Tag Archives: Ratchet and Clank

My problem with the instant game collection from PlayStation Plus

DP-PlaystationPlus-01-1

In this post, I’m going to complain about free games. Well, not just free videogames, but also time, specifically the fact that I just don’t have as much of it as I once did during my high school and college days. If you’re not interested in reading about a grown man whining over the fact that he ultimately no longer has the sort of lackadaisical lifestyle that allows for gaming on end from noon to night, you might want to click away. Really, it’s okay.

Right. So, a full free year of PlayStation Plus came with that classic white PS3 bundle I bought a few weeks ago. This is why that bundle is also dubbed “the instant collection,” though instant is relative to how fast you can download giant-sized videogames. With PlayStation Plus, you can immediately log on to the PlayStation Store and begin downloading a swath of videogames for both the PS3 and PS Vita. I’m only going to list the PS3 titles here, but check out everything I’ve now downloaded and installed since becoming a Plus member:

  • Closure
  • inFamous 2
  • Little Big Planet 2
  • Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One
  • Guardians of Middle-earth
  • Darksiders
  • Megaman 9
  • Megaman 10
  • Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition
  • Dungeon Defenders
  • Anomaly: Warzone Earth
  • Quantum Conundrum
  • Payday: The Heist
  • NBA Jam on Fire Edition
  • The King of Fighters XIII
  • Retro City Rampage
  • Foosball 2012

Oh boy. That’s…um…carry the six…yeah, that’s 17 games. With a new addition every week, I guess. And that’s not even including the straight-up free-to-play games, like Jetpack Joyride and DC Universe. In short, there’s a lot to play, so long as you remain a Plus member, which I’m definitely doing for at least a year.

Of the list above, I’ve sampled a few and simply only downloaded and installed the rest. With hopes of playing them soon. Maybe not today or tomorrow or even next week. But some time in the near future. I tried out Mega Man 9 for a few minutes only to remember that I’m horrible at all Mega Man games save for Mega Man Legends. For Darksiders, I played up to nearly the same part that I did on the PC version, which is not very far, shortly before you gain wings. Lastly, I’ve played an hour or two of Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One, which is not very good for a Ratchet & Clank game, especially when you are playing it solo. The humor and colorful characters are still there, but the gameplay is severely linear and not at all welcome to customization. You follow a path, and you shoot enemies along it with a generic gun. Pretty disappointing.

Now, many of these above games are full-fledged titles, like InFamous 2 and Little Big Planet 2, with potentially a ton of content to absorb. Story, collectibles, side quests, level requirements, and so on. Others, like the smaller Closure and Retro City Rampage, seem more quickly accessed, but still present several hours worth of playing. Regardless of size, I am trying to remain focused on only a few games currently. I mean, I’ve still only put like eight hours into Ni no Kuni, and that’s a game I really really want to play more of. Thankfully, they aren’t going anywhere soon, but then again, more is going to get added to my instant collection, multiplying like Gremlins, until there’s too many to keep track of. At least that’s how I see it.

In short: too many games, not enough time. Woe is me.

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A shortened, but solid adventure in Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters

A quick flash of memory: I’m 24 years old, in Target, aimlessly wandering the aisles by the home entertainment section, just killing time. I am alone, as I’m wont to be. I walk by the videogames section and hear that distinct sound of bolts being absorbed by Ratchet as he moves about. Sticking out from an endcap was a demo PSP, with Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters there for anyone to experience. Now, at this point in my life, I had already devoured the original Ratchet & Clank trilogy with extreme pleasure during my formative years, though reflecting back on it I’m not sure which of the three I never beat, but there is one that I didn’t see to the end, and it had to do with a boss battle and grinding rails and losing a lot of health from one hit. Hmm. Anyways, back to Target; I’m standing there, holding a PSP attached to a wall, staring down at a game that looks just like its home console counterparts, a bit of drool beginning to form and escape over my lower lip. Alas, it was not meant to be, as I had already decided on my portable system then and there, a Nintendo DS.

