Four less-than-a-score years ago, Insomniac Games brought forth to the Playstation 2 a new game. That game was Ratchet and Clank. Set in a far off fictional galaxy, the game follows Ratchet, a young Lombax (think something like a cat person, minus the whiskers and throw in some squirrel ears) mechanic, who finds a robot named Clank, and together they must team up with the galaxy’s heroes to defend the galaxy from danger! The series has spawned many sequels and spinoffs, all exclusively for Sony consoles and handhelds (for more on exclusivity, check out the most recent GamerKulture podcast.) Now, with the movie coming out on the 29th of April (that’s 2016 for any future readers), they have re-released the first game, reimagined, to bring it more in line with the movie. So, let’s take a look at the 14 year old remake that has critics in fits of praise.
Story: No star for story. The story of the game is light, without much in the way of any deep elements of character growth or sharp twists. Halfway through the game, there is a bit of a somber beat as Ratchet fails a mission and a betrayal is revealed. The moment does serve as an enjoyable turn, as until that point, events have been going mostly in Ratchet’s favor. We get to see a blow to his confidence, but it lasts perhaps all of 30 seconds before he’s back on the hero train. Even the failed mission, you learn, resulted to no loss of life (spoiler alert, a planet blew up). No star here because while there are a few moments of pleasant storytelling, the overall tale is generic and does nothing new.
Characters: Definitely getting a star for this one. If the story is basic and uninspired, the characters pick up the slack for creativity. The suite of different personalities you meet on your journey diverts your attention from the simple story. I was always happy to meet a new face, because I knew that the writing and acting was what would carry the scene through. Ratchet is the plucky hero, appropriately nervous at times but always willing to face down danger. Clank is the straight man, taking the reigns of social interactions whenever Ratchet nerds out over a person or situation. Captain Qwark is the full of himself celebrity with a streak of fraud to him. Everyone is quite simply just fun, and that brings a huge spark of joy to the game.
Gameplay: Star for gameplay. The game controls very easily. The wacky weapons that have become a staple of the series are here in spades. Weapons from many of the other games have been brought together for this one. They range from the Combusinator, firing a spread of three bullets per shot, to the Sheepinator, which turns enemies into sheep (shocking). Rockets, disco balls, buzz saws, flamethrowers, blasts of pixels…if you can think of it, it’s probably a gun. The insane, high energy combat results in flashes of explosions, metallic spray of bolts from enemies that serve as currency, and the thrill of dodging enemy fire. I beat the game in three days, and there’s plenty I know I missed. You can bet I’ll be going back for more!
Design: Star for design. Aesthetically, the game is so much fun to look at. The colorful CGI models give the impression of a high budget Nickelodeon cartoon (that’s a compliment, their animation team is top notch), and the environments are varied throughout the various locations. One of the favorite design choices comes from the level layout. The levels could very easily have been linear layouts, and some certainly are, but most of them hide their linearity through simple choice and open areas. Many levels have several objectives, requiring splitting off to different areas to complete them. Levels range from narrow walkways choked with enemies, to a wide open sand pit or field…usually also choked with enemies. This is certain, I was never bored with my surroundings.
I suppose you could call this final word a star as well (that’s 4 out of 5 for anyone keeping track), because I can’t recommend this game enough. I had so much fun blasting and thumping my way through robots and aliens through a variety of levels, guided through with a host of enjoyable individuals. Levels get shaken up here and there with spaceship dogfights, hoverboard races, and platforming puzzles. If you have a few hours over the next several days, go out, buy this game, and enjoy! You’ll thank me later. Stay Kultured everyone!