Final Thoughts on Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One

If you’ve played on a PlayStation system since the PS2 era, you’ve probably heard of the Ratchet & Clank series. They’ve had a number of titles out over the course of the PS2 and the PS3. They are some of the characters that would come closest to mascots of the PlayStation. I’ve played most of the games, and today I’ll be looking at Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One.

Story

Ratchet and Clank All 4 OneThe story isn’t all that different in basic structure from other Ratchet and Clank adventure. The game starts with Ratchet and Clank escorting Captain (err… President) Quark to an awards ceremony. The ceremony turns out to be a trap laid by Dr. Nefarious, but the trap backfires and all four are caught up in the trap. Upon getting out of the trap all four characters are caught by someone collecting powerful alien life forms across the galaxy.

This predicament requires all four characters, despite their former antagonism, to work together, figure out how to get home, who captured them, and maybe even save a planet or universe in the process.

Gameplay

The Ratchet and Clank games have all been action based 3D platforming games and All 4 One does not change that. The bulk of the game will be about running, jumping, and using gadgets to get through the level while blasting any enemies that get in your way.

The most significant difference between All 4 One and other Ratchet & Clank game is that All 4 One focuses on being a co-op game above all else. The majority of the other games in the series have been single player experiences, but All 4 One allows for up to four players to fill the shoes of Ratchet, Clank, President Quark, and Dr. Nefarious. Even if you play alone the computer will play as a second character for areas where you need another player to proceed.

While this does change a little of the Ratchet and Clank formula, it doesn’t change that much. You still get cool weapons that you get to level up and cause lots of damage with. Only with the co-op you get a damage bonus if you’re both using the same weapon on the same enemies. Also certain gadgets will require both characters in order to solve certain puzzles in order to proceed.

Other stalwarts of the Ratchet and Clank series also make an appearance. The regular bolts as currency that allows you to buy weapons and weapon upgrades. There are large collectible bolts that are color coded for each of the characters you play. These unlock different costumes for the characters. You will also discover critters that you can suck up with one of your new gadgets. Critters allow you to unlock test chambers. The test chambers are tests that upon completion will unlock a part of the RYNO VI, which in this iteration is a giant robotic armor.

Themes

The obvious theme throughout the game is teamwork. You can find this theme both in the story of the game and in the game play. Teamwork has really always been a part of the Ratchet and Clank games, focused largely on the teamwork between Ratchet and Clank. All 4 One expands on that a bit added the need to work with the sometimes villain, sometimes hero, but constantly bumbling Captain Quark and the super villain Dr. Nefarious. This adds a different layer to the teamwork theme, as it is not just friends working together, but friends and enemies who have to put aside past animosity and work together.

Teamwork is also evident in the gameplay. The game is much easier when you work together well with those you play with. While not a particularly hard game, working together and communicating well will make the game easier and more fun.

Other than teamwork, there aren’t any other major themes that I remember. It’s a fairly lighthearted game, with a few exceptions, built around the ideas of saving the world and battling villains.

Positives

  • Personal Favorites – I’ll be honest, Ratchet and Clank are probably my favorite mascot duo from the PS2 era. I’ve always enjoyed the banter between the two characters, the gameplay, and the varied and unique weapons. This game is more of that even with the different gameplay elements.
  • Intergalactic Humor Award- Ratchet & Clank games have always had a decent amount of humor and this game continues in that vein. I’ve always enjoyed the humor and this game provides more of the same.
  • Fun with Friends – The co-op is fairly well done and was enjoyable to play with other players. While I do think there were some things that detracted from the choice to go co-op, as a co-op experience it was a lot of fun.

Mixed

  • Paper Weapons – While the weapons came in a fun variety of styles for this game, I felt that many of them lacked the power of previous installments. I wondered in part if this was due to the co-op focus. It seemed that the weapons on their own were not as powerful due to the need to use them in tandem with your co-op partners. I could be wrong, but that is how it seemed to me.
  • Weaponized Clank – While Clank has punched and smacked people with a staff in previous games, I don’t remember him ever packing heat too often. If he had the ability to use Ratchet’s weapons all this time, why is he just now getting in on it?
  • Willing to Try Something New – While I have mixed feelings on the turn to co-op, I have to say that it’s nice to see them try something new. Not that I’m particularly thinking they needed to mix things up, but still instead of following the formula they were trying to branch out in different directions which can be a good thing.