But man, I continued to want to play that Ratchet & Clank game, as well as all the others that came out afterwards for the PlayStation 3, but the systems were not mine or ever going to be mine, and so it was not meant to be. Boo, wah, a thousand tears. That is until I found a PS2 port of Size Matters at my local GameStop last year for a fair price, probably during their buy-2-get-1-free promotions. Generally, console games get ported to handheld devices with devastating results due to size restrictions, but it all switching around the other way seems to be more frequent these days.

It starts off with a vacation. Heck, Ratchet and Clank have surely earned it. Heroic work is quite tiring–at least that’s what I’m told. A young, red-headed girl named Luna–voiced by that woman from MadTV and the one who walks Carrie’s father on Queen of Kings–stumbles upon them and asks for their help with her school report on heroes. Unfortunately, some robots show up and kidnap her, and then Clank finds an ancient artifact from the race of intelligent beings called the Technomites. Captain Qwark shows up too, bummed about never knowing his parents. The plot thickens quickly after that, but saying any more would ruin some surprises.

Gameplay remains, as always, a mix of platforming and shooting. Guns level up with use, and for me, it seemed like they leveled up a whole lot faster than ever before. By final boss time, all of my favorite weapons were at their max level, and I never used the Scorcher or Suck Cannon once, despite enjoying them in previous games. I’ll pour one out for them later on. Ratchet’s health increases too as he defeats enemies, eventually capping at 50 for the first playthrough. There’s a handful of planet to explore, but, as the title indicates, they are not as open and vast as previous games in the franchise. I mean, that makes sense for a portable game, as the planets are almost cut into distinct sections, rather than flowing from one to another naturally.

The concept of armor for Ratchet–which I love–came into play with Going Commando, strengthening itself in Up Your Arsenal, becoming pivotal in Deadlocked, and turning into a toybox in Size Matters. As you travel from planet to planet, you’ll collect pieces of full armor sets, like the Crystallix boots or the Wildfire helmet, naturally aiming for a full set. In the meantime, you can wear any combination of armor pieces to make your own type of suit, which varies on damage reduction and appearance. I played around with this a lot, finding new types of suits simply by mixing and matching. Seems like there are more armor sets in New Game+, too. In the end, I used the full Mega-Bomb Armor set the most.

Seeing as this version is a port from the PSP, visually and technically…it fails. On a larger screen, the environments appear much more bland and empty, and the game itself locked up on me twice for no reason. Cutscenes appear very compressed and lower quality than expected, but other than that, it plays fine. Not the greatest in the franchise, and not the better of the two, but it’s still another Ratchet & Clank game to devour.

Okay, now for something else: Size Matters is a funny title. One, it continues the trend of Insomniac’s games being heavy on the innuendoes despite their Pixar-like look, feel, and overly friendly vibe. Seriously, here’s a couple of ’em, and just try to keep a clean mind as you read: Going Commando, Up Your Arsenal, Quest for Booty, Full Frontal Assault. Right. Two, this title also has to do with the fact that you’re playing a PS2-size game on a tiny portable system. And three, for plot’s sake, you are battling against the Technomites, which are teeny yet highly intelligent beings, and so, on occasion, Ratchet will shrink in size and/or Clank will grow to massive heights.

As with all the Ratchet & Clank games I’ve played so far, you can start over with a New Game+, keeping your weapons, skill points, armor, and bolts, but upping the difficulty, especially for the bosses, and dropping in new versions of leveled guns, as well as special armor sets. Mmm mmm. Usually, I skip New Game+ options, like I did in Deadlocked–yeah, I really need to write a blog post on why some day soon–but I immediately started over, excited to keep going. So far, it seems like you can now add a multiplier to your bolts collecting by defeating enemies in succession without taking a hit, which will definitely help in procuring those finer, mightier weapon editions. Plus, figuring out skill points and finding those large silver bolts to unlock Big Head mode is a totally legit excuse to keep playing.

