Monday, September 29, 2008

Ratchet & Clank Rundown

As pretty much anyone who knows my gaming habits already knows, I'm a huge fan of the Ratchet & Clank series by Insomniac. I was a huge fan of their Spyro games before that (only theirs, mind), and I find their platform games to be generally very well put together.

Since I've recently finished Quest for Booty, I thought I'd put together a run-down of my thoughts on every R&C game. Why? Hasn't 4 dead months taught you anything? I need content!

  • Ratchet & Clank - A very good game. Lots of variety, though the non-standard sections (jet bike racing etc) were very annoying.
  • Going Commando - The best in the series, expanding and improving everything from the first. A wide variety of levels and gameplay, with the extra bits not being too hard. Excellent level design gave a lot of replayability to individual levels, searching for hidden bonuses and skill points. A great selection of weapons, and the experience & upgrading system is nice.
  • Up Your Arsenal - A slight downturn here, it definitely felt a bit weaker. The level design wasn't quite as good, and the game was shorter and had more focus on multiplayer and providing replayability through arenas.
  • Deadlocked - I never played this one, due to every review pointing out the very heavy multiplayer focus. Apparently the single player was essentially reduced to arenas and challenge courses.
  • Size Matters - The first PSP game in the series. I had high hopes for this after seeing what had been done on the handheld with the Jak & Daxter series. Even ignoring the controls and camera, it was a weak title - poor level design (very linear, and with a focus on instant death traps and falls), and a heavy focus on space hover board races which were rubbish.
  • Secret Agent Clank - The second PSP game. I've only played the demo, but it seems a bit better than the first, by slowing the game down and downplaying the action.
  • Tools of Destruction - The first PS3 title, and second best in series overall. A return to having a great variety of levels and gameplay, though not as much as at the PS2 heyday. The weapon selection is fairly boring though (you get some interesting stuff early on, but later it's all generic flamethrowers, shotguns, etc.), but it introduces single-use gadgets that have more imagination. Surprisingly, given previous titles, the arena section wasn't as well fleshed out, and had a very limted number of stages.
  • Quest for Booty - A downloadable budget titles on the PS3. It continues the story from Tools of Destruction, and features only Ratchet. For around a third of the game you only have your wrench, though eventually you are given a handful of other weapons from ToD. The level design is incredibly linear, and the usual hidden skill points and platinum bolts are missing. Generally I found it very disappointing, even given the price.
So, what does all of that mean? By my scientific calculations, the next PS3 game in the series should be the best ever Ratchet & Clank adventure. Unless they release more of the sorry downloadable episodes.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Crazy Things Internet People Write About Games

Sonic Adventure 2 [...] it should be respected for trying to make the Sonic games take themselves seriously.
Yeah, that's exactly what a game series about an incredibly fast blue hedgehog and his double-tailed fox chum needed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Force Unleashed

First, a cautionary tale about pre-orders. The previews and whatnot for Force Unleashed looked ok so being the spend-happy chap that I am, I decided to pre-order it. Then a demo was released (or unleashed? No, let's go with released), and I got about halfway through before getting very bored with it. But it had been a while, so I'd forgotten my pre-order existed. The reviews started  coming out saying that the game was average at best, "I might get that when it's cheap" I thought. Then I received an email saying my pre-order copy had been shipped. Balls.

Though it's turned out better than I expected. I'm not entirely sure why, but I'm finding the full game to be entertaining enough. Still not £40 entertaining, but definitely better than I was expecting from the demo.

A quick run down of the pros and cons, specifically for Dave, who asked for one:


  • The force powers are nicely done, and the physics engine is very good. The two combine to ensure that when it's going well you feel like a true ultimate badass.
  • The graphics are detailed and colourful, and the game can throw a lot of enemies at you, which is also useful for the ultimate badass factor.
  • The story fits in very nicely (if you didn't know, this bridges the gap between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope), and the acting is better than in the three Starwars prequels. Admittedly not a high bar to have to hurdle, but still.
  • The sound is all you would expect. Stormtrooper radio chatter, appropriate character themes & scores, blasters and lightsabers make all the right pewing and swooshing noises.
  • The lightsaber and force power upgrades and customisation are nice, allowing you to tailor your saber from the situation you're in. Also any experience you earnt from killing enemies is kept even if you die, so levelling up will gradually improve you even if you're in a difficult section.
  • The planets and locations that haven't featured in a big-screen tale are a bit lacking, and don't feel as good as rampaging through locations you recognise. One particular mushroom planet is rubbish, has annoying and ugly enemies, and you go there more than once.
  • The controls and camera are utterly hateful. Lock on is based on the direction your character is facing, rather than the camera, and small tweaks to your facing to change the focus of your lock on are pretty much impossible. The targetting is as likely to lock on to an inoffensive metal bin as it is to select the giant metal laser-spitting foe stodd next to it, which causes no end of swearing. Jumping feels floaty and imprecise, which makes the very occasional platforming section (thankfully mostly just used to reach bonus pickups) frustrating.
  • In order to keep the combat varied, they have been forced to create a range of enemies who are able to effectively fight at close quarters with a lightsaber-wileding sith. Usually this means that enemies take several hits to kill, and are usually able to block your attacks. Some enemies are completely immune to force powers, which plays against the title's strengths.
  • You can fairly easily get into situations where an enemy attack will stun you or knock you to the ground, and then other enemies will continue firing rockets at you, which do the same as son as you're on your feet. You can quickly go from full to no health.
  • Load times to access the options menu. No, I'm not kidding. The menus are ugly too, with some weird scan-line effects that can make some heading text more difficult to read, despite being on a HD screen.
The other stuff
  • There are mid-level save points, and they're fairly regular. Though every now and then you'll hit a section where you're forced to fight a few tough battles in a row without a save.
  • It has quick time events. They don't actually bother me that much in this game, since you get a lot of time to react, and except for a couple of situations, they're entirely avoidable (ie, the mid-level bosses and large enemies can be killed using a QTE, but equally you can just fry them to death with your force lightning). 

Back Once Again?

No, I didn't discover SingStar and then give up on gaming.

Maybe it will last longer this time. I have been very busy both at work and at home, and the spare time I've had I've spent playing games instead of writing about them. And when I have been writing about them, it's been on message boards rather than here, which is rather stupid of me.

I will try and do better.