Negatives

  • Doesn’t Quite Live Up to Previous Titles – While I enjoy Ratchet & Clank and even enjoyed this game, it still wasn’t quite as good as most of the other games in the series. It reminds be a bit of Deadlocked in the PS2 era. A good game that simply isn’t as good compared to previous installments.

Overall Impressions

I enjoyed Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One. While it had its flaws, my family had a lot of fun playing it together. While it was not a game I could recommend at a full retail price of $60, at its current price (which is around $20 as of writing) I would. It is a very competent co-op platformer. The main downside is that it isn’t as good compared to previous installments. It doesn’t make this a bad game, it may just leave you wanting a bit more than you received.

Final Thoughts on Sly Cooper 3: Honor Among Thieves

I know it’s been a little while since my last look at the Sly Cooper series, but I had finished a few games in between the second and third installment and figured I’d write about them first. I played Sly Cooper 3 as part of the Sly Cooper Collection that came out on the PlayStation 3 just like I did the previous two installments. This was the last Sly Cooper game for the PlayStation 2 and it took quite awhile for the series to gain another entry. Did this game fall flat or did it just take a break on a high note?

Sly 3 Honor Among ThievesStory

The story picks up around a year or so after Sly Cooper 2: Band of Thieves and starts us of with an assault on an island that houses the Cooper Vault, the vault of Sly’s family. Dr. M, who has put up defenses to protect the vault and keep it for himself, finds then and captures Sly. Sly then has a flashback and we get to play through the story to see how we came to this point.

We see that Sly learns about the Cooper vault from one of his father’s associates a man named McSweeney. After going to the vault and finding that Dr. M had turned the island it was on into a fortress to attempt to claim the vault for himself. Upon seeing this Sly need to get the Cooper Gang back together.

Sly and Bentley seem to still be working together despite Bentley’s injury he sustained at the end of the last game forcing him to be confined to a wheelchair, but Murray is not with the group. He blamed himself for Bentley’s injury and left. So Sly and Bentley seek to get the gang back together and break into the Cooper Vault.

As they do this though, they realize they’re going to need more than just the three of them to pull off this heist. So they wind up recruiting a group of thieves for this job, some of which are pulled from past enemies.

Gameplay

Largely the gameplay is very similar to previous Sly Cooper games, particularly Sly 2. It is still a 3D platformer that incorporates stealth and combat. Like Sly 2, this one includes the use of a health bar, ability to use Bentley and Murray, and upgradable abilities.

Of course there some changes and additions to Sly 3, but I’d say that not too many of them are too significant. With a larger crew you can also play as some of the other members you’ll recruit at times. Also with this installment, Sly isn’t the only one who can pickpocket. Bentley and Murray can also pick pockets, although their methods are a little different than Sly’s.

Some of the abilities are different, like disguises, and there are some different mechanics added, like airplane dogfights and pirate ship battles, that take place in some of the different chapters of the game. Another difference has been the removal of the clue bottles and vaults from the game that seem to be replaced with challenge missions and treasure hunting.

Overall though, this is still another Sly game and if you’ve played the first two, then you should have little trouble adapting to the gameplay of this game. Most of the things I’ve listed are fairly minor and don’t really make too much of a difference to the base game.

Themes

Like the previous games friendship and teamwork are a major theme present in this work. In some ways it seems like it is more developed as a theme than in the previous games. You see this through the rebuilding of the Cooper Gang, and also by the comparison that comes up later in the game between Sly and his gang and Sly’s father and the group he used to work with.

Behind this theme is the question of whether or not the Cooper Gang is a gang built on friendship or simply convenience. Each seem to have to wrestle with this at some point in the game. Murray does in coming to terms with Bentley’s injuries and the fact that Bentley doesn’t blame him at all. Sly has to face it in wondering if he is using his friends simply as tools or if they truly mean something to him. Bentley also has to deal with this, as Dr. M tries to convince Bentley that he is just a tool used by Sly and not a real friend.

One could also argue that there is a theme of knowing your limits. The Cooper Gang has been able to achieve some pretty impressive things before this, but with the task before them in this game they know they need more than the three of them. Now this could be more of a we need a reason to add more characters move than an intentional theme, but I’d still argue that it’s there.