2012 Game Review Haiku, #29 – Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters

Otto Destruct plots
To steal everyone’s knowledge
Ratchet, Clank stop him

For all the games I complete in 2012, instead of wasting time writing a review made up of points and thoughts I’ve probably already expressed here in various posts at Grinding Down, I’m instead just going to write a haiku about it. So there.

A roundup of PS2 videogames I came close to completing

Though my number of Xbox 360 and/or DS games is beginning to catch up, I’d say that PlayStation 2 games still make up the largest chunk of my gaming collection. It’s a console and gaming generation where I spent that special age where one could first buy games for themselves thanks to a job and second play them fully with little stress, especially during summer vacations and homework-empty college weekends, to get in the way, and so a lot of bucks were dropped on digital entertainment. If you’d like a bit of time capsule-ness, I bought a lot of games from a little store called FuncoLand.

That said, I never completed every game I got, but a few of them came quite close to seeing credits. Real close. Alas, they either proved too difficult for me or I just didn’t have the endurance to keep going, and so I moved on, leaving them behind in a killer standstill on my memory card, just waiting for me to return, to finish them off. Many moons later, I don’t know if I ever will, but here’s what I remember about a few of them. Please understand that the below musings are shaded in gray and hazy as heck, as I’m going off memory here and trying not to look too much up.

Here we go, PS2 games I couldn’t quite finish…

Dark Cloud 2

Hmm. It’s pretty fuzzy, but I know I got as far up as the final boss. Or maybe the final boss before the final boss. Meh. I remember the main guy with a wrench and mystical girl are still traveling through time a bit, and we’re in a castle foyer or something. Right in front of a big set of winding stairs, at least. The boss is a flying/floating enemy, making it hard to hit unless you are using a gun or the Ridepod mechanism. Never could seem to get past it.

Then again, there were so many side-thingies to do in Dark Cloud 2–like taking pictures for ideas, creating new inventions, fishing (tournaments, breeding, battles), that golf minigame called Spheda once you cleared a dungeon floor–that I probably got distracted from trying to beat the boss and just do/see everything. And then I eventually gave this game, as well as my copy of Suikoden V, to my sister in Arizona to play. Years passed by, and she returned these two back to me last Christmas after trading in her own PS2 and games. A part of me wants to pop back in and just see what I need to do to kick the evil dude’s butt, and then another part of me–the sickest part–wants to start the whole game over. Yeaaaaaaah…

Suikoden V

Honestly, I haven’t a clue story-wise where I stopped playing. Somewhere after betrayals hit, but before revelations and resolutions came into it all. Had to be really close to the end. I remember a one-on-one fight with my deranged aunt, and then an epic boss fight in some mountainous area. Maybe against a three-headed dragon. Or three enemies. I dunno. Three something seems to be right. But my party probably got wiped out way too fast, and the thought of grinding scared me away. I should load up Suikoden V sometime soon though just to check out my castle again. It’s been way too long since I’ve gone around exploring my castle headquarters in a Suikoden game, and seeing just how much Konami does not care for this franchise, it might be a long, long time until one can again.

God of War

Couldn’t kick Ares’ ass. Simple as that. No matter how many times I would dodge and roll and swipe and stab and yell crazy yells–it was all fruitless. You grew to the size of a mountain thanks to Pandora’s box voodoo and still couldn’t take down the god of war with his flaming hair and boney wings. Boo.

The Mark of Kri

I’ve actually been thinking about this game a lot ever since I ran through Mark of the Ninja. And no, it’s not just because both use mark in their names. The Mark of Kri is a really odd creation, a mix of Disney-esque visuals and then excruciating painful and violent death animations. You play it mostly as a stealthy Rau, going across entire levels unnoticed, pinning enemies to walls or simply dismembering them with a lot of flair. There’s some really great level design and aesthetics in this underrated title from 2002, that’s for sure.

