PlayStation 2
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Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment of America Developer: Insomniac Games ESRB Rating: Teen (Mild Violence)

Ratchet & Clank is the first game in the stellar action/platformer franchise created by independent game developer Insomniac, a talented group know for their work on the platformer Spyro the Dragon series for the original Playstation. On this outing, however, Insomniac takes takes platforming to the next level, mixing traditional elements of the genre with explosive and addicting action. How good is the end result? Well, let\'s take a look.

Gameplay

Traditional platforming formula is where a character jumps arounds and completes puzzle and adventure-like challenges to collect some sort of item. The action in a platformer usually consists of punching or jumping on an enemy. In R&C, you control the main character, a fuzzy Lombax (a cross between a cat and a rabbit) named Ratchet (Clank is his robot sidekick/jetpack). Ratchet runs arounds and does a few of your traditional platforming challenges, but one of the big focuses of the game is taking your weapons (twenty in all, not counting the standard wrench weapon) and blowing up enemies to bits. It\'s quite addicting, and the weapons are just fantastic. There\'s the Devastator, a rocket launcher that...well, launches rockets at tougher enemies. Want a bit more precise control? There\'s the Visibomb, another weapon similar to the Devastator except when you fire the missile the perspective switches to that of the missile\'s, and you then fly it to its target. For taking on swarms of smaller enemies, there\'s the Pyrocrictor, which is essentially a flamethrower, and the Blaster, which is a laser gun that spits out bolts at a rapid fire pace. Feeling a bit tactical? Try setting out a couple of mines with the Mine Glove, then using the Taunter to draw enemies right into a rather explosive surprise. There\'s also little bots that will make kamikaze runs at enemies, and floating drones that provide covering fire. For melee combat there\'s the Wallapor, a boxing glove with a punch (pardon the pun), and the wrench, a useful tool for smacking enemies around. All of the combat is very well designed and implemented, and props to Insomniac for a job well done. Also, all weapons are purchased using an economy system. The player collects bolts (apparently it\'s the galactic currency) and can exchange them at weapon vendors scattered on different planets. Ammo can also be purchased here. Of course, this is a platformer, and there are a couple of platforming challenges for Ratchet to get past. These are also well designed, despite the addictiveness of the combat, are still quite fun to do. The challenges take advantage of the Star Wars-style futuristic environment that the game takes place in as well as other natural objects to add to the difficulty and interest. Some challenges require navigating around a set of laser tripwires that will fry you if you touch them. Not too bad right? But get this: you have to do it while slipping and sliding on ice. Now that spices it up a bit! To help with the platforming, Ratchet also gets a healthy dose of gadgets that were apparently specifically designed for these kinds of situations. There\'s the Grind Boots, which are used in Tony Hawk-style rail grinding sequences that involve jumping and flipping to dodge pursuing enemies, traps, and other obstacles. There\'s the Helipack, which is an upgrade given to Clank that allows the players to make extended jumps both horizontally and vertically. It also comes with a glide feature to help cover some distance. The most well-implemented feature in the game in my opinion is the Hookshot. Its uses range from getting from one area to the next on a standard target (where it pulls you up), using momentum from swinging back and forth (on special targets) to get to a higher area, or sometimes as a challenge all in its own, such as swinging from target to target (usually on something moving, say, a spaceship). If Insomniac failed with this game it\'s in its story. Short story simple, there isn\'t much depth there at all, and it doesn\'t seem like they were concerned with it. Basically, Ratchet and Clank get together to stop a menace that\'s terrorizing the galaxy, and it doesn\'t stray far from that simple concept. The biggest thing is a more or less of a twist halfway through. However, the cutscenes (the element of a game that usually develops the story) are still very fun to watch, simply because they are very funny! The writing efforts of Insomniac clearly went into this part, and all of the jokes are very clever and nicely done. Not to mention hilarious most of the time. The average length of this game is about ten to fifteen hours, depending on how good you are. Possibly less. But once you\'ve finished the game there are many bonus features and oppurtunities to take hold of. There\'s secret videos to unlock by completing skill points (special miscellaneous challenges that are quite interesting). There are the \'Golden Weapons\' to obtain, which are essentially upgraded versions of the originals (usually the power, ammo capacity, and sometimes an extra feature or two will be added). These can be purchased by cashing in \'Gold Bolts\', which are rare forms of the galactic currency spread throughout Ratchet and Clank\'s universe. In all, these bonus features (which are really fun to do) will add on another playthrough or so of the game.

