I had a rather short dream the night of 8/7/14, but I wanted to write about it anyway because it related to one of my favorite games of all time, “Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy”. In this dream, the game apparently had a scene with Gol and Maia, the main villains, that got cut from the game, and I remember I was playing the game and exploring this place that was supposed to be Gol and Maia’s citadel, but it was more like a Medieval castle. I remember being in this hallway, and there were these platforms that would only appear in the wall for a limited time, and you had to climb up them to get through this doorway. I tried multiple times to climb up them as quickly as I could, and I eventually made it through the doorway, which ended up leading outside Continue reading The Duck Dreams of PlayStation Characters
Today’s topic for the 100 theme blog challenge is number 12, insanity. This sounds pretty easy. Insanity. I know just what that is. It’s when someone is…well, insane. Crazy. Bonkers. A nutter. But, the more I think about this topic, the more I think about how not-easy writing about it really is. It’s a single word, but there is so much that can be written on it, can’t it? And I’m certainly no expert on mental disorders, so I had to think of a different way to write about such a topic. And then I got it, in the form of a question. Why is insanity so appealing?
Don’t look at me like that. It is, in a way. I mean, they have an entire archetype commonly seen in stories that is related to insanity. The mad scientist. No, not angry scientists, though many of them do seem to have some bone to pick with society. Crazy scientists. Why was this stereotype even invented if insanity wasn’t in some way appealing or intriguing? And insanity, as you’d expect, whether they be mad scientist or not, is most often portrayed in villains. Because you really don’t see that many crazy good guys, do you? No, it’s the villains that think up all kinds of bizarre plots for such goals as world domination or other methods of obtaining unstoppable power (the terrible movie “The Blood Waters of Doctor Z” featured a mad scientist that turned himself into a fish in his plot for world domination; I have no idea how he thought that would work, however), while the poor good guy always has no choice but to go and stop it. Our hero very rarely is crazy. Maybe brave or foolhardy, but it is most often the villain who is deeply disturbed, which is all the more explanation for their wild plots.
And so, to kind of expand on that, when it comes to villains, what kinds does this Duck usually like the most? That’s right, you guessed it. The insane ones. In many stories, I typically like the villain the most. Or, at the very least, I often find them to be the most interesting, and I wonder why they do what they do. But, the villains that always interest me the most are the crazy ones. The weird, eccentric ones. Because, frankly, villains that got it together (bad grammar on purpose) are boring. It’s the crazy ones that are obviously in need of some therapy that always capture my attention most of all, and that is what I’m here to discuss, with as few tirades as I can manage.
Let’s take Bowser, for example. A lot of people know about him, no? He’s the main villain of the “Mario” series and an experienced princess-napper. And I don’t think anyone would consider him insane. Nope, he’s a huge jerk, but he’s not crazy. He doesn’t like his rival, Mario, which is understandable, as the ‘stached plumber constantly puts a stop to Bowser’s plans. He also seems to have a thing for Peach, especially in “Paper Mario”, but hey, you can’t really blame him. And you don’t need to be a villain to understand his desire to rule the Mushroom Kingdom. I mean, who doesn’t want to rule the world or a kingdom of ‘shrooms? Antagonist or protagonist, world domination is pretty appealing. And so, while Bowser is quite the creep, I don’t find him to be that interesting. His plans are uninspired, but I don’t get the crazy vibe from him. And that just won’t do. You’re too sane for my tastes, Bowser.
And then I come to the villains that are nuttier than those bags of peanuts that you get on airplanes. These disturbed villains can be many things. They are usually interesting. They are most often rather…unique individuals. And they typically range between comical or downright disturbing. I may like a villain in a more lighthearted series because I think they are hilarious in a way that only someone nuts can be. On the other end of the spectrum, some crazy villains are scary because of their insanity, and that’s why I find them to be particularly…villainous. Because they manage to truly frighten me, while at the same time making me curious about them all the more.
Let’s take two examples of some of my favorite villains. These two are insane by every definition of the word, and they are Dr. Nefarious of the “Ratchet and Clank” series and Lord Ghirahim of “The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword”. Now, this post is in no way intended to just talk about how great I think these villains are, even though I certainly do. It’s intended to explain my point on insanity. And explain it, I shall.
Dr. Nefarious is insane in a way that is on the lighter end of the insanity spectrum. This robotic villain is not someone to take lightly, as his plots have involved trying to turn all organic life into robots and trying to turn back time in order to undo all the times in the past that the good guys have prevailed over evil, which he is more than capable of doing because he’s also a genius (we got a mad scientist here, folks). And no one can disagree with me that this guy is crazy, from his bizarre plans to his maniacal ranting and screaming. And I will never fully understand why he hates organic life when he used to be one himself (and don’t ask me how that happened because I’m still not sure). All I do know is that Nefarious is a nut and seriously needs to be put into an insane asylum. But, his bizarre behavior is what makes me like him so much, as he is quite an entertaining character in an already rather hilarious group of games. Few can deny that his cut scenes are some of the best scenes in the series. And if Nefarious wasn’t insane, he wouldn’t be nearly as great.
And then I come to Lord Ghirahim, another character that is positively crazy. This guy is just weird. I don’t know. Nefarious, I kind of get. A little. But, this guy is, well, a lunatic. Ghirahim is rather flamboyant and, like pretty much all villains, quite enamored with himself. He can be pretty darn feminine and is known by all to make some pretty strange comments that can make you laugh (probably one of his most memorable lines is, “This news has just filled my heart with rainbows.”), but that doesn’t make him any less scary. That’s right, this guy is frightening. Rainbow-filled heart or not, Ghirahim is a terrifying dude in the way he can start off all calm and composed one moment and then threaten to do all kinds of unspeakable things to Link the next. And seeing as he starts off so much more powerful than our hero at the beginning of the game, this makes his threats all the more frightening because he is more than capable of carrying them out.
Ghirahim is evil and sadistic, and even though he can say some pretty corny things, he is not as laughable as you may think. He will stop at nothing to achieve his goals, and you know what, he actually does. Oftentimes heroes stop the villains, but unfortunately, Ghirahim manages to be a bit more competent than Link even is. You may be able to laugh at Ghirahim’s strange dialogue and his goofy victory dance, but it’s his insanity, the same thing that makes him behave this way, that makes him so much scarier than he would have been without it. I have to give Nintendo credit for managing to create a villain that can say goofy things, and yet we still can take him seriously. Not everyone can do that, and that’s why Ghirahim is another one of my favorite villains, as he is by far one of the most complex characters I have ever known.