Unfortunately, the final scenario for this game is anything but quiet, as you must face an endless horde of bad guys, turning a scheming stalker into a generic hack-n-slash warrior. And it’s a tough fight. You are basically surrounded by goons, all with different button prompt presses over their heads, and you just have to try your luck to take as many out as you can before your life bar depletes. Obviously, I haven’t been able to do it.

Ratchet & Clank

Chairman Drek, multiple stages with falling platforms, and rail-grinding–those are the aspects I remember most from the final fight in Ratchet & Clank, the only game in the original trilogy I did not see to its end. Yup, I still haven’t completed the first game that got me to love a lombax, a quirky robot, and the craziest weapons ever crafted. I’ve been able to finish two-thirds of the fight just fine, but that last part, with a time limit and an intimidating Drek in some kind of bomb-tossing machine, always get me. Plus, later games introduced way more health for Ratchet, but here you only get so many chances to get hit.

Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

Not much has happened since I last spoke about my progress–or lack thereof–in Dragon Quest VIII. I wandered the countryside a bit, tried my hand at the casino, fought some monsters for coin, tried the next rank in the Monster Battle Arena again with no luck, and glanced through my list of uncrafted weapons/armor for the melting pot thingy. 84 hours logged is no joke though, so I am still considering this one to be an almost there, even if a whole lot of grinding for stronger weapons and gear is required to beat the boss–who is not the final boss–blocking any current progress.

So, those were some of my close, but not close enough titles. I’m sure there’s a few more that I’m forgetting right now, but I’d need to go through my collection case by case to figure it all out. In the meantime, what games–PlayStation 2 or other–have you come really close to finishing, but just haven’t as of yet? Speak up below, and maybe you’ll find some inspiration to finish the job!

Outernauts and the nature of the human being to face challenges

It seems like, once a year now, I try another Facebook game. I gave The Sims Social a go for a decent bit back in late 2011, eventually moving away when my house full of trees and bushes took forever to load, as well as the fact that I was running out of complete-able quests. Before that, in 2010, I enjoyed my short time–and I do mean short–as a chocobo rancher. I don’t really desire gaming on Facebook other than the occasional round of Words With Friends, and I’m totally aware of its constant trappings and never-yielding plot to annoy my online friends, fill my wall up with ridiculous claims, and attempt to have me spend real cash-money on things like Sim coins and star gems and poodle bucks.

And so, here we are in 2012, and I’m just getting into Outernauts. It’s got some good and some bad, and, for the time being, I’m willing to overlook the bad to embrace the good. But I can’t see this experience lasting for very long though.

Right. So, Outernauts. Basically, it’s Pokemon in space. And there’s nothing wrong with that. At all. In fact, it’s a stellar idea, and I’m somewhat surprised we haven’t seen it yet; if a game like this already exists, I missed it or it didn’t shout its premise loud enough for the world to hear. I mean, there are plenty of Pokemon clones out there–Digimon and Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker, for instance–but neither of those focus on space critters and traversing different galaxies. Outernauts does, and it makes much more sense when you realize that Insomniac Games is behind it. Yes, more from the creative minds behind all the zany weapons, monsters, and planets in the Ratchet and Clank series. That’s actually what grabbed my interest first before the whole “gotta catch ’em all” aspect.

For a free-to-play Facebook game, surprisingly, there’s a story. I can’t remember the specifics or names, so I’ll just use this generic text from Insomniac’s website for Outernauts:

As a member of United Earth’s elite Outernaut force, you’ll encounter both friends and foes as you uncover the riddle behind the mysterious “ancients” while battling pirates and evil corporations seeking to control the galaxy.

All in all, you’re looking for a thing, and so is an evil corporation, and to stop them from getting the thing, you need to battle and beat them with a team of exotic beasts. You level these beasts up by battling them and tweaking their abilities.

