Have you ever thought to yourself, "Gee, I love the Ratchet & Clank games, but I wish that instead of a robot sidekick, Ratchet had magical werewolf powers?" If so, then Ruff Trigger: The Vanocore Conspiracy might be the perfect game for you. Drawing its inspiration from Ratchet 's art and play styles, Ruff Trigger is a cute (if bland) sci-fi shooter/platformer in which players control Ruff, a dog-faced interstellar bounty hunter.
At first armed with little more than a clunky set of martial-arts moves, Ruff is tasked with defeating poorly defined enemies in a quest to rescue cute, genetically engineered pets called Piglots. A huge shipment of Piglots has been lost (or possibly stolen, it's never quite clear) and scattered around, and so it's Ruff's job to lead or carry them to glowing "Teleports" scattered around each level so they can be returned.
The game's Ratchet DNA becomes obvious the first time you buy a gun from one of the familiar-looking in-level kiosks. As for the weaponry itself, there's a decent variety of shotguns, rocket launchers and sniper rifles in the game, but it's all unlocked very slowly. But on the bright side, there's so much money hidden in all the breakable crates and other bits of destructible scenery littering every level that you're almost never short on funds when you finally do get the opportunity to buy new stuff. Oh, and Ruff can turn into a werewolf, too, with Wolverine claws and lasers and everything.
While it's easy to dismiss Ruff as a poor man's Ratchet, there's more to it than that. While most games that sell for $20 new are almost without exception cheap junk, Ruff genuinely seems like a bunch of people got together to earnestly create something really cool. They were tripped up by cost and time concerns, but their intentions were good, and they even stuck in a bunch of motorcycle levels Piglot-themed minigames for players to unlock.
The design isn't too shabby, either. Stick with the game past its irksomely bland early levels, and the game comes into its own with more interesting weapons, levels, enemies and objectives. Even the useless Piglots get smarter, with a few of them able to clear debris (by exploding) or open doors that you couldn't otherwise get through.
Unfortunately, the execution is just clunky. Ruff's stiff martial-arts moves - whether in his normal or werewolf form - only seem to connect half the time, making them virtually useless. Attacking from a distance isn't always much of an improvement, either, as the lock-on controls can be confusing, and the werewolf's "genetic powers" take too long to charge, which can get you killed fast in a firefight.
For better or worse, Ruff Trigger is a mediocre actioner that's probably best ignored. For what it is, though, it's surprisingly good. If you're willing to give him some time and earn him some cool guns, this budget bounty-hunter has some fun to offer.