Version tested: PSP
It's time to put a stop to stealth in games. It was all very well back in the nineties, but then so was Richard Blackwood. Since Sam Fisher and Solid Snake and The One Out Of Syphon Filter first started hiding in cupboards, every other action game on the shelves has featured some kind of stealth element. It's as if game designers think there's nothing more thrilling than pressing no buttons while you wait for a man with a torch to walk the other way.
If it sounds like I'm no fan of stealth games, that's because I find them wholly and unremittingly tedious. For me, videogames shouldn't be about being quiet and keeping still. Videogames should be about running around and jumping about and blowing things up and smashing stuff to bits. They must always involve guns, cars, space, robots, helicopters, wizards or dinosaurs, and ideally all of the above.
This is why I've always enjoyed the Ratchet & Clank games, which feature three of the Noble Elements. You get to shoot a variety of big and increasingly powerful guns, in space, with the assistance of a robot. Now the robot has got his own game, and it's also set in space. However, having taken the series of Insomniac's hands, developer High Impact has seen fit to dump most of the shooting and replace it with stealth. This was a mistake.
Secret Agent Clank is the second game in the R&C series to be developed for PSP, and the first to put Ratchet's sidekick in the starring role. About time too, you might think - Clank has always had more charm than Ratchet, with his weird catmonkey face and giant furry Dorito ears and cold, dead eyes that could suck the life out of a child without blinking. But what Ratchet lacks in appeal, he makes up for by being good at running around firing massive guns. In previous games, the levels where you got to play as Clank were more sedate. And less fun.
The stealth levels in Secret Agent Clank are no fun at all. They usually involve hiding from enemies - you might have to perch on a museum podium pretending to be a statue, or grab a newspaper from a market stall to hide your face. When enemies are looking the other way, you creep up on them from behind and press square. Then you have a couple of seconds to pull off a four-button combo and take them down.
The takedown mechanic doesn't work. You can be an inch away from an enemy but if you're not standing on precisely the right pixel, you won't see the prompt to press square. Get frustrated and press the button anyway, and the enemy will turn round and start battering you. In most situations there will be other enemies nearby and they'll join in. The camera does a terrible job of keeping up with action, so you'll have to fiddle about to see where enemies are while simultaneously trying to attack them. So you'll die, and you'll have to start the mission again, probably from a checkpoint about three tedious stealth kills back.