Some might say Ratchet and Clank isn’t any fun without Clank, the dry-witted sidekick. But hey, he deserves his own game by now, even though we had no idea those sneaky buzzards over at High Impact Games (they made Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters) were making it. It’s called Secret Agent Clank, which popped up at this year’s Tokyo Game Show last month and wowed the crowd with its spy-oriented platforming action. We’re missing half the dynamic duo, but when you put a little yet highly technical robot in a tux and give him a gun, you should have a winning formula. We take a look at what to expect from this upcoming handheld title, and how Clank may fare on his own without that furry Lombax as a partner. The PSP has been getting some top-notch titles as of late, and based on what we know so far, this could be yet another must-have when it releases some time next year.
If you were wondering, this game does appear to be a sequel to Size Matters, and at the same time, a prequel to next week’s PS3 release, Tools of Destruction. The premise actually includes Ratchet, but he’s indisposed throughout his buddy’s adventure. See, the yellow wisecracking intergalactic hero is framed, the court doesn’t exactly give him a fair trial, and it’s up to Clank to save the day. How? He will adopt his super-secret alter ego: Secret Agent Clank. He’s gonna have all kinds of tech goodies, and that includes using his bowtie as a deadly boomerang, tossing cuff link bombs, and flying around with his snazzy jet boots. But we’d like to learn more about his fighting style – known as Clank-Fu; just try not to laugh at that – which lets him learn and utilize new abilities throughout his quest. We’re not sure if it’s the cornerstone of his repertoire, but doesn’t it sound cool? Can we expect a full-on combat mechanic like we find in straight-up action titles? That may not fit with the High Impact style, but it’s an intriguing-sounding feature nonetheless.
But the hand-to-hand combat won’t take up the entirety of the gameplay, because in addition to those nifty little gadgets, Clank will also have to use a wee bit of stealth…in an entirely different way than you’d expect. For example, one of the levels on display at TGS was the Artificial History Museum where Clank had to work his way past laser beams and surprisingly intuitive guards. But the player wouldn’t accomplish this feat by easing carefully on the controls and executing perfect timing. No, the developers have implemented a style similar to the Context Sensitive Attacks we found in God of War, and similar systems like the ones in Resident Evil 4 and Heavenly Sword. Basically, a bunch of prompts pop up on the screen during this stealth section, and if you can nail the majority of them at the right time, Clank will achieve his goal. Failure will result in bad guys smacking Clank around a bit, and even if you survive the onslaught, you’ll have to restart that particular portion of the level.
Perhaps the most popular footage that’s getting plenty of play time over the Internet is the Neon Metropolis level, where Clank fights his way through a legion of swarming ninjas. The fighting takes place on interlinked rooftops, and here is where Clank has to rely on his fighting ability without attempting to get too tricky with his gadgets. We’ve seen players use that bowtie boomerang but for the most part, Clank is zipping back and forth using a variety of punches, kicks, and what appears to be a leaping dive-bomb attack. Therefore, we really like to see this amount of variety and diversity, because it’s something that should keep the player playing. You’ll never be spending too much time in any one area, and you’ll never grow tired of utilizing one particular gameplay element over and over again. Thanks to the TGS unveiling and several in-game videos, we’ve already seen two very different environments and two very different interaction styles; one is traditional action/platforming while the other takes cues from previously innovative systems.
Stealth attacks will be part of Clank’s arsenal outside those special stages that rely on your reflexes and timing, but we haven’t really seen too many examples of that. What we have seen, though, is another playable character in the game: the bumbling yet surprisingly effective Captain Qwark. Qwark is a little slow but he’s got super-powerful punches and a trusty laser pistol, and there’s even reports of a special do-hicky vacuum-cleaner thing that lets him “suck up” projectiles that might get tossed your way. The gameplay footage we’ve seen puts Qwark in the Jack of all Trades stage, which is yet another level that is vastly different from the other two levels on display in recent videos. So regardless of whether you’re using Clank, Qwark, or any number of abilities that both will have, the action and fun should never slow, not even for a second. And you know what? As different as this one is – aw, no Ratchet – fans of the esteemed series will likely take to Secret Agent Clank like a fish to water.
We don’t have a release date beyond “TBA 2008” just yet, but we’re hoping we see this very promising action/adventure title for the PSP early next year. In the meantime, be sure to check out this Captain Qwark gameplay video and this Attract Mode Gameplay for Clank!
10/18/2007 Ben Dutka