So I was right, after all, wasn’t I? Insanity is indeed appealing. At least, it can make certain characters more interesting or entertaining, because it often makes them either funny, frightening, or a combination of the two. When I try to look for any correlation between the characters I like and those that I don’t, often times it is the weirdos I find the most intriguing. And most of the time, it’s the villains that are the nutty ones, and that may be one reason why the villains are usually my favorite characters in a story. Insanity is interesting. Insanity can make certain characters stand out from all the rest. The mad scientist archetype is proof enough of that, with such examples as Dr. Eggman, Dr. Nefarious, and Professor Hojo, not to mention the most famous of all, Dr. Frankenstein. If insanity wasn’t intriguing, then who knows if these characters would even exist.
Not an Insane Duck
There are many games that I hear good things about that I never end up playing. “Bioshock”, “Mass Effect”, “Skyrim”. But every time I look into these games, they are rated M for all kinds of naughty things, and I decide I don’t want to play them, no matter how much other people like them. And I might be missing out, but such games are often not my thing. (I watch “Andy Griffith” on TV, for crying out loud!) And then I kept hearing about how great a game called “Portal 2” was, and I looked into it, and guess what, it was rated E. E! (Well, E 10+, but I have a theory that’s just an extra paranoid rating invented to prevent lawsuits, because a “Kirby” game is certainly not harmful to those younger than 10, and those games have that rating nowadays, too.) Now that is more my thing. More my thing indeed.
And so I bought it, and as is normally the next step after buying a video game (well, after taking off the plastic, I suppose, a task that involves varying degrees of difficulty, and putting the disc in the console, which also can be difficult when it doesn’t want to come out of the case, I’m looking at you, GameCube discs…), I finally got around to playing it. My first impressions? First, it was funny. Very funny, actually. Second, it was fun and challenging in a whole new way I had never seen before. Third, I love it. I love the game. But, I get ahead of myself.
When I first started playing this game, it did take some getting used to. In case you haven’t yet played this delightful game, all the puzzles are solved using this portal gun that can make up to two portals at a time. And it is pretty disorientating at times. I mean, my first time through a portal, I was watching myself go through it at the same time. Which was pretty weird. It was also a rather frightening experience at first falling through portals far below and then being shot out another one. And it was pretty darn confusing at first, too. You finally get the portal gun and the ability to make not one, but two portals, and I just didn’t know what to do with myself. (And it didn’t help that I was looking at some useful diagrams sideways at one point…)
But, once I did get used to it all, it was awesome. Seriously. This game has such creative, challenging puzzles. It’s not just the portals, though those are the main things you use. There are also solid bridges of light to traverse and lasers to redirect and turrets to avoid, and it was just great. I loved these puzzles. One of my favorite things in games are challenging puzzles (which is why the “Zelda” series is one of my favorites, when the puzzles are actually difficult), but too often, puzzles are too uninspired and easy, or they are hard, but you start seeing repeats, and they just get old. A puzzle is no good anymore once you’ve seen it a dozen times before, even if it was challenging the first few times you did it. One example is the puzzles in the “Zelda” series, involving Link sliding a block over ice to get it to a certain location, and once you push the block, it slides until it hits something. Well, “Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box” had the same thing, only instead of a block, it was the Professor ice-skating over a frozen lake. It was fun, but I had seen it before. (And spoiler, figure out your route backwards…)
But, sometimes something awesome and grand happens. Sometimes a game actually offers something new in terms of puzzles. What, creativity? Who’s heard of such a thing! The first example that comes to mind is “Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time”, which involves the most creative puzzles involving time and multiple recordings of yourself. These puzzles involved Clank recording himself doing actions, then, he could play recordings of himself pressing buttons and other such things and work with those recordings to get to places he couldn’t go alone. That may not make any sense, but trust me, they were some of the best puzzles I’ve ever seen. That game was worth it just for those puzzles and the humor alone.
And being too lazy to think of more examples, or perhaps, there aren’t any (no, there probably are, and I’m just too lazy), I return to my discussion of “Portal 2” (and likely the game that came before it, but as of writing this post, I have not played that yet). It’s just a really wonderful game. The puzzles were just so creative and challenging. Sometimes, I just wandered around for twenty minutes before I figured one out. But, I always did. That’s what makes them so great. They are difficult, but they are all do-able. In fact, the solutions are pretty easy once you figure out what they are. Sometimes, you jus have to try things or backtrack a little, and then the solution just comes to you.
Another thing that needs mentioning is that they managed to make this into an actual game-game, which is also impressive. What I mean is, it’s not just a series of puzzles the entire time like I expected. There is more to the gameplay than just that (which I’ll get to in the next paragraph), plus a story and two great characters, the robots GLaDOS (a character that I’ve heard about specifically and who played a large role in me getting the game so I could see who she was) and Wheatley, who have some of the best dialogue ever, making this game so much more fun to play.
And then, besides the rooms of puzzles you go through at certain points throughout the game, a good chunk of the game is also spent exploring the abandoned Aperture facility (all the while learning about some of the history of the company), and the only way to explore this crumbling, old place is to use your brain, the portal gun, and your environment. The catwalk is missing, and the door you must reach is a good 50 feet away? No problem. Just find a good place to make portals, and you’re as good as there. Your door is now 50 feet up? Pshaw, portal gun and some blue gel. Pow! I’m so through that door it’s not even funny! (Or is it?) So if you’re like me and don’t want a game that’s simply a collection of puzzles, well, this one isn’t. I mean, it really is, but the puzzles are hidden amidst the exploring.
So people who have told me “Portal 2” is great, thank you. I would have never bought the game if no one had told me how good it was. I saw it in stores, but always just passed it by, not giving it a second thought. But, now that I’ve tried it, I really enjoyed it, and I just love when I can get a game that has creative, challenging puzzles, and I am so impressed they were able to make this game into something more. I didn’t expect that. In short, puzzles. Humor. Exploring. Plus GLaDOS and Wheatley. Is a good time.