Right now, my cosmic team of battling beasties consists of these:

Note that those are the nicknames I gave my beasts, not their actual names. I think my leading one is a…Pumasear? Scorl is a Scorling. Can’t tell you what the other two are. I don’t remember. I have too many ‘mon names in my brain to differentiate this from that and that from this. Anyways, Purrburn is my strongest beast, mostly because I used all my Star Gems on it, not knowing that those are the “FarmVille bucks” of the game, limited and then only acquirable thereafter with real money. Oh well.

The music and artwork and design of everything is great, classic Insomniac charm. Colorful and inventive, with the gusto of space opera and pomp of Buzz Lightyear. Everything is easily explained and clear, and there’s lots of carrots on sticks to chase after. However, as with all Facebook games, the most disappointing and distrusting element is…energy. To battle, use 3 energy. To clear a path, use energy. To gather fuel, use energy. Need more energy? Pay up or wait awhile. The point is, you run out of energy real fast, and so playing Outernauts quickly becomes a game of management over experiencing, and that’s not too much fun. But I’d rather do as much as I can at once rather than blow my time on a wasted fight, which ends with my beasts being knocked out and unable to battle any more.

I’ll keep logging in for now to give Outernauts ten or fifteen minutes of my attention each day, but eventually I’ll walk away. Too many strange limitations in how many beasts I can have in my party and what I can actually do in a certain span of time, and I can just easily go back to my copies of Pokemon HeartGold, Pokemon White, or Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker to fill in the gaps.

Games Completed in 2011, #17 – Ratchet: Deadlocked

This isn’t the greatest analogy, but it’s all I got this early in the morning and with only one mediocre cup of coffee to keep my membranes ticking: Ratchet: Deadlocked is the adopted kid in Insomniac’s Ratchet and Clank series. You can just tell that it’s not naturally comfortable around its older siblings, what with their love of platforming and exploring open planets. Instead, Deadlocked focuses on shooting and mission-based objectives, giving the game a quick sort of feel; there’s no wandering around, looking for hidden secrets; there’s just the more or less same-same missions on various planets, divided up by hilarious sports-like faux commentary and jesting cutscenes.

Initially, I was a little put off. The missions were so straightforward that I found myself annoyed that I couldn’t wander around as I pleased. Instead, I had to go from point A to point B, shooting all enemies, and so long as I lived to tell the story, that was good enough to make it to the next mission. Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. These aren’t really missions…they’re events in a reality TV game show that…um, let me start at the beginning.

In Deadlocked, Ratchet and Clank get kidnapped by Gleeman Vox, the head-honcho behind Dreadzone, a reality TV game show that shares some links with our very own American Gladiators and The Running Man. In order to earn their freedom, Ratchet will have to fight his way to the top of the show’s leaderboards and prove himself worthy. Otherwise, his explosive collar will go ka-boomie. It’s not as interesting of a plot as previous titles, but it works well for the mission-based format, with each planet in Dreadzone acting as an arena filled with challenges to conquer. These range from tiered rounds of enemy swarms, to piloting a huge mech called the Landstalker or hovership, to fixing generators, to boss battles. With Clank on the sidelines, Ratchet gets some new help from two assistant fighter-bots; I can’t recall their names, but they make funny comments and can help with some objectives though I found myself repairing them more often than not.

When you’re not doing main story missions, you can complete challenges to earn more Dreadzone points and currency, which will help you buy upgrades and visit other locations. I ended up buying every mod and every weapon save for one: the Harbinger, which costs 2,000,000 bolts. Eep. I still love that weapons upgrade the more you use them, which is a nice way of getting me to try guns I’m not really interested in. Like the Holoshield Launcher. Still, my favorite weapon is the Miniturret Glove with just about any kind of crazy mod on it. Try it with the Morph mod for a laugh.

