet. Meanwhile, Clank learns of chairman Drek’s plan to steal parts of planets and create a whole new home planet. Clank makes a desperate escape in a search for Captain Quark, the designated superhero of the galaxy. Unfortunately, Clank is pursued by Drek’s minions and is shot down onto Ratchet’s home planet.

After witnessing the crash, Ratchet goes to investigate. He ultimately finds Clank deactivated and brings him back home. When Clank comes to, he finds Ratchet still working on his ship. He startles Ratchet and asks about leaving the planet. Ratchet explains that he is already trying to leave, but the ship is missing a part. Clank scans the vessel and determines that the part that’s missing is ultimately inside Clank. Clank offers to help Ratchet leave in exchange for his assistance in finding captain Quark. Reluctant, Ratchet leaves with Clank, though disinterested in saving the galaxy.

Gameplay is fairly standard. You have four spheres of health to start. You can increase the maximum amount later in the game for a large fee. If you get damaged, you can break open the glass containers and replenish your health one sphere at a time.

There are other breakable boxes. The most common is the wooden box. Each wooden box contains a certain number of bolts. Bolts, for this game, is the currency. You can use it to buy gadgets, upgrades, and equipment. While it seems that you do collect a lot of bolts in this game, regular play entails that you can never really collect too many bolts. So, the more you wind up collecting, the better.

Mixed in with these boxes are other wooden boxes with a “G” logo. These boxes contain ammo for your weapons. While it isn’t much, it is better than nothing.

Red boxes are explosive. If you hit them, they will explode on contact. Stand too close and you’ll sustain damage. However, if you either touch them or allow them to fall, they will blink and emit an alarm. This destabilizes the content, but it gives you a chance to retreat to a safe space. After explosion, they will reward you with some bolts. Often, they are next to more boxes which will, in turn, unearth even more bolts. The only exception is hoverboard races. They do not contain any bolts then.

Blue boxes are stronger boxes. While they function like regular wooden boxes, they require a blast to break open. Red boxes are great, but if not, you can use one of your many weapons to break them open if you so choose.

There are plenty of other breakables in this game. This includes lamps, pipes, and other devices throughout the level. A number of them actually contain a small number of bolts. So, causing property damage along the way can be rather profitable.

In addition to this, there are the occasional Gadgetron boxes. These are ultimately vendors that allow you to purchase weapons. Sadly, you cannot purchase health in these. You’ll be able to purchase weapons with this. If you purchase a weapon, then that slot will turn into an ammo slot, allowing you to purchase ammo if you run out and need more in a pinch. At first, you won’t be able to buy much. However, as you open up new levels, more weapons will also be unlocked. The most expensive buy through the vendor will set you back 40,000 bolts (full price).

Of course, there are other places you’ll need to purchase items. This can include some NPCs and Clank upgrade vendors. These items can include gadgets otherwise not collectible or critical items that allow you to partake in certain mini games. Something to keep in mind if you manage to earn enough bolts for a particular weapon.

Also found in this game are various enemies. There are a huge variety of enemies – often a set of enemies is tied to a particular planet. They can range from small enemies that just run to you and attack at close range to full fledged tanks that need explosives to take out. It’s obviously far too many to list, but that should give you an idea on the range of common enemies that are found in this game. Defeating most enemies will give you more bolts.

As mentioned earlier, there is also a nice variety of weapons to be found in this game. You start with your standard ratchet melee weapon. This can be thrown in first person mode for a short distance like a boomerang. It’s one of the few things that are always equipped in this game.

In addition is the secondary weapon slot. You start off with the bomb glove which allows you to lob bombs at targets. You can also break things apart with this weapon. Moderate range and fairly effective – especially at the beginning of the game.

You’ll eventually buy other weapons such as the blaster, flame thrower, devastator, and the glove of doom. All of these weapons have a limited amount of ammo, so although you can play with the strengths and weaknesses, you’ll also need a method of saving ammo through large portions of this game or you’ll find yourself only armed with your ratchet.

There are other weapons that do not have ammo. This includes the suction weapon and morph weapon. The suction weapon sucks up small enemies and launches them as an explosive projectile. The morph weapon turns enemies into small chickens. Though you lose the bolts, it makes it easy to defeat that enemy after. You are required to hit an enemy for a certain period of time for the transformation to take place.

As you work your way through each level, you’ll notice you have a certain number of objectives to complete. This can range from a simple one objective mission to about a half a dozen objectives. You need to complete them in order to advance in the game at some point. Note that not all objectives can be completed on the first visit. Instead, some objectives require a critical piece of equipment from another planet. As such, you’ll be hopping from planet to planet to complete every objective in the game. A vast majority of these objectives do need to be completed.

Found on each planet is an info bot. These info bots reveal clues as to which planet you need to visit next. So, info bots are critical for your success.

In addition to this are golden bolts. Golden bolts are basically an optional side mission. Each bolt is located in well hidden areas or hard to reach locations. It requires a certain amount of skill of some sort to find each one. Sometimes it requires blasting a certain wall. Other times, it requires finding a late game object, forcing you to return to earlier planets to pick up that bolt.

The golden bolts are not required to beat the game, however, they are used to buy golden weapons. Golden weapons are upgrades to your regular weapons, but you do need to unlock the golden store to buy them.