Few Know That the D in GLaDOS Stands For Duck…
Not super long ago, I played the newest “Ratchet and Clank” game, “Ratchet and Clank: Full Frontal Assault”. I bought it, thinking it was a regular “Ratchet and Clank” game. Stupidly, AFTER paying for it, I looked at the back and read something that seemed odd. Was this a different kind of game? I looked on the Internet when I got home and found out, to my deep and utter disappointment that echoed through every fiber of my being, including my spleen (okay, I exaggerated a little bit, but I was still disappointed), that it was indeed different from what I was hoping for. It was a “tower defense” game, which I had a vague understanding of. Nevertheless, I thought I’d give it a try.
This game lets you choose between three playable characters, Ratchet, Clank, and Qwark (kind of like “All 4 One”, but without Nefarious, so it’s like “All 3 One”, that doesn’t work, though). I mainly played as Ratchet, to make the game somewhat feel more like a regular “R&C” game. Anyway, the gameplay involves you visiting several planets, and in each one, you have some tasks to complete, and all the while, you must defend your base from enemies. Each area is a decent size to explore, and you must either destroy things or activate things. Every few minutes or so, you must return to your base and defend it from some enemies. After completing all the tasks, you then must defend your base against tons of enemies and keep at least one generator from being destroyed. You can buy various barriers, mines, and turrets to defend your base.
In addition to the things I just mentioned, you also have your own weapons to use against enemies, too, of course. These are all weapons from previous games, unfortunately. No new weapons in this game. (One weapon, a little robot that fights with you named Mr. Zurkon, does get some good new dialogue in this game, though. “Mr. Zurkon does not discriminate. He hates all life forms equally.”) And what I find very odd is how you get weapons. Bolts are only spent on defending your base now. Your guns are free, but to get them, you must find these devices scattered all throughout the area. Each device lets you choose one weapon out of one or several choices. Every time you start a new area, you have to get your weapons back (luckily, they stay leveled up). I just thought it was a bit odd. You know, if I was them, I would perhaps, I don’t know, keep my guns. But, that’s just me.
But, I’m nitpicking. This game actually did turn out to be quite fun, and it was my first time really playing a tower defense game. I’ve played little versions that were just a part of a larger game, but not like this. It was always very satisfying to stop enemies from getting to my generators, then, restore any defenses that got destroyed. Since I didn’t need to save money for guns anymore, I could spend more freely on making my base secure. Always did the strongest barriers first, then Warmonger turrets, then whatever else I could afford. Sometimes, I could defeat enemies before they even got anywhere near my base. Booyah! It was all rather addicting.
While I learned that tower defense games can be fun, I also found out how stressful they can be (like Tetris type games, now those can get stressful, too). The anxiety of not only defending my own life, but all my precious generators could become quite overwhelming at times. At first, I’d just take out enemies at one entrance, then the other, but when I wasn’t fully prepared, the enemies would eventually just swarm in from both sides, and I didn’t know where to turn. I’d shoot at those on the right as generators on the left got destroyed, then I’d turn to the left and more generators to my right would be demolished. At the last part of the game where you defend your base (the very last level is more traditional), I lost many times. Finally, I learned to just get as much money as possible, then put turrets everywhere. I finally was able to keep up and win that time. What a relief that was when I finally prevailed. In your face, Grungarian forces!
While I found this new style of gameplay to be quite fun, I still ended up being a bit disappointed by this game. Okay, maybe very disappointed. And while I wish the game had the same gameplay as regular “Ratchet and Clank” games, that’s not what bothers me quite as much. What contributed most to making this game disappointing were two things. For one thing, it is very short. There are three planets. Three. (And you go to one planet three times. They should’ve given us a couple more to check out instead of making us revisit one several times.) You can finish this game in just a few hours. And secondly, it doesn’t have a very good story, either. There’s barely anything to say about it. There’s just this guy from an earlier game that I completely don’t remember causing trouble because of something related to Qwark. I may as well not say anymore or I may spoil the tiny bit of story there is. (It’s funny to mention, though, that the main villain is voiced by Richard Horvitz, the same voice actor that did ZiM in a TV show I love, “Invader ZiM”. I thought he sounded familiar.)
So this game ended up being fun and disappointing at the same time. I really wish Insomniac would make regular “Ratchet and Clank” games again. The last two were too different. And what an underwhelming way to celebrate the series’ 10-year anniversary. But, on a more positive note, I did enjoy the game the short time it lasted. I very much liked trying something new, and while I prefer the traditional “Ratchet and Clank” gameplay, I know now how fun tower defense games can be. Stressful, but very addicting.
“When I’m finished killing you, I think I’ll rewind time. So I can do it again. And again! AND AGAIN!!”-Dr. Nefarious
It’s time for a post on another one of my favorite characters, this time a villain from the “Ratchet and Clank” series. This character is actually the reason I fell in love with the series (and played a big part in me buying a PS3). And that character is the highly amusing, but also highly diabolical, Dr. Nefarious. (Spoilers for “Up Your Arsenal”, “A Crack in Time”, and “All 4 One” ahead; proceed with caution.) Why not watch this little informative video on “How to Spot a Supervillain” for a quick intro on my favorite evil robot doctor?
Now that you’ve seen the doctor for yourself, why don’t I tell you who he is? Good idea, I’ll do just that. Ahem, Dr. Nefarious is an evil robot mad scientist that makes his first appearance in the “Ratchet and Clank” series as the main villain of “Up Your Arsenal”. He hates all organic life, which he calls “squishies”, and even tried to kill all living things or turn them into robots with the Biobliterator in “Up Your Arsenal”, but his plans were thwarted by Ratchet, Clank, and a late-arriving Captain Qwark. Since, unlike other villains, he shows up in several games, he is considered to be the main villain of the series, and there is, at the very least, some reference to him in every game since he showed up.
Before I get into Nefarious’ personality, why don’t I recount a bit about his past and his roles in the games, hmm? Hmm?! Most of the information I know of the doctor’s past comes from a series of vid comics in “Up Your Arsenal”, that tells of Captain Qwark’s past fights with Nefarious. Apparently, years ago, Dr. Nefarious used to be an organic life form quite similar in appearance to humans, but bald and with the same large head he has as a robot. (If you’re wondering, yes, he was indeed ugly.)
