A perplexing mystery is afoot!
Galactic hero (and all round Good Guy) Ratchet seems to have totally flipped out! He has been caught red-handed on camera committing a frankly clumsy and amateurish crime. He has supposedly stolen the precious jewel called the Eye of Infinity. The Eye is still missing as he is dragged off to prison, swearing that he will escape. His faithful friend Clank is shocked and horrified - surely Ratchet hasn't gone to the Dark Side??
With all evidence pointing to his friend, armed only with a few spy robot tools, Clank sets off to unravel the mystery and clear his friend's name.
Perennial sidekick Clank earns some serious street cred in his natty metallic tuxedo and picks up gadgets, weapons and new moves along the way. His arsenal starts simply with the "walloper" (read: wrench) and gradually increases to include such valuable items as a lock pick, ink pen for deactivating laser beams, and jet boots for jumping higher and gliding. He is also able to learn some seriously cool kung fu moves along the way!
From a gameplay perspective, as the latest addition to a successful franchise Secret Agent Clank sticks faithfully to a formula that works: keep it simple, with short-ish levels, increase the complexity of weapons and enemy difficulty as the player's skill increases, and vary the gameplay throughout (ie. chuck in a driving level, play as one of the other characters etc). Due to the familiar interface, players who have enjoyed the prior Ratchet and Clank games will not have too many troubles transferring to the PSP.
The majority of play is as Crank but in some levels you can play as Ratchet, who is dealing with disgruntled fellow inmates, but instead of the typical prison issue toothbrush shiv, he somehow seems to easily obtain guns. You also play levels as Clank's little team of robot assistants. (Yes, the sidekick gets some sidekicks!!) This provides good variety - the Ratchet levels would appeal to a first person shooter aficionado, whereas the robot team requires simple puzzle solving skills. (ie: stack the robots on each other's shoulders to reach higher places, attack as a team, etc)
Another fun level is a nod to rhythm games such as Space Channel Five, where you must press the controls in the correct order and timing to music. Clank does a fancy little dance through a field of laser beams and oncoming enemies. Clank can also earn stealth bonus points by avoiding or taking enemies down from behind with a sneak attack, but if you get this wrong, every robot in the vicinity will descend on you, making it an all-or-nothing mechanic.
On the negatives: the camera is amongst the worst ever seen in any game on any platform, ever. It's entirely manual, being swung around left or right (no up or down) by pressing the L or R buttons. Continually having to yank the camera around is extremely frustrating when you begin play, and it seems like the levels have been deliberately laid out in such away to highlight the epic awfulness of the camera system. However, once you become used to the game play, the camera yanking merely becomes annoying rather than PSP-throwing territory.
The menu system is also a little confusing to navigate at first, as you switch between stories and levels between different characters. Again, you do get used to it, but it does take the sheen off the initial good impression of Clank.
In conclusion, this reviewer feels that "Secret Agent Clank" is far from "Ratchet", and is good clean fun for fans of the platform genre. It's hardly a step forward for the franchise and clearly lacks the polish of earlier titles, but if you're into this kind of game and are looking for more pocket action from your favorite characters, it could have been worse.