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Game Review

It dawns on you that Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction is not your average video game just about the time you realize that the easiest way to deal with an onslaught of marauding space pirates is to get them disco-dancing.

Where are me platform shoes, swabby? Arrgh.

This sixth title in the popular animated series has players slipping into the striped fur and long ears of the heroic Ratchet, the last living member of a mechanically gifted, cat-like race called the Lombax. Along with Rachet's little robot buddy, Clank, gamers set out to foil the universe-conquering cravings of a megalomaniacal, big-headed alien named Emperor Percival Tachyon. (The universe again. Why can't all those megalomaniacs just settle for a well-appointed vacation condo?) The space-traveling pals zoom from planet to planet, scope out a wide variety of cities and terrains, and defend against Tachyon's invading hordes of robots, monsters and pirates.

Ratchet It Up
That's not the only thing going on in this game, though. Along with some serious alien thrashing, Ratchet learns that before all of his people disappeared they had hidden something called a "Lombax Secret." Intrigued, he sets his sights on finding this legendary device that could give him insight into his past and be the key to defeating the wicked Emperor.

Sidekick Clank has a few issues to deal with, too. After a sharp blow to his metallic cranium, he starts getting mysterious directions from some cute little alien creatures that only he can see. This could be something monumentally important ... or he could just have a few screws loose.

Get Your Groove On
Gameplay is simple but variety-packed with lots of running, swimming, jumping, spaceship piloting, arena battling, minigame puzzle solving and bad guy blasting. That last bit is handled with the help of over 30 gizmos, gadgets and guns. Ratchet can access standard third-person shooter stuff such as grenades, rockets, spikes, blasters and an electric whip.

The abovementioned pirate party, on the other hand, is possible thanks to a handy device called a "Groovitron," a multicolored disco ball. Other odd and innovative gadgets include a tool that sends out a bunch of nano-bees to keep your foes at bay and a Tornado Launcher that whisks enemies up and over any nearby rainbow.

Adding accent to idiosyncrasy is the fact that this high-def, beautifully animated PlayStation 3 game is simply stunning to look at. The deft detail and coloring make this one of the most vibrant and eye-catching games around and give the impression that you're watching something from Pixar Studios rather than a video game. The well-written script and tongue-in-cheek, wry humor help further that impression.

A Few Missed Beats
But multilayered tickling of players' funny bones is also what helps nudge things up from E to E10+. Gags about the odor in Tachyon's underwear drawer, a robotic pirate's references to "grog" and several characters "shaking their booty" merge with mildly crude references to someone's "stones" and the words "bloody" and "whoopa--."

And, of course, even though the game's violence is cartoon-like, there's still a lot of shooting. Thankfully, there's no blood and guts. Defeated robots disappear in small explosions and bested aliens wink out of existence in a flash of light (sometimes leaving behind green or orange blobs).

Mostly, though, Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction keeps its Lombaxian claws sheathed and limits its gameplay to family-friendly chunks of time ... that are still long enough to give parents the chance to explain what makes disco music such a classic sound. Or not.

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