He and Qwark actually first met in high school, having the same biology class in ninth grade (even though Qwark was 26 at the time), where poor Nefarious was bullied by Qwark and called names like “that freak with the headgear”. It is also mentioned in “A Crack in Time” that his mother suggested at one time that he was a disappointment, and later in his life, people called him insane. It is likely these things that contributed to his hatred of organic life and him becoming a villain. (A sincere and heartfelt “thank you” to all those who helped push Nefarious to the evil side. It certainly makes the games better.)
Later on in the vid comics, Dr. Nefarious unleashed a race of creatures he created called Ameoboids on BlackwaterCity, I believe to get back at the inhabitants for calling him crazy, though Qwark put an end to his plans. After that, Qwark followed the doctor to planet Magmos (somehow he held onto Nefarious’ ship, holding his breath the whole way…for six days). It is here that Qwark confronts Nefarious and recognizes him as one of the kids he picked on in high school. By accident, Qwark pushes Nefarious off the catwalk they were standing on, and the doctor lands in the machinery below (which I think may’ve been used for manufacturing robots…?). While Qwark believes Nefarious to have died, this is what resulted in Nefarious becoming a robot.
And here we get back to the actual games. Well, like I said, Nefarious’ first appearance in “Up Your Arsenal” involved him trying to wipe out all organic life. After he was defeated, he and his butler Lawrence made their escape by teleporting somewhere, but since Nefarious didn’t specify a location, they ended up on an asteroid, where they were stuck for I’m not sure how long, with Nefarious spending his time contemplating how he could’ve possibly been defeated. Here, we get to the events of “Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time”. Before this game begins, the asteroid eventually crashed on planet Zanifar, home to the peaceful Fongoids, and Nefarious himself can explain best what happened during his time there….
So as you saw, Dr. Nefarious devised a plan to use the clock, not fully aware of the fact that the clock is only meant to keep time, not change it, and if it is messed with, the entire universe could be in danger. Of course, in the end, he is defeated and very badly damaged by Ratchet and Clank. During the credits, however, we hear that his body was never found in the wreckage of his space station….
As of writing this, Dr. Nefarious shows up as an important character in one other game, “Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One” as a playable character. Unfortunately, this game is a bit different from the rest of the series and can even be a bit childish at times. Anyway, what happens is Nefarious tries to kill Qwark with a monster called a Z’Grute. When it gets out of his control, he tries to stop it, alongside Ratchet, Clank, and Qwark. After defeating the beast, a huge structure shows up and the four characters are taken to planet Magnus, where they work together to find a way to, not only escape, but stop a plan that could threaten the galaxy. Like I said, this game is quite different, and Nefarious often seems to me rather out of character. In the end, though, he does end up stealing the rescue ship and leaving the other characters stranded. There, that’s the Nefarious I love.
Now that I’ve finally finished summarizing his past, I must tell you about his personality, which, of course, is the main reason I like him so. (And the main reason hardly anyone in the games does.) Simply put, Dr. Nefarious is one of the funniest characters I’ve ever seen. Even among the hilarious characters of the “Ratchet and Clank” series, he is one of the best (I’d say he is the best, but perhaps I’m somewhat biased). But, why is he so funny?
For one thing, he’s very possibly crazy (because mental illness is funny in the world of fiction, I suppose). Also, while Dr. Nefarious is supposed to be a genius and is capable of doing things others would believe to be impossible, he seems to be lacking in common sense. For example, he has pointed loaded guns at people without the safety on, resulting in the deaths of some of his troops, as you can see in the next cut scene.
He also thought that the “Secret Agent Clank” TV show was real. He also can be a bit childish, as he once acted like a chicken to mock Lawrence and made Lord Vorselon (an assassin he hired in “A Crack in Time”) play vid comics with him, even when Vorselon currently had no hands with which to do anything with. He is also terrible at making jokes and never seems to catch on when Lawrence insults him. (When Lawrence said, “You put the ‘wit’ in twit, sir,” Nefarious actually agreed.)
He also likes to call things ridiculous names in “A Crack in Time”, such as the “Orb of Gratuitous Immobilization” and “Unnecessarily Evil Initiative Omega-91”. He also talks and yells a lot and has provided us gamers with some very fun monologues. He also has a habit of freezing up in the middle of things when he is screaming or laughing extra hard, during which he picks up signals of the overly corny soap opera, “Lance and Janice”. (“I don’t have the capacity for love, Janice. I was cursed by a tribe of gypsy ninjas when I was a kid.” “I know, Lance, I was in that tribe of gypsy ninjas.”) This continues until someone gives him a smack. He has no idea he does this, and so he then continues doing whatever he was doing as if nothing ever happened.
Another reason why I like the doctor is because, although in some ways he can be a stereotypical villain, he’s not as flat a character as many villains are. Yes, he’s terribly conceited and likes killing things and has a bad temper (all great qualities, for a villain, at least). But, at least I can somewhat see how he became evil, unlike many villains who seem to have no reason for what they do. And at least his evil plots are more creative than simple galactic domination. I also like that there is so much more extra information about him than most villains in other games, so it makes him much more interesting and makes him seem more like a real person. Seriously, what the heck do I know about Ganondorf from “The Legend of Zelda” series? Nearly nothing. Uh, he can play the organ? And…um… He likes…dark colors…
And I think Lawrence deserves a quick mention, as well. I think Dr. Nefarious and Lawrence make a very fun pair of characters, probably because they are so different from each other. Both are bad, but Nefarious is much more obviously evil. (It’s almost hard to tell at first that Lawrence is actually bad.) Actually, Nefarious is much more obvious in everything, while Lawrence is a lot more subtle. Nefarious yells quite often, while Lawrence never does. Nefarious outright calls people names like moron, idiot, and twit, while Lawrence is sarcastic and never really insults anyone directly. And while Nefarious is the genius of the two, Lawrence appears to be more intelligent, and Lawrence is certainly more mature. You can’t like Dr. Nefarious without also liking Lawrence. Try it. I dare you.
