Each time I think I’m over the Ratchet & Clank games, somehow, some way, they pull me back in. The driest character in all of videogame-dom — the ever-resourceful Swiss Army knife/robot known as Clank — is the star of the show this time in this PSP-only endeavor (though, if history has taught us anything, it’s that these PSP-only titles usually get a PlayStation 2 port within a few months). The game gets off to a terrific start, doling out a big, dynamic environment to explore: a just-plundered museum. (Minor spoiler: It was apparently plundered by, of all people, Ratchet. Let the intrigue begin!) The emphasis in the game’s early going is, curiously, on stealth tactics. Ratchet, looking quite sharp in a tuxedo, must find a way through a gauntlet of flashlight-wielding security bots, mechanical guard dogs, and lasers in order to gather clues about Ratchet’s involvement in the plundering. Within moments, the avalanche of gadgets, gear and mayhem-causing weaponry begins — which is of course typical of all Ratchet & Clank games.
These games always remind me of a vaudeville-era comedian: If you don’t like a joke, don’t fret; before you have a chance to complain or decide you don’t like something, more jokes are already on the way. The same holds true in Ratchet & Clank games. Not fond of a particular weapon or piece of gear? Wait a few minutes, and voila, you’ll have something with which to replace it. In addition to what appears to be a judo chop, Clank also gets a Tie-a-Rang (think Bat-a-Rang, but in the shape of a bow tie) and a Blackout Pen (an ink-shooting pen useful for dousing lasers at their source) within the game’s first 10 minutes.
Without the Bondian equivalent of a Q, Clank’s gadgets are delivered, quite literally, from the sky via tiny, glowing suitcases. Clank can also sneak up behind unsuspecting guards and execute a stealth kill which require hitting four face buttons before a timer expires. If you’ve survived any of the palm-sweat-inducing boss fights from the God of War series, then you can certainly manage inputting X, X, Triangle, Square without too much trouble. The Ratchet & Clank games have always provided a competent third-person action experience, but the real reason to play the games has been the Pixar-esque visuals and above-average — and quite funny — writing. Example: While winding my way across the museum floor, ducking and weaving through the roving flashlight beams, I encountered a fern. The game prompted me to press the Triangle button if I wanted to hide in the fern. So, I pressed the Triangle button, and Clank grabbed two leaves, held them above his head, and stood very still. Though this might not sound terribly funny to you, it made me laugh out loud.
Perhaps my standards are lower than they should be. Who knows? Despite a camera that requires more babysitting than a newborn — get ready to push those shoulder buttons early and often, folks — the UMD is shaping up to be a solid installment in the series and another quality title for PSP owners. If you’re a Clank fan — and how can you not be? — you should be pleased with what Secret Agent Clank has to offer. Will it get a Try? A Buy? A Fry? Tune in next month, kids, for the full-frontal Crispy G. review.This preview was based on a preview build of the game provided by the publisher.