Positives

  • Another Sly Adventure – The Sly games have been an enjoyable series to get into. Likable characters, fun locations, and grand adventures make for a fun series. Sly 3 continues that tradition and delivers more Sly Cooper goodness.
  • Tighter Experience – While for the most part Sly 2 improved upon the mechanics and flow from the first game, Sly 3 manages to make the experience even tighter. Some of the control issues I had with the second game didn’t make a reappearance in the third. Some things like automatically selling the items you pickpocket also makes for a little less unnecessary travel which is also nice.
  • It’s Personal Again – While Sly 2 had a story that had higher stakes, the way it was executed just didn’t work for me anyhow. With Sly 3 they somewhat returned to making the story seem more personal to Sly. While it doesn’t make the stakes very high, after all they’re just wanting to get into the Cooper family vault, I thought it flowed much better than the second outing.

Mixed

  • Too Many Characters? – I understand some of the reason to add new characters and everything too the mix, but I wonder if the addition of four new characters to the team was really necessary. They made it work, but when the theme seemed so centered around the unity of Sly, Bentley, and Murray it felt weird to have so many extras.
  • Don’t Have a Clue – For this game they removed the clue bottles and the vaults which I didn’t know what I thought about. On the one hand I welcomed it because trying to find them could be a bit tedious. On the other, it was kind of fun to find them all and use them to open a vault with some new ability. Doing that was more enjoyable and seamless to the world than the master thief challenges they added.

Negatives

  • Nothing to See Here – Honestly, nothing stuck out as being fully bad in this game. Overall it lacked anything that I didn’t like at all, just some things I was a bit mixed on.

Sly Cooper CollectionOverall Impressions

Even though I didn’t play through the adventures of Sly Cooper and his band of thieves until late they have all been enjoyable to play. Sly Cooper 3: Honor Among Thieves is no exception to this. In fact I might even put it as the best game out of the first three. It had a story that I’d say was almost as strong as the first, with smoothed out gameplay and tight control. It maybe got a little heavy on supporting cast, but I still think they made it work well. Even if the games may be a bit older, I’d recommend Sly 3 and really the whole Sly Collection for anyone looking for some nice E rated fun that everyone in the family can enjoy.

Final Thoughts on Sly 2: Band of Thieves

I few weeks ago I gave my thoughts on Sly Cooper and the Thievious Raccoonus the first game in the Sly Cooper series of games. Since I played the first game as part of the Sly Collection that was released for the PlayStation 3 and includes the first three games of this series, I will now get to the sequel, Sly 2: Band of Thieves. Did it improve upon the first game or fail to reach the same level?

Sly 2 Band of ThievesStory

The story begins with the Cooper Gang breaking into a museum in Cairo to steal the parts of Clockwerk, the main villain from the first game. The trio wants to find and destroy the parts before they’re used again for evil. The problem is they’re too late as they are already stolen by a group known as the Klaww Gang. This sets up Sly, Bentley, and Murray up for a globe trotting adventure to recover the Clockwerk parts.

Gameplay

While much from the first game is retained, there are a number of improvements and changes that have been implemented for the sequel. One of the most significant of these is that you are now able to play as Sly, Bentley and Murray who all have slightly different play styles.

Sly’s style remains very similar to the first game and while there are some differences that I’ll get to later, in terms of basics though he’s largely the same. Bentley is armed with a sleep-dart gun and mines that he can use in an effective combo, he is also able to hack computers, which initiates a hacking mini-game. Murray simply uses his brute strength to pick up items and enemies and can also go toe to toe with enemies in combat.

Another significant change is the inclusion of a health bar in the game as opposed to the one hit death (two if you had a lucky horseshoe) from the first game. Associated with this is the removal of a lives system. You can just restart a mission if you run out of life. You also have an energy bar that you use to do any of the special moves or abilities that you obtain during the game.

This leads us to another major change in the game how abilities are obtained. In the first game you unlocked them by finding clue bottles scattered around a level. You can still find certain special abilities with this method in this game, but the majority of the abilities will be obtained by purchasing upgrades through ThiefNet at your safe house where you begin the level. This is the new use for coins, instead of gaining extra lives you buy upgrades for your characters.

The upgrades are a bit different than the ones from previous games. Sly gains abilities that add properties to his cane, or allow him to drop a smoke bomb to escape enemies. Bentley mainly adds upgrades to his bombs, but also has abilities to increase his speed or allow him to have a jet pack. Murray gains abilities that increase his strength and allows him to perform powerful new moves. So you get a variety of moves and abilities that are in tune with their own unique way of play.

