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PSP Fanboy review: Secret Agent Clank

What went wrong? After an excellent first outing on PSP, High Impact Games has created a follow-up to Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters that's worse in almost every single aspect. Everything, from the presentation to the graphics to the core gameplay, has been downgraded in this PSP-exclusive. Could this be PSP's biggest software disappointment of the year?

The premise of Secret Agent Clank is quite intriguing. Inexplicably, Ratchet has broken into a museum and has stolen the universe's largest diamond. But what's his intent? Secret Agent Clank is sent on the case. The experience of playing as Clank is similar to Ratchet, but there's a greater emphasis on stealth and gadgetry. Busting out the big guns simply won't work with Ratchet's diminuitive friend.

While the concept works, the execution is simply sloppy. The promising story is essentially "figured out" within the first hour of the game. Having to play through the levels stealthily is cool ... until you have to start fighting with the game's camera to get a good look around corners and objects. Clank can do stealth takedowns on enemies if he sneaks up behind them, but this feature is a bit finnicky. The area in which the stealth takedown can be activated requires too much precision, and Clank's takedown animation never feels naturally integrated into the game.

Sure, we don't need Metal Gear levels of depth to the gameplay in Secret Agent Clank, but what we're left with is disappointingly primitive. The environment is incredibly static, and while Clank can disguise himself in certain areas, there's almost no reason to do so. The gadgets that Clank come across are cute, but none are very effective against enemies.

Beyond the standard platforming sequences, Clank will find himself going through a number of mini-games, such as a music rhythm game that takes cues from DDR and other similar games. These sequences are activated when Clank must perform pre-scripted feats of acrobatics, and they're simply not fun. The music in these sequences are bland, and the key input feels imprecise. Other minigames, such as a lock-cracking puzzle game, and a ski racing sequence, all feel equally half-baked.

In between story missions, players will have a chance to play as Ratchet or Captain Quark in side missions that have almost no bearing on the story itself. The Ratchet missions are incredibly combat-focused, and are boring and frustrating. Having to face a near endless stream of repetitive enemies gets extremely tedious, especially with the most boring arsenal of weapons found in a Ratchet game to date. All of these battles take place in a circular arena, a poor design choice considering the game's lackluster camera. Size Matters smartly featured linear level designs, where players could do combat facing forward most of the time. In Secret Agent Clank, enemies spawn around you, and you will be fighting the camera as much as the deadly enemies.

If there's one saving grace for Secret Agent Clank, it must be the excellent Captain Quark missions. These levels feature some truly hilarious and ridiculous setpieces that really highlight the humor the franchise is known for. The over-the-top premise of the Captain Quark missions really showcase the team's creative abilities, and only reminds us how disappointing the rest of the game is.

We're really surprised at how poor Secret Agent Clank turned out. As the summer's flagship PSP exclusive, we really expected more. But, poor gameplay design and lackluster presentation makes this one of the most disappointing PSP titles we've played in awhile. If you enjoyed Size Matters, you may want to rent this one. However, for everyone else, we recommend finding a budget copy of Size Matters and enjoying that instead.

PSP Fanboy score: 5.5

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