So I suppose I made this post way longer than I should have, but I find Dr. Nefarious to be a very fun character, with his ridiculous behavior and complete lack of common sense. Not only is he a very funny character, but he is one of the only favorite characters of mine that, not only showed up in several games so far, but is likely to be in more in the future. (Most characters I love die and are never, ever seen again.) I look forward to seeing what he’s up to next.
(A ridiculously long side note: In case you’re wondering about the title, and I’m sure you are, it’s a reference to an area of “A Crack in Time” I found particularly funny. When Ratchet goes back in time on planet Zanifar, he ends up in the Fongoid village where Nefarious crashed on the asteroid. Here, the Fongoids are brainwashed, and this computer voice would repeat statements about the doctor over and over again, such as “Dr. Nefarious is brilliant.” or “A day without Dr. Nefarious is a day without sunshine.” There were also statements about how they loved Dr. Nefarious and enjoyed working for him, and there was even one stating that “Dr. Nefarious is NOT a disappointment, as his mother once suggested”. One that really cracked me up is a statement I heard some of the Fongoids say, that was something like, “If I was down to my last stick of gum and Dr. Nefarious asked for it, I would give him the gum.” How random.)
And one more thing, according to a “Ratchet and Clank” calendar, today is Dr. Nefarious’ birthday. Happy birthday, doctor!
A Nefarious Duck
As of writing this, I was still working on catching up on the “Ratchet and Clank” series, and so the next game I played was “Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction”. This is the first of the “Future” trilogy. I’ve been skipping around in the series (I started at number three in this trilogy, “A Crack in Time”, then I watched the very short “Quest for Booty” on Youtube), so it’s nice to now have some things explained from those two games. Like who the crap are Cronk, Zephyr, and Talwyn? And where the heck did Ratchet get Aphelion, his talking ship? And what led to the events at the beginning of “A Crack in Time” (which I can’t divulge, as it’s spoilers for this game)? And does the “Future” part of the title have any meaning, or did they just tack it on the end to distinguish it from the original trilogy? (The answer to that last question, yes, it was just tacked on for no actual reason.) So many mysteries, so much time to…solve those mysteries.
Well, the game starts out with Metropolis under attack by the forces of Emperor Percival Tachyon, last of a rather nasty race called the Cragmites. (People think his first name is silly, but I like it. Am I weird?) But, his target is not really the city, but Ratchet, as Ratchet is the last of the Lombaxes, the race that wiped out the rest of the Cragmites. Also, Clank is seeing these creatures called Zoni that no one else can see (no, he hasn’t been getting into the booze). So this game involves Ratchet and Clank finding a way to stop Tachyon, while Ratchet works towards solving the mystery of what really happened to the rest of the Lombaxes. And what do those weird Zoni want with Clank? (Well, I know already. But, only because I went ahead.)
This game is mostly the same thing as usual. In “Ratchet and Clank” games, you explore various planets. You get a variety of awesome weapons for killing your enemies. There are also gadgets that do certain things, like this new one (forgot the name) that makes bouncy little platforms for you to use to get to high up ledges or the Helipods that can lift certain platforms and open certain doors for you. Why thank you, kind sir, err, thing. There’s also a great gadget that lets you disguise yourself as a space pirate (not the kind in “Metroid”). This comes in handy for getting through doors for pirates only. Though, as extra proof that you’re a pirate, you have to do a dance before you’re allowed through (because we all know pirates are jolly scoundrels that like to dance and sing). Good times.
New to this game are devices, though, I find having yet another category of items a bit overkill. (Gadgets. Weapons. Devices. It must end!) Insomniac must’ve agreed, as these don’t appear to be in games after this one. Nevertheless, these are quite useful. These devices do special things in battle, but are not quite weapons. One I like quite a bit is the Groovitron, which makes enemies dance so you can destroy them while they’re too busy boogying. And the Transmorpher turns enemies into penguins for a short time (that waddle around wearing scarves or top hats, which is quite possibly the cutest thing in the Polaris Galaxy by far). And my favorite one of all, Mr. Zurkon, a belligerent robot that helps you fight and also mocks your enemies at the same time. I love Mr. Zurkon. I want that on a T-shirt. And I would wear it. I would wear that T-shirt.
Clank is also a playable character sometimes in this game, like in the previous ones, but his gameplay is a little different. Not by much, but in this game, instead of telling little robots to do stuff, he gets help from the Zoni (who manage to be kind of cute and kind of creepy at the same time and make me think a lot of the little green aliens in “Toy Story”). They can attack enemies for him, repair things, and allow him to levitate for short amounts of time and slow time for as long as you hold a button. These areas were kind of fun, and I wish there were a little more.
Also, this is the first game I’ve played so far that makes much use of the tilting capabilities of the PS3 controller. (Apparently this controller has slight motion control abilities, as tilting the controller can control some things.) Sometimes I don’t like these controls because I have trouble with them, like when Ratchet’s falling from high up, you tilt the controller to move him to dodge missiles, and he hits quite a lot. Sorry, Ratchet. You can also use it to control these tornadoes that come from this tornado-shooting gun (does that not just blow your mind, a gun that shoots tornadoes?), and I know there’s really no other way to control both the tornadoes and your character simultaneously, but I never got the hang of that, so I just made sure I shot tornadoes at people at point blank range. There is one thing where I think the tilting fits quite nicely, though. With the Decryptor, you tilt this thing to move a ball, and you move the ball in between gaps in this circuit board thing to keep the spark moving along the path to the end. This is quite fun and the best use of the tilting.
One thing I noticed about this game is that it really feels a lot like the original “Ratchet and Clank” games on the PS2. “A Crack in Time” had a different kind of feel to me, and “All 4 One” was completely different. The familiar feel to this game is nice, but at the same time, there’s not much about it that distinguishes itself from the others. But, I guess that’s not such a bad thing really.
Now I have two complaints about the game. My first complaint is a little one. While most of it is a fine difficulty, the final boss is pathetic. One of the easiest ever. It took me 15 minutes, including ending cut scenes. The original “Ratchet and Clank” games were so much harder. I don’t know why all the newer ones are easier. I want a challenge, darn it!
