The review about a game about a movie about a game.
At a time when PS4 gamers are clamoring for more exclusives, Ratchet & Clank launches with impeccable timing. Longtime fans have waited nearly 3 years since the last installment while newcomers like me are wondering just who this duo is. I have not had a chance to play any of the previous games in the franchise, so this was my first. At $39.99 (US), it’s an accessible title to jump into, as well. But is it worth it?
Ratchet & Clank is a reimagining, of sorts, of the very first Ratchet & Clank game that came out on the PS2 back in 2002. Insomniac Games took great care in recreating these characters and the universe they inhabit by addressing criticisms of the first game in quite a clever way. The game starts off with Shiv Helix, a prisoner in space prison, coming across Captain Qwark. After some playful banter, Captain Qwark begins telling the story of the first game, but from his perspective. This is when we meet Ratchet, dreaming of becoming a hero someday. Shortly after, we meet Clank, a defective Warbot that escapes the clutches of Alonzo Drek, and winds up running into Ratchet on his home-planet. From my understanding, when this occurs in the original game the two do not like each other for much of the game. In this version, however, they quickly become best of friends, with Clank telling Ratchet of an evil threat.
This leads the duo on a journey to multiple planets, searching for parts, weapons, allies, and golden bolts. I don’t want to give away too much of the story here but I will say that, overall, it has some pacing issues and, unfortunately, doesn’t give enough time to character development. It’s sad, too, because the times we see Ratchet & Clank interact with one another in meaningful ways adds charm to the game.
One of the great things about this new Ratchet & Clank game is its meta-style humor. Characters will subtly reference things from the first game, or pretend like they’ve met Ratchet & Clank before, only to dust it off as “Huh, this seems so familiar” or blatantly say, “Oh yeah! It was like this in the first game.” This tongue-in-cheek attitude shows that the game isn’t taking itself too seriously, which is good because it’s a breath of fresh air amongst other gritty, serious games.
If there was one word to describe Ratchet & Clank’s gameplay, it’s “fun.” The variety and diversity of the weaponry at Ratchet’s disposal is as creative as it is thrilling. Weapons range from the standard offensive projectile to a shotgun that changes enemies into 8-bit versions of themselves. My two personal favorites are the Disconator and the Sheepinator (a fan favorite, I’m told). The Disconator is a type of grenade that you throw out that forces any enemy within range to start busting moves. The Sheepinator is a laser weapon that changes enemies into harmless sheep. Weapons like these add a depth of humor to the game that isn’t seen in other games and spices things up nicely.
The level design is top-notch as well, with each area you visit being different than the last. From the peaceful valley of Novalis to ominous space stations, each area is designed with a level of detail and personality that never feels old. There’s one planet where you grind on rails that took me back to the days of Sonic Adventure but also reminded me of my time with Sunset Overdrive. I was never bored with the different areas and enjoyed searching each one for hidden treasures.
The game offers a surprising level of depth in upgrading weapons. As you play, you’ll collect crystals that are used to upgrade various aspects of your weapons. From increasing the blast radius to extending how long enemies must dance there’s a lot of upgrade paths. The unfortunate thing about the way the guns upgrade is that you must use them to level them up. This doesn’t sound bad at first but you’ll quickly find yourself facing the dilemma of foregoing using a preferred gun for the sake of upgrading another that you don’t prefer. While some players won’t bother with the guns they don’t like, folks like myself, who are going for the trophies associated with upgrading guns, will be frustrated in using some of the weaker guns.
Which leads to my next point: the game is difficult. Not Dark Souls difficult but there are a few instances in which you need to strategize a bit. It can be frustrating at times but learning how to chain together different weapons to manage a crowd of enemies is incredibly satisfying. Thankfully, the game does allow you to quick change between weapons, up to four at a time set to the D-pad, allowing for optimum destruction.
There’s just something about Ratchet & Clank. After I finished the game, I was glad it was over (the last few levels tested my patience). But the more I think about the game, the more I find myself smiling and even chuckling at how ridiculous and zany the game is. It’s the same reaction I have when I think back to classic Pixar films like Toy Story (Ratchet & Clank looks like it came out of a Pixar studio). It’s such a unique, refreshing game to have available to gamers currently and one that is well-worth playing. I know I said in Episode 62 of the podcast that I didn’t like the game but I’m finding myself having a different opinion about the game as time goes on.
I give Ratchet & Clank a 4.5 out of 5.