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by MARTY DEMAREST & r & & r & Ratchet & amp; Clank Future: Tools of Destruction & r & Rated Everyone 10+; Playstation 3 & r & 4 Stars & r & & r & Apparently robots are hilarious. George Lucas populated Star Wars primarily with squawking and beeping androids. Douglas Adams' wittiest character in the Hitchhiker's Guide series is a manic-depressive robot. And the humor in Ratchet & amp; Clank Future: Tools of Destruction comes mostly from robots. Menial-labor droids bump into walls. Vendor-bots gesture effeminately. Two warbots are so old they literally fall apart. And the titular sidekick Clank is a short C3-P0, simultaneously prissy and wise.





Intermingled with robots in this comic universe are a few other beings. Short reptilian creatures who are determined to dominate the galaxy. Giant lizards (which I made extinct) looking like a cross between the balrog and a T. rex. A Buzz Lightyear-esque hero with a jutting chin and even more predominant ego. And Ratchet, a catlike biped who, despite starring in six other videogames, has never seen another of his species.





Tools of Destruction is Ratchet's story. (The ending gives reason to think there will be a sequel that tells Clank's.) More than any other series, the Ratchet & amp; Clank games rely on story, character and comic writing to round out what is at heart a straightforward platform-jumping videogame. Despite the franchise's upgrade to the PlayStation 3, there are no new tricks here -- no self-designable levels or gravity-bending high jinks.





What Tools of Destruction does, is do everything beautifully. Every time Ratchet destroys an enemy, it fractures into a cloud of rubble and bolts that then come swirling around him. Even later in the game, when the enemies are several stories tall and there are six of them marauding around a cavern with phaser blasts zinging through the air, the game never lags or cheats on a single swirling bolt. The PS3's graphical prowess is astounding.





Longtime Ratchet & amp; Clank designers Insomniac Games have wisely jettisoned the series' superfluous features. Gone are the multiplayer battlegrounds and hover-bike races. Instead, Tools of Destruction returns to the series' gameplay foundation: weapons. Outlandish in the extreme, Ratchet's arsenal includes a bomb that transforms foes into penguins, a gun that sends cyclones sweeping through ranks of enemies, and a disco ball that makes the battlefield boogie. The weapons are delightfully inventive, and with the PS3 behind them, beautiful to behold.





THE GOOD: The first Ratchet & amp; Clank was one of the funniest videogames ever made. Characters were designed with an eye toward satire, and the dialogue rang with wit worthy of The Simpsons. While Tools of Destruction doesn't quite reach those levels, it's a big improvement over the last few games in the series, in which the jokes have tended toward Nicktoons-grade mediocrity.





THE BAD: Many of the battlefields in Tools of Destruction are relatively small areas where Ratchet's sword-like wrench is a viable weapon. The game's designers have created the illusion of space, with creatures and starships zipping across the sky and no walls around the platforms. But most levels are built of moderate-sized rooms connected by corridors or bridges, and the action stays confined within them.





THE BOTTOM LINE: Ratchet & amp; Clank Future: Tools of Destruction is a big, blasty platform-jumper, with the style of a cartoon and the spirit of a circus.

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