A very helpful feature in this game is the map. Each level gives you a map that denotes objective locations and where you’ve travelled. Light grey areas indicate a regular playable location that you have not visited yet. Dark grey areas indicate land that generally does not contain playable regions. If you get the special upgrade, then green denotes a secret area you have not explored yet. Star is where your ship is located and a question mark indicates an area you probably should investigate. The map can contain other notes, but this is rare.

In addition to this, you can obtain skill points. Skill points are earned by completing a certain part of a level in a particular way. Sadly, the game does not offer you any sort of hint as to what is needed to earn each one, however, if you earn enough points, you’ll be able to unlock some special features in the game outside of normal play.

Finally, there is a vending machine in this game. This vending machine allows you to upgrade your health capacity. While the first upgrade isn’t all that expensive, the next upgrade is very expensive and will likely require a certain amount of grinding – especially if you intend on purchasing every other weapon in the game. While not necessary to buy up all the health, this does make life a bit easier in the rest of the game.

What I find interesting about this game is that when I played it, I found myself thinking of three different games while playing. The first game is Super Mario 64 largely with the way the character moves. If you play Quark’s obstacle course early on, you’ll easily see why I kept being reminded of that game while playing through this one.

The second game that comes to mind is Mega Man 64 (Mega Man Legends for those who played it on the Playstation). This is because of the zenny system that game employed. If you defeat enemies or blow up breakables, you’ll be able to find zenny strewn about. From there, you can take that zenny and purchase weapon or health upgrades. The bolt system in this game follows along with that system very closely which I found interesting.

The final game I thought of is Banjo Kazooie. This is more for the character writing and duel character system involved. Banjo has an array of attacks while Kazooie is there to compliment that set of moves. In addition, Kazooie is constantly running her mouth with characters you meat along the way. This ultimately embarrasses Banjo along the way. This game has a similar dynamic where you have two characters with moves that compliment each other. At the same time, you have a sense of friction between the two characters which makes for some interesting and sometimes funny scenes.

Because of this, I couldn’t help but think this is a mashup of Super Mario 64, Mega Man 64/Mega Man Legends, and a dash of Banjo Kazooie thrown into the mix. In my head, that ultimately makes at least 90% of what I saw in this game. This is not a bad thing because I thought all three games were great. I just found it fascinating seeing such familiar features in this game.

One thing is for sure, I did find myself staying engaged from beginning to end. This certainly is nice to see because I do see a lot of games out there that start of strong and just fall flat part way through. What really helps is the minigames such as the trespasser unlock games and the small number of vehicles you pilot throughout the game. The variety was certainly more than sufficient.

I also really liked the writing throughout the game. It has that comedic edge and well thought out characters throughout the game. This ultimately is a strength in the game in my view.

While it is a highly enjoyable game, I wouldn’t call this a flawless game. One of the flaws I found in the game is the controls. You had to keep in mind a certain amount of momentum. As such, you have things like turn radius working against you. It is also more than possible to overshoot jumps even if you manage to barely stick the landing. Momentum can very easily push you right off the edge anyway. It’s a fairly minor issue in this game, but it is an issue.

The other problem I had with this game is the camera. Often, the camera would not really do well keeping everything in the action. Sometimes, I found myself running down hallways or across large areas only to have the camera stick to a side view for seemingly no reason. Believe me, I’ve worked with far worse camera’s. Silent Hill comes to mind as an example of a bad camera system. Still, it could have been better in my view.

Otherwise, I don’t really have much in the way of complaints in this game. It is an overall very solid game. There is a wide variety of weapons and missions. You have plenty of mini games and puzzles to solve. There are also a lot of features and interesting gameplay elements throughout to keep players interested from beginning to end. So, a very well put together game generally speaking.

Graphics is definitely great. While the levels themselves aren’t necessarily huge, the scenery makes you feel immersed in a massive environment anyway. There is some pretty decent special effects such as the electricity and the visibomb visual alteration. In addition to this, there is a huge variety found not only in the levels themselves, but between planets too. Characters are nicely animated. Even the subtle look over ledge effect works very well. I’ve got no actual complaints on this front. It is a great game in the graphics department.

Audio is probably the only real mixed bag I found in this game. The voice acting and sound effects are certainly very well done. There’s a very nice variety to be had here. Music is a bit more hit and miss unfortunately. Some of the earlier and later levels work quite well. The middle levels are a bit on the weak side at times. The music does largely serve to provide atmosphere and some levels are more successful then others. The good part is hearing the music change to indicate different sections of a level. Not unprecedented at this stage in game development, but it is a nice thing to hear.

Overall, this is a great game. It has a lot of features and weapons for you to use. The writing is very nicely done. It even ties in previously used features together nicely. The controls is a bit iffy and the camera system does leave a bit to be desired (yes, I know you can reset it). Still, those are the only real complaints I have with this one. The graphics are great, though the audio is a bit more mixed. So, I have no problem calling this one a recommended play.

Furthest point in game: Beat the game. Obtained 18 gold bolts and 5 skill points.

General gameplay: 21/25
Replay value: 8/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 4/5

Overall rating: 82%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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