Ratchet and Clank 2: Going Commando
A year after their inaugural outing, Ratchet and Clank return for more platform-based hijinks. We take a look at how their latest fares.
Action / Platform
By Kikizo Staff
As the custodians of arguably the two most recognized platform franchises on the system, it's interesting to note the disparate approaches adopted by developers Naughty Dog and Insomniac with regard to their respective big-name sequels. Naughty Dog have gone to great lengths to distance themselves from the light-hearted style and tone of their first Jak title, instead opting for a darker, more 'mature' sequel that, ironically, borrows the idea of gunplay from Insomniac's decidedly less adult-oriented title, Ratchet and Clank. Insomniac, on the other hand, have strayed little from their established formula, so much so in fact, that this latest title could, for all intents and purposes, be proclaimed as much the same game as its predecessor... only now, broader in scope.
One could argue that this latter approach has afforded the Insomniac team ample opportunity to refine and expand upon the gameplay found in the original, and to a certain extent, this is the case. However, with a development cycle in the region of 12 months -- an exceptionally short turnaround time in the current market -- even a casual observer would be remiss to expect any fundamental changes. The end product then, while a superbly polished and enjoyable one, shares more similarities with a PC-style expansion pack than it does a full-blown sequel; there's a new story, as well as new stages, weapons and a considerable number of mini-games, but it all amounts to much the same experience as that presented in the first game.
"Unlike Naughty Dog, Insomniac have strayed little from their established formula.
After their exploits in the first title, Ratchet and Clank are hailed as the saviours of the galaxy, and have since gone on to cash in on their newfound celebrity. In the months that pass however, their popularity wanes and they soon find themselves with very little to do. Enter Abercrombie Fizzwidget, the eccentric founder of Megacorp, who, having seen the duo's tale on TV, enlists their aid. Needless to say, things are far from what they seem, and soon the two find themselves embroiled in a conspiracy that once again threatens the galaxy, er... a different galaxy, that is.
Enemies like this robotic monstrosity make R&C2 a blast.
From there, players resume their wayfaring ways, hopping between a series of planets, while completing the requisite objectives on each in order to acquire new weapons, gadgets and coordinates that will lead them to yet more locations. Bolts too, reprise their role as the currency of choice, and once again players are expected to accumulate an inordinate number of these in order to fund the acquisition of weapons and ammunition, and to occasionally prise information from avaricious NPCs. Bolts will only get you so far however, and in this iteration players will find themselves having to accrue items such as crystals, raritanium, moonstones and platinum bolts in order to get what they need. As before, weapons and gadgets lie at the heart of Ratchet's exploits, and to that end Insomniac have once again assembled a diverse cache of items that are a great deal of fun to use. In a departure from the previous title though, weapons now possess experience and through continued use can be upgraded to a second, more powerful form.
"The game shares more similarities with a PC-style expansion pack than it does a full-blown sequel.
The effect this has on gameplay is two-fold. First, it prevents the player from constantly using only a single weapon, because while it may prove the most effective armament in your arsenal at a given time, further into the title you'll need a far more diverse selection of effective weapons in order to progress. Secondly, it offers an incentive for players to use weapons they might not otherwise like, if for no other reason than to see what possible advantages its second form will provide. Ratchet too, can accrue experience through battle, earning extra Nanotech (health) points as he does so. As the smaller half of the interplanetary duo, Clank's gameplay has also been expanded some, and when controlling him, players will find that they can enlist the aid of specific robots to not only attack his enemies in his stead, but to build bridges, destroy obstacles and perform other such rudimentary functions, all at the behest of Clank himself.
"Weapons now possess experience and can be upgraded to a second, more powerful form.
Despite the additions to the gameplay of both characters, players will find themselves having to perform similar tasks to those found in the previous title. Be it navigating a series of treacherous platforms or avoiding traps and other such environmental hazards. The Trespasser (used to gain access to locked doors in the original title) for instance, has been replaced with the Infiltrator, a lock-picking device that requires players to select a deliberate route across a spherical object in order to trace the path from a specific starting point and back again within a certain time limit.
Mini-games, a staple of the previous incarnation, are significantly more prevalent this time around. Players will engage in aerial dogfights in Ratchet's ship, compete in hoverbike races, battle against large robots in War of the Monsters-inspired confrontations and Arena battles in which Ratchet must stave off wave upon wave of enemy units. Successfully completing these events will reward the player with items integral to your quest or an otherwise large amount of bolts. Additionally, many of these feature optional challenges that can be completed for yet more bolts.
"Mini-games are more prevalent - including aerial dogfights and hoverbike races.
While the gameplay found in Ratchet and Clank 2: Going Commando seldom surprises, it must be said that the title is exceptionally polished and utterly enjoyable from start to finish. Newcomers to the series will be in for a treat, while those who've played the original title will surely be satiated by more of the same. A nice touch, is the inclusion of a small bonus for owners of Ratchet and Clank. At a specific point in the adventure, the title will read your memory card and if a Ratchet and Clank savegame is found it will reward your efforts in that game with a bonus in Ratchet and Clank 2: Going Commando.
Utilizing a modified version of the Jak and Daxter engine, the original impressed with massive vistas that simply teemed with activity. It goes without saying then, that the sequel too, offers levels lush with detail. Each planet is awash with vibrant colour, and though genre standbys such as the desert, jungle, and ice level abound, each is vividly realized and a joy to explore. And explore you shall, because in addition to the numerous objectives, each houses carefully hidden Platinum Bolts and mystery challenges that, if completed, will earn you Skill Points that can in turn be traded for cheat options. Like many aspects of the title, the visuals are enhanced, if not greatly improved over its predecessor, but what's here is meticulously refined and tweaked. The end result is a fantastic looking platformer, that, while not quite as impressive as some of the other holiday releases, offers a very respectable visual package.
"While the gameplay seldom surprises, the title is exceptionally polished and enjoyable.
Ratchet and Clank are both infinitely more likeable in this title, a consequence of the still excellent voice-acting and the markedly improved writing. The constant bickering of the first title has been replaced by the verbal sparring commonly associated with mismatched duos (Banjo-Kazooie and Jak II spring immediately to mind) and the cutscenes are far more humorous as a result. Humor pervades the title in its entirety, and the tongue-in-cheek, self-aware nature of the characters provides some truly funny exchanges. Although the bulk of the humorous lines are given to the two protagonists, the supporting cast proves, for their part, to be equally memorable.
"Ratchet and Clank are both infinitely more likeable, the script is markedly improved.
It's disappointing that Insomniac chose not to do more with the sequel to one of the best titles of 2002. That said, Ratchet and Clank 2: Going Commando is an accomplished title that offers excellent platform-based gameplay. It's an easy recommendation, but amidst the slew of high-profile titles released this holiday season, your money may be best spent elsewhere.
There are better titles than Ratchet and Clank 2: Going Commando on the market, of that there can be little debate. That said, it is a title that will satiate genre fans and ardent supporters of the franchise alike.