My other complaint is bigger. I really don’t like the fact that the dialogue during cut scenes has issues for me. Characters repeat words fairly often, and the dialogue plays a little late at times (due to the repeating words), so the lip syncing can be off. Once, a cut scene ended mid sentence, and I only knew what was said because I read the subtitles. Another cut scene had no sound at all. Once again, good thing I had subtitles on. All of these issues ended up upsetting me quite a bit.
Games simply should not do this. I have never seen such an issue before, and it should’ve been fixed. Not everyone gets it, and I hear people say it doesn’t even happen every time they play. Nevertheless, it shouldn’t happen for anyone. It’s a shame that, in a series with great cut scenes, the cut scenes in this game were a bit ruined. I was at least relieved to find that, after some research on the Internet, it was simply the game and not an issue with my disk (which was not only brand new, but I inspected it thoroughly and it looked just fine) and not an issue with my PS3, which were my first concerns. Still a shame, though.
While the audio issues did somewhat ruin the game for me, it was still quite fun. It still had the same fun gameplay and humor as the others. (Cronk and Zephyr could be pretty “durn” funny, particularly the quotes: “He’s probably hopped up on rap music,” and “Get off my lawn!” And Qwark was his same old, idiotic self. And that haiku Tachyon made up, that started off violent, but ended in, “Cupcakes are yummy.”) I liked the game quite a bit, and it’s nice to finally be catching up on the series. I think I’m pretty much caught up on the main games now. (I don’t count “Deadlocked” or the ones not made by Insomniac. The latter category is an affront to humanity.) All is right with the galaxy again.
Ducks of Destruction
Remember my What the Duck Awards post on the Funniest Dance Performed by a Video Game Character? Well, I just recently saw a new video, and I take it back. I take it all back. While I am not choosing a new winner, I did find a hilarious video of dancing video game characters.
So at the bottom of this post, I present you with a delightful video taken from “Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time”. In some “Ratchet and Clank” games, including this one, you can use a device called a Groovitron which causes everyone, enemies and allies alike, to start dancing uncontrollably. This video plays all the Groovitron’s songs while showing the dances of every single character and enemy (of the ones that dance). It is too great not to share.
My personal favorites are: the second Terachnoid around 0:48, Mr. Zurkon around 1:03 (because he’s adorable), Captain Qwark’s ridiculous dance right after Mr. Zurkon’s, the Smuggler around 2:06, the female Fongoid around 4:36, and Azimuth around 5:19. Azimuth is probably the best of all of them. His is just great. If you only watch one, skip ahead and watch him. Then, go back and watch all the others. (I wish I could’ve seen Lawrence dance. He’s always so composed.)
Which ones do you guys like most?
The Duck Who Can’t Dance As Well As Most of Those Characters
I recently finished playing my second PS3 game, another “Ratchet and Clank” game, this one called “All 4 One”. I heard some bad things about it before buying it, but I did it anyway because I have an unhealthy need to play games with Dr. Nefarious in it. While I did actually like the game in the end, there are some problems with it. It’s going to sound like I hate the game, but I don’t. I do dislike certain things about it, though.
And so I feel an obligation to society to discuss this game in much greater depth than necessary. First of all, I must mention the most important change to the game. This game is meant to be played with multiple people, which I think is the reason for many of the other changes. It also includes a team of characters that shouldn’t really be together, which feels forced in simply because Insomniac wanted those characters to be playable.
Anyway, when the game starts, Dr. Nefarious shows up and unleashes some big beastie called a Z’Grute on the city of Luminopolis, but it gets out of his control and turns on him (and his butler Lawrence quits and runs off, which is really just for the sake of what comes next), and this is where our forced multiplayer comes in. Not only do the good characters of Ratchet, Clank, and Qwark have to stop it (which makes sense), but Nefarious, too, and there we have our mandatory four playable characters (Why is four always the magic multiplayer number?). After our unlikely team stops the Z’Grute, some big machine comes, and then they all wake up and find they were kidnapped and brought to some strange planet far away. Here, they must uncover the evil force behind the giant structure called Ephemeris (I want to name a pet that) and save the planet (and perhaps the universe…).
As I said, parts of the game seemed forced. Maybe I’m just picky, but that’s how it seemed to me. They wanted people to be able to play as the three good characters and as Nefarious, and while I like being able to play as my favorite evil robot (which is the character I played as the entire game, of course), having him working alongside the good characters doesn’t quite work sometimes. Under normal circumstances, he would never do that. Why didn’t he just leave and let the Z’Grute destroy the city? Why bother to stop it? And even if somehow he did end up on that planet with everyone else, Lawrence would’ve come and rescued Nefarious as he had done in the past. Insomniac knew that, and so they had Lawrence quit, though I think they gave him insufficient reason to do so. If Lawrence put up with Dr. Nefarious (who, to put it lightly, isn’t easy to work with) all these years, I don’t see why he’d just quit because of some monster. Perhaps he’d run, even though I’ve never seen Lawrence flee from danger before (though maybe it’s because he has short legs), but I don’t see why he’d quit. Especially since I’ve always found Lawrence to be surprisingly loyal to Dr. Nefarious until now. It seems out of character, and it bothers me to no end. Like I said, though, perhaps I’m nitpicking. I am a duck, after all.
But anyway, on to the gameplay. As I said, you can play as one of the four characters. If you play alone, then you have another character with you controlled by a computer. Usually this character is Clank, but if you’re Clank, it’s Qwark. They like to emphasize teamwork in this game, which is sometimes done well and sometimes isn’t. If multiple characters shoot at the same target with the same weapon, more damage is done. Sometimes they must work together to hit several switches. Sometimes they toss things to each other. No complaints there, really. Sometimes you all must simply press the triangle button at a platform to make it move. This part is lacking in imagination, I think. But, overall, I guess this aspect of the game is usually fine.
Except when the computer character doesn’t behave himself. Usually my little Clank sidekick knows what to do (which I find adorable), and sometimes he’s an idiot. Which I would’ve expected from Qwark. He gets stuck places. I throw him across a gap in order to use my Swingshot on him to get where he is, but he jumps back to me, and we both fall to our dooms. He refuses to toss things to me, as I stand there waiting for the item like an idiot. He disappeared for a bit during the final boss battle. Don’t know where he went. Maybe I can only expect so much from an AI, but it can be frustrating.
