Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal (2004)
for PlayStation 2
Developed by Insomniac Games
Published by Sony Computer Entertainment America

There aren't many games that embody the notion of fun, but the Ratchet & Clank series, the first two being Ratchet & Clank and Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando, has been carrying the banner in the modern era. Not surprising since all three were developed by Insomniac, who also created PlayStation One's Spyro the Dragon trilogy, another series that is just, simply, fun.

Reaching just the right friction point between too easy and too difficult, you travel from planet to planet, through exaggerated, cartoony science-fiction environments, assembling a collection of absurdly destructive weapons and gadgets. The guns are one of the main attractions of this 3D platformer, because they give you a wide variety of ways to dispatch your foes. You start out with the standards like the shotgun and blaster rifle, but as you continue, you get weapons that get progressively more outlandish. Among them are: a gun that creates dimensional rifts to vacuum up distant enemies, one that shoots infectious green globs that make the aliens turn on each other; and of course, the Quack-o-Ray (successor to the Morph-o-Ray), which turns them into ducks that lay explosive eggs.

The story, as usual, isn't terribly important, but adds a terrifically humorous layer to the proceedings. This time around, Clank (the furry Ratchet's little robot sidekick) has become an intergalactic superstar due to their previous games' exploits, and stars in TV and films as a secret agent. But he must put his new career on hold as the main villain, Dr. Nefarious, has returned from hiding to turn all the galaxy's organic creatures into robots. First you have to find the missing Captain Quark, an amusing ally from the previous games, who has lost his memory and is now living on a jungle planet inhabited by cyclopic monkeys. Once that's done, Quark takes over the mission and assembles the Q-Force, a ragtag group of pathetic side characters from the first two games, and onward you go.

The main quest itself doesn't present much of a challenge, but there are plenty of other ways the game becomes tough, perhaps too tough. First, you are able to level your weapons up quite a bit, and it only continues in Challenge Mode once you beat the game. There are also, as usual, several special "bolts" and cryptic skill challenges, in addition to golden character trophies, hidden throughout the levels, making you explore every little nook and cranny.

Most of the time, you'll just be running around and blowing stuff up, and that's fun. Almost everything in sight can be smashed or exploded, and adding to the chaos is that everything you destroy showers you with bolts, the in-game currency. Fully upgrading all your weapons to their maximum levels of devastation takes an obscene amount, so it only encourages you to annihilate everything in sight.

Insomniac also saw fit to include an online portion, but all I can say about that is "whatever." That's all well and good, but a single-player game is a single-player game, and I honestly don't care what kind of multiplayer component you add to it. From what I hear, it's pretty good, but I still don't give a shit. It doesn't bode well for the next game, however, which is set to be mostly online, but three Ratchet & Clank games that are more or less the same thing is good enough for me. The series could be killed off now and I'd be satisfied.

Or it could go in an indefinite Mega-Man fashion; that's fine, too.

Review by Bock Lee Temjin