REVIEW: Ratchet and Clank
It has been a good while since I have enjoyed a “mascot platformer”. Back during the PlayStation 2 generation and before, It felt as though you could not get away from them. But nowadays, a fair amount of gamers will likely not even know what you mean when that phrase is thrown around. While I doubt that this will change in the future, the release of Ratchet & Clank, the “game based on the movie based on the game”, interested me, since I had not played one of these platformer games in what seemed like a good, long time. I went in with no expectations, and I was pleasantly surprised to find a fun, wonderful game to enjoy, while also filling a void within myself that I did not realize was there.
what is ratchet & clank?
Ratchet & Clank for the PlayStation 4 should be pretty well-known ground for any fans of the original Ratchet & Clank series games from the PlayStation 2 days and beyond. The story follow the lombax (still don’t know what that is) Ratchet, a mechanic looking to fulfill his dream of joining the Galactic Rangers and protecting the galaxy like his hero and idol, Captain Qwark. After a series of events, a spaceship crashes near Ratchet’s garage, and as he checks the wreckage, he meets Clank, a “defective” warbot who escaped his imminent destruction to warn the Galactic Rangers of an impending galactic threat headed their way. Ratchet decides to help Clank, and thus, their planet-hopping adventure begins. Although the story has some pretty big changes from the original 2002 release, the main overall story and themes are somewhat similar.
The story still holds up well, and some of the changes they made, in my opinion, fit a bit better in the overall story. In the original, Ratchet and Clank initially argue with each other and show some mistrust, even though they continue to fight on to save the galaxy. In this reboot, however, they are quite friendly with each other once they meet, and have no issues working together to get their message to the Galactic Rangers. This is only one of a couple of changes made to the overall story, but I definitely say that the reboot presents a stronger theme overall than the original. The ending, in my opinion, could have been executed and fleshed out a bit better, but it is still a fun ride throughout the game. The flow of the events within the story, as some of the motivations from some of the characters, seem to fit much better this time around, and it really helps create a more cohesive experience. The fact that a movie was released along with the game may be the cause of that, but regardless, the stronger storytelling definitely shows. The writing should also be praised here. In a very similar vein from the original, the writing and conversations that are had within this world are unforgettable. From the crazy announcements during hoverboard races, to Chairman Drek’s interesting infomercials on the infobots, to just about anything Mr. Zurkon says, the writing is witty and zany, in full Insomniac fashion, and it works just as well as before.
Room with a view
Another aspect that adds to the overall experience to the game lies with the graphics and artwork. This game is beautiful, and it is impressively shown off on each planet you visit throughout the game. From the glistening waters and lush tropical wildlife of Pokitaru, to the bustling and expansive cityscape of Aleero City, each planet has its’ own personality shown off, but the familiar art style coupled with the wonderful graphics make sure you know that you are in the Ratchet & Clank world as a whole. The team at Insomniac did a fantastic job recreating this world and using the full power of the PlayStation 4 to bring it to life. The game is likely on the short list for best looking games on the PlayStation 4 so far, and no one can dispute that. Speaking of the planets, the developers also did a good job of giving you plenty of areas and space to explore and fight off enemies. There is always a main path to follow, but there are also some small, hidden paths here and there to entice players to check out, especially if you are looking to finish a 100% completion. Each of the areas on the planets are different in their own respects from each other, although it would have been nice to add a few more areas to each planet. The idea of visiting each planet and landing on different areas would have provided some different challenges and looks of the planet overall. I will admit that some planets seem to do this, like Pokitaru, which starts you off in a tropical oasis, and then jumps to the underground sewer tunnels, and that offers a nice contrast when on the planet. A few more additions would have been nice, as it would have given some more contrast and personality to each of the planets, and also extended the game a few hours, although the 12-14 hours that I spent playing the game are also nothing to complain about.
TOOLS OF DESTRUCTION
One of the trademarks for gameplay, and for the Ratchet & Clank series overall, lies with the vast array of cool and unique weapons you get to put your hands on to take the fight to the Blarg menace, and this reboot is no exception. Many of the weapons that you have come to love, like the Groovitron and Mr. Zurkon, have returned in speculator fashion, while a few new additions, like the Pixelator, have made the first appearance in the game. The varied weapons give you plenty of options on how to take down your enemies, and each one feels and controls in a unique way, which adds some depth to the gameplay experience. There were a few times where I had to take a second and pick which weapon would work best for a particular situation. A big hover carrier headed my way? I likely look to the War Monger. Lots of robotic dogs coming at me? Pixelator all the way. This works very well in the game, and fans of the series should be pretty familiar with this. Aside from the weapons, the gameplay experience overall is very well done. Movement is fluid when jumping around dodging lasers and obstacles in the environment, and switching between weapons is not difficult when in a firefight. The enemies are somewhat varied throughout the game, although it felt like robots became the main course as I got closer to the end. But as those warbots became more and more prevalent near the end, it presented the right amount of challenge and decision-making in figuring out how I would tackle them. I also appreciated the game for the nice way it showed me new things and actions to do within the game. The game does a great job of keeping pace of when you find new weapons and learn new skills, and put you to the test in appropriate ways that help build off of each learning experience. Once I was on the final boss, I had to put all the lessons I learned with shooting, flying, and dodging, to make it through, and it was quite satisfying.
One point I do want to mention lies with the Clank-specific mission. There were not that many throughout the game, but they seemed to feel more repetitive that the main mission when you control Ratchet. The Clank missions jumped back and forth between being chased by Victor Von Ion, and then figuring out some simple puzzles using the minibots around the environment. This is a nice break from the Ratchet missions, but I wish there was a bit more variety and depth with them. Once you know what each minibot can do, and what the initial puzzles look like, you pretty much have a good idea of what to expect with those mission throughout the game. There were not many of these within the game, however, so it did not dampen the experience for me too much.
once again unto the breach
When Ratchet & Clank came back on the PlayStation 4, I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did, but boy was I wrong. Insomniac has done a fantastic job breathing new life into this game, and also (potentially) into the franchise. From the story, graphics, and gameplay, Insomniac has done a top-notch job recreating the experience that so many people have enjoyed since the original game in 2002. Also, as a 12-14 hour experience, this shouldn’t intimidate people looking to avoid extended gaming sessions. I wish the Clank missions were a bit more varied, and the planets had a bit more area to explore, but overall, this is an experience that fans of the series and gamers looking for a fun game to jump into should not miss. Plus, at a retail price of $40, this is almost a no-brainer to pickup. Playing this game filled a void of awesome platforming experiences that I did not realize I had missed until now. If you miss the times of the “mascot platformer”, and the fun to be had with them, then Ratchet & Clank is worth a look. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.
- More contrasting areas on each planet
- More variety on Clank mission
- Beautiful graphics
- Fun, interesting weapons
- Great writing
- Solid platforming gameplay
about the author
Cameron Kirnes - @ckirnes
Editor-in-Chief for Rocket Punch. He cannot wait until he gets his hands on Uncharted 4. Looking forward to Nate's last hurrah.