Review: Secret Agent Clank

SecretAgentClank_BoxArt.jpg Secret Agent Clank is one schizophrenic game. At heart it’s an action-platformer like Ratchet & Clank games past, but now more than ever before so many elements from other genres have been mixed in that it’s hard to even categorize the game as a whole. The R&C series has always offered a lot of diverse activities to engage in and in the past has always benefited from it. But in Secret Agent Clank, High Impact Games went overboard to the point where the game ultimately winds up feeling like one giant genre mish-mash suffering from an identity crisis.

This game literally pulls elements from damn near every genre in existence. It’s got stealth, rhythm, puzzle, racing, shooting, platforming and the usual RPG-like weapon upgrade stuff. While the diverse range of activities makes for exceptionally well-paced gameplay – which is doubly important for a portable game — the quality of all these different activities isn’t consistently up to par. The rhythm-based, button-press mini-games control poorly and are terribly dull, the stealth elements feel entirely unnecessary for the most part, the block puzzle lock-picking mini-game is overused to the extreme, and Ratchet’s arena challenges seem tacked on if for no other reason than to remind you that Ratchet is still around even though Clank has assumed the starring role this time around.

I don’t want to sound too pissy here, though. Secret Agent Clank has plenty of greatness to be found throughout its 8-10 hour, James-Bond-spoofing spy caper. Clank’s more traditional action/platforming missions are tremendous fun, complete with the intuitive controls, crazy gadgetry and satisfying action expected from an R&C title. Captain Qwark becomes a playable character for the first time as well and his levels are nothing short of pure genius – too bad they are few and far between compared to the rest of the game’s mission types, though. And you also get to spend ample time controlling a pack of Gadgetbots through some truly thoughtful 3D puzzle stages.

As expected, the game — both good and bad parts — is all tied together by a hilarious story, genuinely likeable characters, top-class voice acting, beautifully animated cinematics, and just plain impressive production values all around. High Impact could’ve done more optimization work in terms of load times and frame rate performance, both of which are a bit spotty, but overall this is a high-quality audiovisual PSP production.

I adore the Ratchet & Clank franchise and in general had a blast with Secret Agent Clank. But as a whole this game doesn’t quite live up to the series’ sky-high standards. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable romp while it lasts, one any PSP owner would do well to play through, but once it’s over you probably won’t feel the draw to ever play it again. Seriously, this is the first game in the series that I haven’t felt the itch to go back and replay immediately after finishing it, and I’ve always replayed the previous games at least one extra time. That should be proof enough right there that renting is the way to go with this one.

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Pros:
+ Clank, Qwark and Gadgetbot missions are exceptionally fun
+ Humorous, beautifully-presented story

Cons:
– Suffers from “jack of all trades, master of none” syndrome
– Spotty load time and frame rate performance

Game Info:
Platform: PSP
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: High Impact Games
Release Date: 6/17/08
Genre: Action
Players: 1

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!