There are a few other additions like levels being larger and more coherent as opposed to being broken up in the first game. You also gain the ability to pickpocket with Sly which comes in handy and is used either to steal necessary items off enemies or just to gain some extra coins. So while I’d say there is quite a bit of stuff carried over from the first game, there is also a good number of additions that update mechanics and add some variety to the play.

Themes

Like the first game friendship and teamwork is a major theme of the game. In fact I’d say it is ramped up in this installment because you’re now able to play as all three members of the Cooper Gang. This allows for more flexibility in seeing how important everyone is to each other when things go south. It feels like they actually work more as a team, even if Sly is the leader of sorts.

There is also the theme of protection from evil that the first game didn’t have. In the first game the main drive was revenge against the villains who killed Sly’s parents and stole the Thievious Raccoonus. In this game Sly, Bentley, and Murray are focused on preventing Clockwerk the villain from the previous game to be rebuilt and set loose on the world again.

Positives

  • More Sly – This game has more Sly Cooper. I really enjoyed the first game quite a bit so I also enjoyed getting to play as Sly Cooper and his friends once again.
  • It’s So Smooth – In terms of gameplay a lot of the more disjointed components of the first game have really been ironed out and makes the whole experience smoother. Locations are much more coherent. The inclusion of a health bar makes for a more enjoyable experience than just having one hit kills (even if I did kind of enjoy that from the first game).
  • Around the World – Levels are not only smoother, but they are also fun and take place all over the world. Over the course of the game you wind up in Paris, India, Prague, Canada, and an airborne blimp.
  • Kind of Like Candy – Sly 2 is not a difficult game. Some people may dislike this and call it too easy or too short. To me games like this are kind of the video game equivalent to candy. They’re easy, mainly marketed to kids, but are enjoyable.

Mixed

  • Watch for Falling Raccoons – While overall the controls in these games are well done, I felt that Sly 2 just had a few more issues than the first game. I found myself having difficulties every once in awhile on things that shouldn’t have been too hard. Maybe it was just me, but I felt like the controls weren’t as sharp in this outing.
  • Intriguing Story, That Ultimately Falls a Bit Flat – The story for Sly 2 takes a fair number of twists and turns, and they’re enjoyable for a good portion of the game. However, the reveal of the final boss just fell flat. It felt like it lacked any proper motivation for that twist and just didn’t really make a whole lot of sense to me anyhow.

Negatives

  • Does Interpol Do Background Checks? – Members of the Klaww Gang are part of Interpol. How in the world does this happen? I mean have we never heard of background checks or anything?

Overall Impressions

This was another enjoyable outing for Sly Cooper and his friends. In total I’d say that it is an improvement over the first game in many ways. The only two places where it didn’t seem quite as good as the first was in story (mainly the last quarter or so) and the tightness of controls. Neither of these problems are deal breakers and I found the game to be fun, even if it isn’t too hard and can be completely relatively quickly. So I would definitely recommend Sly’s second venture especially if picked up in the PlayStation 3 collection of Sly titles.

 

Final Thoughts on Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus

I often comment here about how behind I am in terms of video games. It seems that I rarely play something right after it releases. The distance between the release of a game and when I get to it varies wildly. I didn’t really get into the PlayStation 2 era until late so I missed a lot of games from that time. In the case with Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus I played it as part of the Sly Cooper Collection released for the PlayStation 3.

Sly Cooper CollectionStory

The story here follows the titular character, Sly Cooper. Sly is the descendant of a long line of raccoon master thieves. This line of master thieves has a book called the Thievius Raccoonus that has the accumulated knowledge of the Cooper family and would enable you to become a master thief.

Since Sly was the most recent Cooper he was set to inherit the Thievius Raccoonus from his father. However, his father was killed and the book was stolen by members of a group known as the Fiendish Five. Sly was then sent to an orphanage where he met his two best friends Bentley the Turtle and Murray the Hippopotamus. It with this group of three friends that Sly decides to seek after those who killed his father, bring them to justice, and retrieve the Thievius Raccoonus. In addition to the Fiendish Five standing in your way you also have to avoid the tenacious Interpol agent Carmelita Fox as she seeks to put Sly Cooper behind bars for his own thieving ways. All of this however is a very family friendly affair and is rated E for Everyone.

