Ratchet and Clank is going to be 14 years old this year. I was still shooting marbles in the street (just kidding, I was inside playing video games, obviously) when this game came out and it was one of those exclusives that really made the PS2 the powerhouse it was back then. For a series that is this old, it takes some real guts to try and retell the original story for a modern audience. It may seem like quite the undertaking but Insomniac Games has retained the core of what made this series special in the first place and they somehow managed to recapture that magic once again.
Ratchet and Clank is much more of a reimagining than it is a remake. In actual fact, it feels like a new game all together and while it does re-tread some of the story elements of the original, it never felt bogged down by the past, instead it uses the familiarity of its established name as a sort of warm, nostalgic foundation to which it then quickly builds an exciting and fresh adventure on top of it. The story as a result feels fresh and new. What also helps is this game’s odd and novel approach to telling its tale.
So, if you’re not aware, there is actually a Ratchet and Clank movie releasing quite soon. The movie, which is based on the game, actually exists within this game. The movie is about Ratchet and Clank’s heroic deeds and raise to fame but the actual story of this game is told by a prominent character in the series, Captain Qwark. Qwark retells the events of the story which the movie (and this game) is based upon. He also serves a sort of narrator while you play the game (think Bastion, but much lighter and comical).
This kind of 4th wall breaking techniques is used quite often, and for the most part it works. There are times when it can feel a bit unnecessary but the witty and funny dialogue is what really keeps the story afloat. There is a distinct lack of character development though, with new and sometimes important characters getting introduced rather hastily, to the point where I sometimes forgot that they even existed. I guess we’ll see more of them in the movie, it’s just a shame that they aren’t given much time in the spotlight within the game. Overall though, I really enjoyed the story, and I feel that Insomniac Games really nailed that animated movie feel.
If I had a bucket full of praise, I’d drop it all over the gameplay and design of this game. Ratchet and Clank is truly a master class display of good and fun 3D platforming. The world is designed in such a way that it’s just begging to be explored. There are times when it teases you by showing you a collectable in plain sight, and you either have to figure out a way to get there or come back when you have a gadget that might help you. It really reminds me of the 3D platformers of old, and I felt like I was back in my childhood trying to find every egg thief and gem in Spyro the Dragon.
The levels themselves have a lot to offer as well, from hoverboard races to finding golden screws to unlock extra features and cheats. Some locations have optional objectives too that’ll reward you with some awesome items. I have to say though that this game is much beefier than I had anticipated. Don’t get me wrong, it’s no 40-hour RPG and it only took about 10+ hours to complete without doing all the optional missions and finding every collectable, but I would still love to go back and unlock everything or maybe even try and get the gold cup in the hoverboard races.
The combat on the other hand is quite challenging and at times frantic, yet it’s always fair. The game often throws multiple enemies at you and at times it’s quite overwhelming, but thanks to the tight and responsive controls, it never felt frustrating and I thoroughly enjoyed each and every encounter. What truly elevates combat to the next level however, is the arsenal of inventive and fun weapons.
If it’s one thing this series is known for, it’s the weapons. They’re always so unique and fun to use and this tradition continues with this game, providing players with some interesting choices. Aside from your usual guns and grenades we have things like the Groovitron, which forces all enemies within range to start dancing, or the Pixelizer which is a powerful shotgun-like weapon that turns enemies into pixelated, 8-bit versions of themselves. Weapons have a natural synergy to them and they complement each other well, allowing for some varied strategies. I always loved using the Groovitron to stop enemies in their tracks, then throwing a Proton Drum which sends out shockwaves within an area and then unleashing a flurry of rockets and grenades.
If you’re finding that enemies are kicking your butt, you can also upgrade your weapons. Weapons naturally level up as you use them but you can also spend Raritanium to upgrade various effects and statistics such as increasing damage and ammo capacity to extending the duration of some special effects. These upgrades are especially useful during huge mob and boss encounters. Speaking of bosses though, they’re pretty great. I wish there were more, but the bosses that are there are really challenging and just like the rest of the game, it’s not afraid to push players and make them sweat a little, even on the easiest difficulty setting.
If it’s one thing that’s immediately noticeable about the game, then it has definitely got to be its visuals. I can safely say that this is one of the prettiest games I’ve played this gen and it really does look like a playable Pixar movie. It just runs so smoothly as well, further improving the perception that you’re playing an animated movie. Environments are lush and bursting with colour and personality. The same could be said about the characters as well, but what really stands out is the way they’re animated. All characters in the game move with a kind of cartoony elasticity, akin to the movements you’d find in an animated movie. The level of detail and understanding of the visual inspirations that went into this game is truly amazing and Insomniac Games should really be commended for their efforts. Everything from the visuals and animations to the sound and voice acting is spot on. I did however run into a weird audio glitch where Ratchet’s voice appears to echo even in a wide open space, but it eventually goes away if I reload a checkpoint or when the next cutscene plays.
Odd audio glitches and lacking character development did little to hamper the experience. This was probably the most fun I’ve had this year with a video game and I am so pleased that this series came back with guns blazing. When I finally completed the game and watched the credits roll, I was actually really sad it had ended. All I know is Ratchet and Clank is the 3D platformer I didn’t know I needed until I played it.