Gamestyle Archive Intro: yesterday we welcomed back the published review of Ratchet & Clank 2, however during the restoration from 2 sources, the differences between the submission and the final edit were noticeable. So perhaps as first and potentially with more reviews to follow, here is my original 2003 draft.
Ratchet & Clank 2 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 and ultimately the game that delivers the fun, which Mario Sunshine could not. Seriously, Ratchet & Clank 2 is that good.
Whereas Jak II went all “bad”, Ratchet & Clank continue 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 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 giant company, and obviously Megacorp wants it returned. On route Ratchet & Clank are given new training (hence the “Commando” subtitle) in preparation for their new galactic adventure.
A bog standard storyline is given a new freshness by the cartoon influenced character designs and cut sequences; some of which just exist to put a smile on your face. Insomniac has buffed this game to perfection, and the evident humour and nods to influences are splendid, as are storylines 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, which Gamestyle has seen on countless occasions. Then things begin to develop. You see, the main game isn’t about skill or challenge (there are extra modes that cater for such niceties) instead its about grasping the largest, funniest and most extreme weapon in your arsenal and going out into the galaxy and having fun; blasting everything.
Thoughtful level design adds to the enjoyment; as if you cannot progress further on one planet, why not take a hike to another? Whereas in the original weapons could be bought and no more, in the sequel Insomniac has given more thought to proceedings. Again, most can be bought, but special platinum bolts (hidden cunningly throughout the levels) can be spent on incredible enhancements. Not only this, but by using a weapon consistently, its experience grows until it evolves into another devastating weapon. With a multitude of weapons available, killing and demolition has never been so much fun. Sometimes though, Insomniac is a victim of its own brilliance, as weapons (such as the therminator and tractor beam) can only be used when conditions allow. Why not break the shackles completely?
Weapon strength and deployment at times is vital to conquering some more populated planets, but with infinite continues available experimentation is 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 completed levels. Disappointingly the levels are again (like so many releases) based on natural states such as ice, desert, swamp and forest. This is however a minor quibble, as the general design and construction is extremely strong, vibrant and engaging. The levels are linear but qualities such as these disguise any shortcomings in freedom.
Linking several of the planets are space dogfights, which again suffer from that age-old problem of positioning and sense of direction. This is the weakest aspect of Ratchet & Clank 2, as if it wasn’t key to progressing and the collection of vital minerals (for ship modifications), Gamestyle would not have bothered. The racing sections fare better, but with such a game of such a high standard as this, a microscope is required to find any mentionable issues.
If one becomes shell shocked by the constant destruction in the main game, then there are various challenges (racing, dog fighting and combat) that not only provide vital currency but also serve a little more 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