Gameplay

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus is largely focused on 3D platforming with stealth elements. You control Sly Cooper for the majority of the game and you seek to infiltrate the five lairs of the Fiendish Five and put an end to their schemes. You do this both by sneaking past security systems, defeating enemies, and finding ways to get past obstacles using your special thief abilities.

You will also engage in combat during the game as Sly can use his cane to defeat enemies. However, Sly can be defeated in one hit, unless he has a lucky horseshoe that gives him an extra hit, so using stealth to sneak up on enemies is beneficial.

Each level in the various lairs also contain bottles with clues on how to open a safe that will include a unique move for Sly Cooper. There are also coins to collect in each level that will enable to you gain a lucky horseshoe after collecting 100 coins. If you already have this horseshoe you will gain an extra life.

In addition to playing as Sly you also have other missions where it allows you to play as or at least support either Bentley or Murray. Murray will drive in races, need protected by Sly on a turret while he runs to a particular location, or you’ll play as Bentley while he is hacking electronics in a cyber tank game.

Themes

There are a decent number of positive themes in Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus. The most significant is that of teamwork and friendship. The team of Sly, Bentley, and Murray is tight knit despite there great differences. Sly is clever, cool, smooth and agile; Bentley is smart, no-nonsense, and nerdy; while Murray is strong, boisterous, and maybe not the smartest tool in the shed. All of their strengths are needed to accomplish their mission and it is the friendship between these three that remains a theme through the next two games as well.

You also have the theme of revenge, but it plays out here much differently than most other games. In most other games it is about killing those who are in your path, this is evident in the Assassin’s Creed games I’ve commented on elsewhere. With Sly Cooper you are defeating the various members of the Fiendish Five but ultimately you help bring them to justice and not doling out the sentence yourself. With only one exception the members of the Fiendish Five are all placed under arrest.

If there is one theme that may cause some case for pondering it is the fact that Sly himself is a thief. He is escaping from the law himself throughout the game. Sly isĀ  a thief in the mold of Robin Hood, he steals from criminals or in order to find criminals. This doesn’t negate the fact that he is a thief, but does put a more positive approach to the whole thing.

Positives

  • Quality Family Friendliness – It seems that as the average gaming age has increased there has become a decreasing amount of quality games that you wouldn’t mind having your kids play. Even though this game is a bit old in its original incarnation it is still a nice family friendly game that is also a quality gaming experience and not just some cash in movie or television series tie-in.
  • Good People, Good Places – The world of Sly Cooper is a stylized version of our world with anthropomorphic characters and a fairly memorable cast of characters, particularly Sly’s group. The levels are fun and while they do wind up falling into some standard level categories they still manage to be well done.
  • Does Everything a Raccoon Can? – I thought that the controls for this game were pretty solid. New moves are added as you go on and it winds up being a rather satisfying platforming game.

Mixed

  • The Fractured Fiendish Five – For a group of criminals the Fiendish Five make for good antagonists, but also a rather disjointed story as well. They seem to be working together in their attack on Sly’s father and mother, but lack any kind of cohesion during the actual story. I understand why this is, so that the stage setup can focus on one particular enemy, but it winds up hurting the story a bit.
  • The Old is the New New – Do you remember the last platforming game you’ve played that uses a life system? Not many of them do anymore. It winds up being a fairly archaic mechanic, but it was one that I actually kind of enjoyed seeing. Sometimes it made for some frustration, but I also enjoyed experiencing it again.
  • Playing an Older Cartoon – Even with the HD upgrade, you can tell that Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus is an older game. It has a great art direction, and the visuals haven’t aged that badly, but you can still tell it is an older game.

Negatives

  • Over Too Quick – Sly Cooper’s first outing is a bit on the short side. This isn’t that much of a negative though at least with the Sly Cooper Collection. It probably would have been a bigger issue when buying it on the PlayStation separately though.

Overall Impressions

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus was an enjoyable game and I would highly recommend it. The game is a good 3D platformer, with fun characters, solid gameplay and is a game that you can purchase to let your kids play or not have to worry about them watching you as you’re playing. Considering the game is part of the Sly Cooper Collection there is little reason not to get the collection as you get the three PlayStation 2 Sly game’s for very little (Amazon has it for a little under 15 dollars as of writing).