'Secret Agent Clank' on the PSP certainly has a lot going for it.
The usage of the 'Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters' engine has laid a good foundation on which to build the next iteration. The question is, did the developers take advantage of this?
In the game you take the role of Clank, decked out as a spy ? as the game's title attests to ? complete with tuxedo. Humorous elements like this abound in the game ? reading the various plaques throughout the stages can be particularly hilarious.
The load times are not as bad as in other PSP games, with clever animated backgrounds making the wait bearable. This is certainly a change from the usual loading times that signal a tea-break.
Secret Agent Clank's graphics, although not outstanding, does get the job done, with lighting effects being particularly well done. For example, when gaining a level-up of sorts, the screen will immediately be awash with blue and purple.
There is a wide variety of environments ? from the dark metropolises, to the colourful towns, to the dinghy underground lab ? 'Secret Agent Clank' covers all your typical platformer locales.
The video sequences are colourful, entertaining and simply looks great. One of my pet peeves about gaming is not being allowed to skip cut scenes. Although you can skip them in the case of 'Secret Agent Clank', they're way too entertaining to do so.
The animations can, however, get repetitive. After watching Clank stealthily take out another robot for the millionth time, it can get quite irritating. This is especially evident when going through the dance-mat style mini-games.
But enough of the looks ? let's get into the gameplay, which offers quite a few reasons why 'Secret Agent Clank' is worth playing.
Firstly, there are arena missions for those who prefer bashing and brawling to actual adventuring. When controlling Ratchet, oftentimes you have to beat down hordes of minions in an arena. This combat is extremely satisfying and makes the game a joy to play.
There are various unique weapons on offer, such as a mace that spews fireballs and the shattergun. And to all the pyromaniacs out there, the mine-thrower is your best friend. 'Secret Agent Clank' awards those who stick with one weapon by giving you upgrades, be it by adding a homing ability or simply by amping up the firepower.
The gadgets are also great, with special mention going to the hologram gadget, which enables you to assume the identity of any robot you scan, providing they don't see you of course.
Another great thing of 'Secret Agent Clank' was the lock-picking mini-game, reminiscent of the old Megadrive classic 'Columns', which requires you to match up coloured blocks as they slowly descend from above.
Playing Captain Qwark's missions are particularly fun, with Qwark's hilarious narration in the background as you do battle against boss characters. All of this takes place in real-time, with Qwark's comments reflecting the on-screen action.
Although there is enough variety in the gameplay, there is little incentive to play through levels again other than to collect secret titanium bolts stashed away throughout the stages.
Another irritation is the sparsely spaced save points. A portable game has to have many checkpoints. It might be a small niggle, but don't force me to play a scene over and over again because I did not get to the save point in time.
Overall, 'Secret Agent Clank' is a respectable game that is deserving of at least a rental. While not as great as its predecessors, it's a great gift for your kids. Just don't expect it to tie them over for too long.