Ratchet & Clank 2 (Written Review)

Another written review, this time of the second Ratchet & Clank game. I'm having a hard time playing through this one, mostly because the game glitched out during my first run through challenge mode forcing me to start over if I wanted those sweet sweet trophies. Gah. Ah well, the review was already written, so I won't let it taint my opinion. Much.

While the first Ratchet and Clank title was well received, it wasn’t a perfect game. One of the biggest criticisms levelled at it was the lead character, who seemed too much like a teenager. Which is ironic, since he actually was a teenager. But there were other flaws as well, and so, when it came to making a sequel, Insomniac took all of those remarks to heart and made a game that dealt with nearly all of them.

Plot-wise, not much at all has been happening for Ratchet and Clank. Nearly a year after their previous adventure though, they’re suddenly plucked from their humdrum life and given a whole new galaxy to save, courtesy of the CEO of MegaCorp, Mr Fizzwidget. Their task is to recover a Protopet, a dangerous prototype stolen from MegaCorp that could cause untold damage if not recovered. But neither the Protopet nor the thief are what they seem…

Despite a strong start, the story quickly unravels and ends up a complete mess. Though the title characters have evolved and become more mature, the overall plot and the twists contained within make little sense, and it’s obvious that one character in particular was forced into the story at the last minute. As a result, the plot jumps all over the place and it’s impossible to take seriously.

Fortunately, the humour that was evident in the first game is back with a vengeance, covering up a lot of the plot’s failings. From the title screen, with Ratchet actually playing his new and old adventures (and a little Jak and Daxter as well), through to the random but brilliant reappearance of the Plumber, the game builds upon the slightly silly style of the first game and develops it into full-blown self-parody, with even the lead characters making fun of the clich├ęs that crop up.

Also vastly improved are the controls, which, as well as being significantly tightened, make use of an all-new strafing system. Though the first game did have something similar, it was rudimentary, awkward to use and almost seemed like an afterthought. Here, it’s been much better implemented, and it quickly becomes essential.

By holding down either L2 or R2, you can move left and right along a straight line, jumping and shooting as you do so. This makes the game feel much more refined, taking a step away from being a platformer with shooting bits added to it. It now feels like a proper action title, with all the benefits that brings, such as full-on combat arenas, where skilled players can earn plenty of money.

Speaking of which, the weapons have received an upgrade as well, with an even more inspired selection of death-dealing devices to choose from. The Mini-Nuke Launcher, Lava Gun and Black Sheepinator are some of the more memorable tools you’ll use to destroy everything in your path, though you’ll also encounter some of the more entertaining guns from the previous game as well.

Another major improvement made is that of health and weapon upgrades. Each time you kill an enemy, the weapon you killed them with will gain experience, as will you. Once a weapon accumulates enough XP, it upgrades into a more powerful version of itself, and when you reach a similar level, your maximum health will increase.

While this ability does add a certain amount of tactical leeway to the game, it is somewhat hampered by the fact that weapons and armour are incredibly expensive to purchase, forcing you to grind for ages if you want them all, and that they only level up the once, or twice if you count the additional upgraded versions available in the returning New Game + styled ‘Challenge Mode’.

As in the first game, Challenge Mode lets you restart the game from the beginning with all your guns and money. But while there was very little else to make you want to do so in the original game, making use of the mode in Going Commando provides players with an actual challenge. The enemies are tougher, there are additional weapon upgrades and there’s a bolt multiplier, which increases when you kill enemies without taking damage. The higher the multiplier, the more money you get. It’s a great way to really add replayability to the game.

The Skill Points return as well, although this time they’re much more forgiving - you may end up gaining some without even realizing it. There’s other collectables as well, including some very well hidden health upgrades and Platinum Bolts, but if you’re a dedicated explorer, then chances are you’ll stumble across most of these as well.

Overall, Going Commando does almost everything a good sequel should. With the exception of the absurd plot and the ludicrous prices of items, it’s a drastic improvement upon the original game, and the additions do nothing but improve the game further still.

Recommendation: Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando is a great game, and thanks to the strafing system, is a huge amount of fun to play. Almost all the improvements made from the original title have been for the better, and if you get the chance to pick it up cheap, I recommend that you do so.

Bottom Line: If you can ignore the silly plot, there’s a lot to like. Not the best of the PS2 Ratchet and Clank titles, but it’s certainly entertaining nonetheless.

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