Graphics

Insomniac is currently using the graphics engine developed by partner/developer Naughty Dog (in exchange for sharing with them any advances they might make in the technology), which is well-developed. They take great advantage of it here to deliver stunning environments that are chock-full of color and activity. The style of the visuals in R&C is very much cartoonish. All the characters, enemies, spacecraft, etc. look like something out of a Cartoon Network sci-fi series. Not that that\'s bad. Not at all. Everything has its own distinct (and colorful) style to it. The animation is quite superb, with everything flowing smoothly. This is really noticable in the in-game cutscenes. All of the characters emote very well and really add to the humor of the game. It really helps it come to life. Also, most of the visuals actually lack the rough-edge look that plagues so many Playstation 2 games these days. All the visuals run at high framerates.

Sound

The audio in this game is also pleasurable and easy on the ears. The audio clips are done well by the sound design team and are properly edited into the right places to add to the atmosphere of the game. This is most noticable with the weapon effects all sound incredible, and often they will make them seem more powerful than they actually are. Very nice. The music isn\'t particularly memorable, but isn\'t horrible, so at least it more or less succeeds there. Also of note: R&C supports Dolby Pro Logic II, which allows for a more involved sound experience by doing a better job with handling surround sound, which means that the sounds that would be coming from behind you come from back speakers, from your right through speakers to your right, and so on. So if you have those, hook \'em up to really become immersed in the game.

Stability

Not much to say here. There aren\'t much bugs in the game that I encountered. The worst was when I fell off a cliff and died, but then the game wouldn\'t quick load and just sat there. To correct it I simply had to restart the game (everything worked fine after that), although I did lose the progress I had made since my last save. This was a one-time incident, and nothing else at all occured.

Controls/Interface

The controls in R&C are pretty finely tuned and easy to grasp. The biggest issue I have here is that for most of the game there is no strafe feature. Given how much combat there is in the game, this gets a little annoying during the more intense battles. There is a strafe feature later in the game with the jetpack where you go into a hover and can manuever side to side, but it\'s a little hard to control, and Ratchet moves too slow for it to really be effective, at least like it should. Other than that, everything was great. The menus are easy to navigate, and while not exactly the most stylish, they certainly look more than good enough.

Violence

- Killing non-human, fictional beings (-3.5 pts.) - No blood (-0 pts.) - Body parts can be visually unattached (-1.5 pts.) In R&C there\'s a lot of explosive violence, but most of it is more cartoonish, and virtually all of it is against robots and aliens. There\'s no blood, although some of the aliens (called Ameboids) when killed with more or less explode with slimy parts flying for a couple of feet. These don\'t look particularly real at all, though, and they quickly dissappear.

Language

- No foul language (-0 pts.) - No sexual dialogue (-0 pts.) There is no profanity in the game. A word is hinted at once but is never actually said. There is no dialogue that I would consider sexual in nature.

Sexual Content/Nudity

- No sexual content (-0 pts.) - No nudity (-0 pts.) There is no sexual content or nudity in R&C.

Occult/Supernatural
Cultural/Moral/Ethical

- No authority issues involved with this game (-0 pts.) - No prejudicial bias in the game (-0 pts.) - A few instances of gross humor (-1.5 pts.) - Poor value decisions are promoted through the game, but are not required in order to progress (-1.5 pts.) Ratchet and Clank are out on a mission to stop an evil person from appalling destruction that would suit his greedy pleasures and save the galaxy. A bit of the game\'s humor is crude/gross in nature, although it never gets out of control and doesn\'t appear too often (about half the level of Shrek 2). There is a good deal of explosive violence, but it is cartoonish and fantasy-like in nature and doesn\'t appear to have any kinds of negative effects. Violence is also used in the game to stop an evil menace and is not used simply for the sake of using it.

Overall

Ratchet & Clank is a fun and addictive action/platformer from Insomniac and as a game is very successful. There are a bit of issues on the morality side of the house, but they aren\'t too big of problems overall.

Scores

Gaming Score Gameplay: 19/20 Graphics: 10/10 Sound: 9/10 Stability: 4/5 Controls/Interface: 4/5 Total Gaming Score: 46/50
Appropriateness Score Violence: 5/10 Language: 10/10 Sexual Content/Nudity: 10/10 Occult/Supernatural: 10/10 Cultural/Moral/Ethical: 7/10 Total Appropriateness Score: 42/50

Total Sscore: 88/100

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About Us:

Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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