I've always loved Ratchet & Clank games. You can use that statement to instantly write off the following opinion as fanboy nonsense, but for me the Insomniac series has been teetering on the edge of greatness since its inception – perhaps only a Nintendo badge away from reaching that point in the mind of gamers. The series carries a childlike magic that few outside of Nintendo's doors seem capable of achieving, yet with each new release it seems no one is expecting much. Ratchet & Clank, a complete reimagining of the original 2001 game, will once again surprise people.
Get the idea of a remaster out of your head right now. If you are thinking this PS4 effort is akin to the HD remaster the PS2 games received on PS3, this is not that. Think of this as a brand new game, built for PS4 but retelling the story of the original game. A far cheaper than normal price might suggest something simpler, but I'm telling you that isn't the case. OK?
If you fancy a bit of old-school action platforming (I choose to play with the shooter control scheme), Ratchet & Clank is exactly that. It's a game with a foot in the past, but its mechanics are so fine-tuned that it feels like a breath of fresh air in today's world of Dark Souls, punishing online shooters and obscure indie games. This is a colourful, jumpy, blasty, planet-hopping, humorous sci-fi adventure that is as appealing to adults as it is children.
Tied to not only the original game, but also the upcoming movie, it is narrated by Captain Qwark, which adds a neat twist that results in Ratchet's actions being accompanied by the big man's witty remarks. The tale is one of intergalactic nefariousness (from the bad guys) and heroism (from Ratchet and his robot pal Clank), and doesn't outstay its welcome. You can mop up the main missions in under 10 hours, but to collect everything and fully upgrade your weapons may take another playthrough (there's the New Game + Challenge Mode for that).
As ever in the Ratchet & Clank series, weapons (and their upgrades) are a core part of the experience. I won't spoil what guns you can get hold of, but there's a great sense of achievement to fully upgrading a weapon, so much so that you'll likely find yourself sticking primarily with a couple and then switching it up. There's some real good'ns in the bunch and I think it's unlikely fans will be disappointed. Platforming feels responsive and accurate, although this isn't really a skill-based game in that area, and new abilities are added throughout to add new dimensions to the gameplay.
There's certainly an argument to be made that Ratchet & Clank is a simple game. I wouldn't argue too much, especially if you play on Normal difficulty (what is Easy like?!), but I like to see that as a positive. This is such a gorgeous world to wander around in that I appreciate not being bogged down by frustration and be able to enjoy the experience rather than get a kick out of conquering something that is seemingly impossible. Playing on Hard is a good option if you want to get more time out of your first playthrough. You're not always running, jumping and shooting, either, with Clank getting some puzzle game time to break things up, and there are plenty of optional tasks (hoverboard racing, for one) if you want to tackle them.
Remade for PS4, there's no remnants of the PS2 original here in terms of visuals. Although the game has a few frame rate hiccups when the screen gets busy, Ratchet & Clank looks pure video game, with colourful skies, luscious greens, intimidating oranges and loads of enemies. There are moments where the game feels a bit Earth Defense Force, such is the size and number of foes attacking you, but given a Dreamworks overhaul and a much cheerier tone. A superb selection of music helps keep battles intense, too, and the voice over work is top notch – although I finished the game thinking Clank could have said more.
Ratchet & Clank is an easy recommendation. It's great fun, looks lovely, plays well and almost serves as a palate cleanser to the usual video game releases. Newcomers to the series will likely find a fresher experience (even though it's a proper remake, familiarity does creep in), but fans will love what Insomniac has done here. A remake done right in a series that rarely puts a foot wrong.