Anyway, there is a decent variety of weapons you can use, like usual (but getting more ammo is much easier now, as you just stand on this thing and get it all back for free, which works out for cheap people like myself). Mr. Zurkon makes a comeback, and there’s a rocket launcher and a weapon that turns enemies into piggies, to name a few. There are also gadgets, like the Swingshot, as I mentioned somewhat before. There is also this silly vacuum for doing a variety of things, like throwing objects (or Clank) somewhere, activating weird switches, moving things, and, well, sucking up little animals (which seems mean, but I guess they’re okay). I guess the vacuum is pretty useful and everything, but I find it out of place. Just as I find the cutesy little animals everywhere rather odd. And the fact that I’m sucking them into a vacuum. I’m not quite sure what they were thinking here.
Something a bit disappointing in this game is that it is all very linear, with a fixed camera position that can get a little annoying. This camera is quite controlling, and sometimes it just won’t let me go where I want, even if I want to backtrack just a little. Come on, let me go back and get the ammo I passed! Come on! The game also takes place on one single planet (with the exception of the very first level), unlike a bunch of planets like in the other games. There is a nice variety of landscapes to make up for it, though. Places way high in the air, with views for miles. Locations by the water and places underground. Dark forests and icy areas. The graphics look quite nice, too, so these levels can be quite lovely.
Something I hate about the game are the health, the ammo, and the enemies. One, the health disappears after a short time if the box it’s in is broken, instead of staying there until you need it, like in other games. Enemies keep breaking these boxes before I need it, and then when I do need it, the health is gone. Two, I keep running out of ammo. During long battles, they just won’t give me ammo, and I run out, and then I’m helpless. Three, some battles last too long. Especially in the last couple of hours of the game, they make you fight seemingly endless groups of enemies. And these enemies take so long to kill. How can you shoot the thing with 20 grenades and 10 rockets and 150 bullets, and it just won’t stop? How? You just keep shooting them and shooting them and they just won’t die and then I run out of ammo and my health disappears before I can reach more and I hate it! It makes me a mad duck! So mad a duck I am! And why do I sometimes come back to life when I die, and sometimes I don’t? There’s no rhyme or reason to it! And if I have no ammo left whatsoever, please don’t revive me! What’s the point! Do not resuscitate me, Clank, just don’t!
I also feel it worth mentioning that this game is more childish than the other games. And a bit, well, corny. You see, throughout the game, the characters say different things, and I don’t mind much of it (such as Qwark’s, “Ammo. Stuff to kill stuff with.”), but sometimes it’s just annoying. Especially Clank’s dialogue. He is one corny, little robot. And ducks don’t like corny. We like corn, but not corny. You don’t need to apologize for shooting at your fellow robots when they’re trying to murder you. And stop telling the dumb little animals you won’t harm them, just before sucking them up into a vacuum like living pieces of dust. And please, Clank, please never comment on our teamwork ever again. Or I’ll be tempted to use the vacuum and toss you off the side of a cliff. How’s that for teamwork?
All in all, though, I do have to admit that I usually had fun playing the game, despite my whining about it and me getting homicidal thoughts about Clank. Who I do love. He knows I love him. He does. But, I don’t know why they changed things so much. And I don’t know why it’s more childish than the other games. Or why I’m vacuuming up animals. And I still will never get over Nefarious or Lawrence behaving out of character. But, I still enjoyed it. It was fun and sometimes funny (with some disturbing dialogue from Qwark…). The graphics were quite lovely, as I said before. And there was some challenge to it, if fighting nearly invincible enemies with no ammo and no health can be considered challenging. I guess it is. So game, after all I said about you, know that I still care for you. Hey, don’t look at me that way, with the sting of betrayal in your eyes. If you start crying, I’ll start crying.
All 4 Ducks
After finishing “Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal”, I became such a fan of the series that, not long later, I went out and bought a PlayStation 3 to get the new games. After an interlude of sheer idiocy, I figured out how to get the thing working (I knew something was suspicious about that cable…), and the first game I played was “Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time”. This game is not the first of the PS3 “Ratchet and Clank” games. I believe it’s actually the third in the “Future” trilogy. So why did I start at the end? Two words. Dr. Nefarious. He was the character from “Up Your Arsenal” that made me fall in love with the series, and seeing as he’s the main villain of “A Crack in Time”, I needed to play the game.
Unfortunately, I spoiled a lot of the game before playing it. At first, I didn’t think I’d get the PS3 anytime soon, but I just couldn’t wait to see what happened in this game. So I read bits and pieces of the plot on both Wikipedia and the “Ratchet and Clank” wiki. I also watched many of the cut scenes with Dr. Nefarious in it on Youtube, because he’s downright funny. Turned out to be quite unnecessary. I finally realized there was no point in waiting. I had the money. Why not get the PS3? And so I did.
Anyway, this game’s story starts out with Ratchet and Captain Qwark looking for Clank, who actually was taken by these creatures called Zoni two games prior. Somewhere farther away, at the exact center of the universe (“give or take fifty feet”) is a huge structure called the Great Clock, where Clank currently is residing. Unfortunately, Clank is damaged, and the Zoni (who are apparently rather naïve) have asked the evil Dr. Nefarious to repair Clank for them. Nefarious obliges, as he has his own purpose for Clank, as the little robot holds the key to opening the Orvus Chamber, the most important room of the Great Clock. Gasp. Over the course of the game, we find out more about Ratchet’s past, what Nefarious is plotting, and what Clank has to do with the Great Clock.
Fortunately, despite the major spoilers I put myself through, the game still turned out to be a blast. The first thing I noticed was how amazing the graphics are. Absolutely spectacular (and I’m not even using HD, which I still believe wholeheartedly looks no different anyway). It’s just wow. The usual humor is still there, too. This game is as funny as the earlier ones. Maybe more so. And the voice acting is some of the best I’ve ever heard, like usual.
And like the other “Ratchet and Clank” games, this game consists of exploring planets and using awesome weapons (well, the weapons aren’t that great until you get farther into the game). There are new guns and some new gadgets, including the very awesome hoverboots, one of the best items ever. These can be used to move very fast, jump farther, and use these ramps to get across large gaps. And I want them. I want them for real. (And you can throw Ratchet’s wrench while walking now. It sounds like such a simple change, but it is so convenient. Ratchet has lost the ability to crouch, though. Got bad knees, Ratchet? Me, too.)
