Ratchet & Clank 2

Gamestyle Archive Intro: here’s another example of a restored review using 2 sources. On the original backup spreadsheet the text suddenly ends with about 3 paragraphs to go. Fear not, as I had my original draft as part of the archive.

It’s interesting comparing both as the word document is the original submission. Reviews on Gamestyle were put through the editing system to clean up any text issues. Sometimes the editing when too far. Certainly when reading both sources here the differences are surprising. The issue with the excel file is that paragraph spacing are lost – using another source gives the original breaks – but in this case I’ve noticed the 2 versions are different. Maybe tomorrow I’ll put up the rough and ready form?

The Ratchet & Clank series was one of those unique examples of a franchise that united all ages and appealed to all levels of skill. Looking back now, it’s one of my PlayStation 2 highlights and the series itself was of a consistently high standard. This review dates from November 2003.

ratchet 

Ratchet & Clank 2: Locked and Loaded is a release that Gamestyle finds hard not to love. This is the quintessential modern-day platformer, which covers all bases and ultimately leaves its potentially-taxing platform foundations behind. This is bubblegum, mirthful gaming that basks in the primary delivery of fun – something which Mario Sunshine, for example, could not.

Seriously, Ratchet & Clank 2 is that good. Whereas Jak II went all “bad”, Ratchet & Clank continue upon their merry exploits, forging ahead with little regard to market trends. Is there a story? Well, yes there is of sorts, but it only serves as an opening for a space carnival. The characters are firmly tongue-in-cheek (and with well-pitched speech). Receiving a distant call for help, the heroic duo set out to aid Abercrombie Fizzwidget, the chairman of Megacorp. A devilish thief has snatched a secret experiment from the humongous company, and obviously Megacorp wants it returned. On route, Ratchet & Clank are given some ‘commando-like’ training in preparation for their galactic adventure.

A bog-standard storyline is given a new freshness by the cartoon-influenced character designs and cut sequences; some of which simply exist to put a smile on your face. Insomniac has buffed this game to perfection, and the evident humour, subtle nods and external influences are splendid (as are storyline references to the original release). If Pixar created videogames, then Ratchet & Clank 2 would be exactly what Gamestyle would expect from the talented studio.

Initially, Ratchet & Clank 2 only fleetingly rises above average; offering the standard shooting, jumping and exploring scenario that Gamestyle has seen on countless occasions. Then things begin to snowball. You see, the main game isn’t about skill or challenge (there are extra modes that cater for such niceties), instead it’s about grasping the largest, funniest and most extreme weapon in your arsenal and going ‘locked and loaded’ throughout the galaxy; having fun and literally blasting everything.

Thoughtful level design adds to the enjoyment – if you cannot progress any further on one planet, why not take a hike to another? In the original game, weapons could be bought and simply stockpiled, whereas in the sequel Insomniac has lateralised the proceedings. Again, guns can be bought, but special platinum bolts (hidden cunningly throughout the levels) can be found and sold for incredible enhancements. Not only this, but by using a weapon consistently, its experience grows until it evolves into something more devastating. With a multitude of weapons available, killing and demolition has never been so much fun. Sometimes though, Insomniac is a victim of its own ambition; weapons (such as the therminator and tractor beam) can only be used when conditions allow. Why not break the shackles completely?

At times, weapon strength and deployment is vital to conquering some of the more populated planets; but with infinite continues available, experimentation is positively encouraged. Beyond weaponry, other tools are available – such as backpacks, gadgets and armour. Discovery of a new weapon or tool often facilitates the need to return to an impediment, and opens up new avenues on already completed levels. Disappointingly, the levels are routinely (like so many releases) based on natural states, such as ice, desert, swamp and forest. Albeit this is a minor quibble, as the overall design and construction is extremely robust, vibrant and engaging. The levels are linear, but qualities such as these disguise any shortfalls in freedom.

Linking several of these planets are dogfights in space, which again suffer from the age-old problem of positioning and sense of direction. This is the weakest aspect of Ratchet & Clank 2, and if it weren’t key to progressing (i.e. the collection of vital minerals for ship modifications), Gamestyle would probably not have bothered. The racing sections fare much better, but with a game of this distinction, even ‘microscopic’ problems become hard to detect.

If one becomes shell-shocked by the constant chaos of the main game, there are various challenges (racing, dog fighting and combat) that not only provide vital currency, but also serve up a little variety – as well as secrets. Clank has his own levels but again the “buddy” dynamic isn’t high on the agenda, but when it is expect some fantastic moments such as the transformer mini-planet battle.

As Insomniac have a sharing agreement with Naughty Dog, you’d expect Ratchet & Clank 2 to be visually striking, and it certainly delivers.  From the moment you pick up the controller you are guaranteed an interruption free experience.  Animation, size, clarity, textures and frame rate, form an enchanting package.  After Ghosthunter, Gamestyle continues to be impressed by what the Playstation 2 is capable of delivering.

Without question Ratchet & Clank 2 surpasses Mario Sunshine as the best genre offering of the current generation.  And with strong sequels to Jak and Ape Escape already available on the Playstation 2, it’s with strong company.  Insomniac has given us easily the most enjoyable release of the year, and a title that puts the fun back into gaming.

Gamestyle Score: 9/10

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