The cutscenes and voiceover work for the Ratchet and Clank series has always been top-notch, and there’s no exception here. The commentary during main story missions would usually get a snort out of me, and I still can’t get the way Dallas says Juuuuuanita out of my head. However, I was still surprised to hear Gleeman Vox curse–well, they bleeped it out, but the intent remained there–and it just goes to show how much darker this entry is than others. Kind of like how Jak II was drastically different than what came before it. Not necessary, if you asked me.

After you beat the game, the option for New Game+ opens up, which I both love and hate. I love it for the fact that I could play the game again with my weapons already kicking bolt butt and the chance to earn enough currency to buy the Harbinger, and I hate it for the fact that I don’t really have the time to play Ratchet: Deadlocked for a second time. Sorry, Insomniac. There’s too many other games demanding my love and praise (or wrath), but I had a great time on one playthrough, and that certainly counts for something.

Zero money budgeted to Secret Agent Clank’s loading screens

For a good while last night, I believed my PlayStation 2 was dead. I was trying to get some play time in before our usual run of Thursday night TV hit–Community, The Office, Parks and Recreation–but the blasted thing just wouldn’t turn on. I checked multiple times that everything was plugged in, and to my horrible eyes, it seemed so. Grumbling, I gave up, watched some TV, and figured I’d try again; the reason I didn’t want to keep plugging and unplugging wires the whole night was that it might throw off our cable or Internet; we have a lot of wires behind our entertainment stand, too many to remember which one goes with what technology.

In the end, I did actually miss plugging in a single plug, and once I did, my PlayStation 2, which “I’ve had since I bought it,” powered on. Whew. I take really good care of my videogame systems, and to see one almost kick the bucket was a little unnerving. Heck, even my original SNES, all yellowed and dusty, still plays catridges. But that’s besides the point. I got my PlayStation 2 working, and it was now time to play some of my newest purchases.

First up was Secret Agent Clank, but before I could truly play I had to free up space on my sole PS2 memory card. Kind of a tough quest actually. I mean, I don’t even have my copy of Suikoden V anymore, but my save data shows some 65+ hours put into it, and I’d hate to delete it simply because I never beat the final boss, and there’s hope that maybe, possibly, hopefully, one day I might get the chance to try again. So I deleted save data for XIII, Killzone, and Odin Sphere. That seemed to do the ticket, as now I have enough available for Clank’s top-secret adventure.

After selecting NEW GAME, Secret Agent Clank opens up…with a loading screen. It’s of a spaceship flying across the screen through space. There’s no music, just a soft whooshing sound as it passes by. This happens about nine more times, with the only change being new angles. Each pass takes about three to four seconds, so we’re looking at almost 30 seconds of just sitting and staring and, unfortunately, zoning out. Those whooshes need to be bottled and sold as nonprescription sleeping pills. From what I can tell, there’s zero to little loading time on the original PSP version, meaning this port is all for the worse. Now, in previous Ratchet and Clank titles for the PlayStation 2, there were similar loading screens when traveling from planet to planet, but I swear it was never more than three instances of a spaceship flying past. Not nine or ten. Ugh.

Once we’re past the happy, happy, joy, joy loading fun-times, we see Clank trying to infiltrate the Boltaire Museum Mission Impossible style, tethered to a wire and dropping down through cut glass. He looks pretty freakin’ adorable in his tuxedo. However, he witnesses his ol’ buddy Ratchet stealing from the museum. PLOT TWIST! I played through the game’s first level, which introduces some of Clank’s abilities and skills and kind of ends on some weird Guitar Hero-esque QTEs, and then, after another stretch of loading screens and getting stuck at the part where I have to control three mini-Clankbots, called it quits. Not because I hated what was happening, but I was tired and wanted to watch some more Party Down.

I dunno. As always, the gameplay is fun and varied, but these loading screens might just cause me to go insane. Stay tuned for drooling and inconhesive rambling.