Different to previous games, this one is split up between Ratchet’s story and Clank’s. Ratchet’s part of the game involves the usual stuff I just mentioned, and Clank’s involves exploring the Great Clock and solving these difficult time puzzles. They really get me thinking. I’ve never seen puzzles like this before. You can record yourself doing an action, and then you can do things while your past self does the recorded action. Like it can go stand on a switch for you while you go through the door. Some get more complex, too. You have your past self stand on a switch, which gives you access to a second switch. So you stand on the second switch as Clank #1 stands on the first switch. And then you record over Clank #1, and you stand on the first switch for Clank #2, so Clank #2 steps on the second switch, and you go through the door. Woo, huff, out of breath. And it gets a lot more complicated than that. Whoever said video games rot your brain never tried puzzles like this. All this brain exercise has given my brain rock-hard abs.
Anyway, since the weapons are an important part of the games, I wanted to quickly mention a few I found particularly great. The Rift Inducer 5000 (which actually shows up in some form in “Up Your Arsenal”, but I never used it back then) was awesome. It opens a rift to another dimension, and these tentacles come out (belonging to a creature named Fred), and Fred will attack enemies and pull them through the rift. Watching a big, hunky Agorian get picked up as if he weighed nothing and pulled through a rift never gets old. I also liked Mr. Zurkon. He is this robot that fights alongside you, while insulting and threatening those around him. Some of his quotes I liked were:
“Mr. Zurkon does not come in peace.”
“Mr. Zurkon requires no Nanotech to survive. Mr. Zurkon lives on fear.”
And at one point he said something to the tune of Camptown Races (you know it, the song that goes “Doo da. Doo da.”), part of which goes “Zurkon kills stuff all day long”. You can’t not love Mr. Zurkon. If you don’t, he’ll probably just kill you. Because he’s great.
Something else that is new to this game is the fact that you also can fly around in space now. On the PS2, you would choose a location from this menu, and Ratchet would fly there himself. Now you do the flying, and it frightened me a bit at first, being out there in all that, well, space. It’s not as enormous as it looks, though. Good, considering that one of my big fears is being lost out in space. It’s actually broken down into different sectors you can warp right to, so it makes it into manageable chunks. Glad I’m not about to face one of my worst nightmares, after all.
And there’s a lot out here in space. People to help. Moons to explore. There are also a few radio stations you can listen to, which are entertaining, though I didn’t listen to them much (I’m not a big radio-listener in the real world, either). But, I especially had to laugh when Nefarious called in to one talk show to complain about the “Lance and Janice” soap opera. For a supervillain, he seems to have too much free time.
I really ended up liking this game, but I found a few things to be pretty disappointing. It seemed too short, for one thing. There is a ton of extras, which is great, but the main story, as interesting as it was, seemed short. But, maybe that’s just me. The game was also too darn easy. There are three difficulties you can choose from when you start out, and I went with normal. I can’t imagine how easy it must be on easy, then. The final boss battles were especially pathetic. Dr. Nefarious destroyed me in “Up Your Arsenal”. Beating him took hours of trying, and I didn’t win until I practiced tons and used some shield to keep me from taking damage temporarily. This time, I beat him probably within 15 minutes.
Equally troubling is the fact that if you die (I only died once for real; the other times I kept being dumb and falling off the platform), you don’t have to start the battle over from the very, very beginning, like you did in the original three games on the PS2. You just start over that particular section, with full health and full ammo. I suspect this most upsetting change in the game has something to do with the people of Insomniac really being insomniacs, and they were very sleepy when they made this game. That must be it. Wake up and make the other games challenging, or I’ll send Mr. Zurkon after you!
But, to make up for the shortness of the game, there are a lot of extras. Besides helping people and checking out a bunch of moons, as I mentioned a tiny bit earlier, there is an arena where you can battle enemies for bolts and other prizes. There are 40 Gold Bolts you can collect for skins, too. I managed to get them all, and then I used the Dr. Nefarious skin the whole time afterward. (But, since Ratchet is short, it was a very short, stubby Nefarious.) There are also 40 Zoni to collect. They can upgrade your ship and collecting all of them makes something special happen. I know what it is, but I’m not telling. There are also these weapon thingies to collect. I think some are for modifying weapons, and some get you the Ryno V, the strongest weapon in the game, when you collect all of them. I didn’t do as much with that stuff, though, so I’m not as sure what most of them did. I did get the Ryno V, though. ‘Twas awesome. Oh, and this game also has skill points like the others, where you get points for completing certain tasks. These points unlock cheats and concept art. Unlike previous games, I managed to get everything but some of the skill points. (And I only cheated once, to find a Zoni in Krell Canyon. I was only a little naughty.)
Anyway, my first PS3 game was quite delightful. I wish the story was longer, and I wish it was harder, but other than that, it was great. I wish I hadn’t spoiled stuff, though. Probably would’ve been an even better game. Bad duck! Bad!
A Duck in Time
I was being a bit lazy and didn’t do music posts on the first and second “Ratchet and Clank” games, but I think this game has much better music than those two did anyway. And so now I shall present you with my top songs from “Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal”. Get your giggles about the title out now. We have some hardcore songs to listen to, with links to Youtube.
5. “Aquatos Sewers” is music played in, yes, sewers. This is an optional area that is a complex maze through sewer tunnels, inhabited by ooey gooey Amoeboids. The music is quieter than other songs, and it gives the area kind of a creepy feeling.
4. “Aridia” is a good, pretty epic song that takes place on the planet of the same name. The part about 1:00 in is strangely pretty.
3. “Dr. Nefarious Battle” has epic music for an epic final boss. The music makes the duck very scared, though, as it brings back memories of terror and lasers and those weird bombs with the shockwaves oh my gosh I have post traumatic stress now! (Hides under the bed)
2. “Marcadia” is another good, epic song. Nothing else to say.
1. “Courtney Gears Battle” is played when you battle the singer, Courtney Gears (a parody of Britney Spears). I very much dislike her, but I very much like the music. I’m ashamed to say this is definitely my top song.