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by MARTY DEMAREST & r & & r & Secret Agent Clank & r & Rated Everyone 10+; PSP & r & 3 Stars & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & R & lt;/span & obots again. I blame my distaste for robots on the has-been that is George Lucas and his armies of chirping, beeping, whimsically whirring robots. Even Clank, the titular hero of Secret Agent Clank and stalwart sidekick of the Ratchet & amp; Clank series, has his flaws -- mainly that he's given to fussing prissily like C-3PO. But Clank, in his first solo outing, also reveals himself to be possessed of a stoicism befitting a James Bondian super-spy, narrowing his eyes with an electronic hum and unfolding hi-tech gadgetry from within the confines of his tin tuxedo.





Clank's mission in Secret Agent Clank involves liberating his friend Ratchet, who has been caught stealing a gem and is trapped in prison with the intergalactic villains he's spent seven games incarcerating. Though Ratchet's battles with these miscreants occasionally dominate the game, most of the playing time is given over to Clank's escapades across the galaxy as he searches for clues and collects bolts (the Ratchet & amp; Clank form of universal currency) in a variety of candy-colored, robot-laden landscapes.





I have to admit that Secret Agent Clank charmed me despite its robot-heavy cast and my disappointment about the game's premise. The last Ratchet & amp; Clank game (the excellent Tools of Destruction) ended with a cliffhanger that promised to give Clank his own high-impact adventure. Secret Agent Clank isn't it. It's just a quick, silly action game that nevertheless captures some of the series' derring-do and wacky panache. It does this by downsizing.





Instead of trying to squeeze a full-sized Ratchet & amp; Clank adventure onto a handheld system (the mistake that marred Size Matters last year), Secret Agent Clank's designers, High Impact Games, have wisely larded such a meager premise with a rich variety of straightforward challenges for Clank to undertake. Gameplay zips from simple stealth (robots in disguise!) to close-quarters combat (robot-on-robot action!) to rhythm gameplay (robots dancing!) with some simple racing (robots on snowboards!) thrown in for good measure. It's not brilliant or innovative. But it's a lot livelier than a robotic retread of where the series has already been.





THE GOOD: None of the game's various styles of gameplay stick around long enough to become tiresome or let their technical flaws become glaring irritations. Switching playable characters away from Clank also allows Ratchet's prison-arena combat to lend the game some scope while the gadgebots give it a dose of team-based strategy. I'm not sure what Captain Quark is doing there except rounding out the franchise.





THE BAD: Secret Agent Clank stumbles on some technical troubles, beginning with a camera that won't swing around Clank when he's hiding in a corner or crammed up against a wall. Enemies that seem relentless can be stopped by a simple, short ledge, while Clank stands safely a few feet away. And despite his super-spy status, Clank is a bit of a clutz when it comes to jumping, needing to leap long before he reaches the edge of the platform he's departing.





THE BOTTOM LINE: A frothy game that keeps itself together long enough to change gears while it switches from one style of simple gameplay to another.

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