Sony’s mascots, Ratchet and Clank, have grown since they first appeared on the PlayStation 2 back in 2002. They have had 12 games spanning all of Sony’s consoles including the PlayStation Portable and the PlayStation Vita, and now they are scheduled to make their first big screen appearance this year. They have certainly grown in popularity, there is no mistaking that people love Insomniac Games’ lombax and his little robot buddy.
Ratchet and Clank’s first outing was well received. Traditional platforming gameplay with an element of shooting and puzzle solving sat right at home on the iconic PS2. It came with flaws, sure, the controls weren’t up to scratch and the camera was a pain, but it was an ambitious attempt at making Sony their very own mascots. It worked. 14 years later and things have evolved along with technology. Ratchet and Clank’s games have had improvement after improvement such as added strafing, upgrading system incentives, bigger worlds, and more which has all been accumulated to revitalise the series on the uber powerful PlayStation 4.
Simply titled Ratchet & Clank, series creators Insomniac Games have used the power of the PS4 to bring the dynamic duo back to the platforming forefront. All of the series’ best known fundamentals return along with sparkly new graphics which are nothing short of breathtaking. Ratchet & Clank is essentially a remake/tie-in hybrid. The plot is a retelling of Ratchet and Clank’s first game whilst sticking some cutscenes from the upcoming movie in there to help tie it in with it. The game tells us how Ratchet and Clank met for the first time and how Ratchet wants to join the Galactic Rangers, a special force tasked with defending the galaxy from the threat of Chairman Drek and his Blarg army. The story is humorously told by the wacky Captain Quark. A hero who has it all in the muscle but not so much in the brain as he tells the story of Ratchet and Clank to a prisoner named Shiv Helix, he occasionally gets questioned due to his trademark, over-the-top, and hilarious spin on things. It’s often funny and at times hilarious, but I couldn’t help but want more interaction between our unlikely heroes. There is very little banter between Ratchet and his robot pal. Even as they traverse the gorgeous and often dangerous landscapes, they hardly ever speak a word to one another. It could have used a little extra here to solidify the relationship between the two, especially since they have just met.
Ratchet & Clank shows us how platformers should play on today’s consoles. With all of the series’ famous fundamentals making a triumphant return from the polished strafing and targeting system, the redesigned hover board racing to airborne stages that require you to fly Ratchet and Clank’s ship, it’s all here. While it’s a simple game to play, it’s occasionally tough as enemies swarm every stage. Thankfully, Ratchet has loads of weapons to collect on his travels. Aside from his Omniwrench which he can throw at enemies, Ratchet can buy an impressive range of weaponry to use at his leisure. From the Bouncer and Fusion Grenades to the hilarious Groovitron which makes enemies dance, and my personal favourite the Pixelator, which turns enemies into 8 bit versions of themselves. Each gun has its own leveling system which increases the more you use it. They also have their own skill tree to upgrade using raritanium crystals found throughout levels. Upgrades range from more ammo, wider or longer range, and increased power giving you incentive to use every gun. It’s not overwhelming or baffling to work out as it is instantly accessible and, quite frankly, idiot proof.
The levels and planets mix between ones from the first game to new ones, and each one looks stunning and are very well designed. Older remade levels are mixed in differently this time around such as Captain Quark’s assault course now being an agility training course for the Galactic Rangers. The game is filled with changes and improvements like this which fans will recognize. It’s fun to find and notice them. Combat is simple but vastly improved. Often areas will be filled with enemies and dispatching them triggers an impressive explosion of bolts which are the game’s in-game currency used to purchase the aforementioned weaponry. Not once did I notice slowdown when the screen was crammed with action holding onto 60 fps comfortably.
There is loads to do with each planet having its own mission list. Some of which means you may have to return later on. Sadly though, once you have taken out all enemies, levels turn lonely with no reason to return other than to remind yourself of how beautiful Ratchet & Clank’s environments are. There are certain collectables that deserve your attention though. Golden screws which unlock game mods and extras and Holocards which unlock buffs once a set is complete. It’s hard not to desire them all. Thankfully, you can trade in duplicates if you have enough making collecting sets a bit easier.
Ratchet & Clank is one of the best looking platformers around. Planets are booming with activity with loads to see, and close up things are brimming with detail. It’s hard not to just play around with the camera just to see what’s going on in the distance. Even up close, characters are like Pixar movie characters come to life. Ratchet’s fur and Clank’s distinct sheen are but a few of the details worth mentioning with superb lighting effects giving that increased polish. Insomniac have gone to great lengths to utilize the PS4’s power to bring us one of the best looking titles yet.
Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: 12th April 2016 (US), 22nd April 2016 (UK)