Review: Ratchet & Clank Trilogy (PS Vita)
I have a special relationship with the Ratchet and Clank games. In a period where I was falling out of gaming, the series really kept my interest alive. The first game will forever hold a special place in my gaming heart with the second and third games following closely. Hell, I even played them each twice on the PS2 back in the day. I played the trilogy remake on PS3 and now I have been tasked with the trilogy on Vita. It’s fair to say I am a fan.
The Vita has become a place for remastered versions and indie games so it’s no surprise to see the duo coming to the handheld. Considering the type of game, it is suited well to the handheld and follows similar games like the Jak and Daxter trilogy and the Sly Cooper trilogy which both made the recent jump to Vita.
Seeing as this is a re-release of a re-release I don’t want to get too much into the storylines of the games because it’s nothing new there. I will give a quick recap and what is different per game, followed by any additions and the how it runs on the Vita. Here we go.
Ratchet and Clank 1:
The first Ratchet and Clank game introduces us to the heroes when Clank escapes from the clutches of death and crashes on Ratchet’s planet. Here the two meet and Clank convinces Ratchet to help him save the universe. It comes to light that Chairman Drek has plans to gather pieces of other planets in order to create a new planet for his people to live on, seeing as their home planet was destroyed because of pollution.
Ratchet and Clank set out to defeat the evil Drek and his simple sidekick Captain Qwark, who goes from good to bad and bad to good faster than a fat kid eating his favourite pie. Ratchet and Clank must go from planet to planet, retrieve co-ordinates, upgrade weapons and secure intel in order to defy Drek’s plans, and thereby save the world.
The gameplay in this first outing sets the benchmark for the series with little evolution following from it. Ratchet has his trusty wrench as his standard weapon. He can then purchase and upgrade other weapons including projectile weapons, bombs and varied melee weapons. He does this by acquiring bolts on each level either in boxes or from taking out enemies.
The weaponry in the game has become the trademark of the series and is possibly the best thing about the game. Each weapon has a unique and fun function, making it worthwhile using all the different weapons when you can. This has become Insomniac’s staple resulting in them being known for weapon creation in games. Glove of Doom, Bomb gloves, Cannons and a whole lot more at your disposal make taking out enemies a treat.
Weapons aside, the gameplay is pure 3D platforming with typical boss battles for the time when it released (2002). Taking out enemies during the stage is not too tricky and it ends with an arena style boss battle where you need to find a pattern of sorts to take out the big boss. These are not that difficult but you can get creative with how you want to approach it depending on the weapons you have. This experimenting is encouraged throughout.
A huge aspect of the series is the humour, which is carried through the characters and the enemies. Some of it is very lame, but the endearing characters still manage to make it funny. The repertoire between Ratchet and Clank is something that very few partnerships in games manage to get right, but is something that makes you actually want to listen to them talking, even if it’s the fourth time you play through the game.
Ratchet 2: Locked and Loaded
In Ratchet and Clank 2 we are introduced to the two heroes who are fresh from saving the world from Chairman Drek and seem generally pretty bored with life. They are brought onto a mission to retrieve a creation from Megacorp called the ProtoPet. As they are about to retrieve it, it gets stolen by some masked villain. The two must follow the villain to different planets in order to save the pet and uncover certain mysteries surrounding Megacorp itself.
R&C 2 had some great twists and turns and although it doesn’t hold the same value as the first game (for me), it is probably the best out of the three in terms of overall product. The story is gripping and at times intense underneath all the humour and theatrics it throws out. It is an ideal intergalactic epic adventure that has you wishing the world was real and that you could somehow meet Ratchet and Clank themselves.
In terms of additions from Ratchet and Clank 1, it elaborated on the weaponry in various ways. Sure, it still maintained the brilliant and odd designs and uses for weapons, but it brought more to these specifications by improving the usefulness of weapons the more you used them. So if you use your nitro bombs to take out enemies frequently it will get upgraded automatically. The same with your armour and health which would improve the more you attacked enemies. It makes upgrading far simpler and provided further incentive to using your favourite weapons more.
The gameplay elements remain identical to Ratchet and Clank 1 with even more brilliant level design, missions, hidden items and weapons to buy. It also introduced missions where you control Ratchet’s ship in a Star Fox-esque type missions, where you need to take out enemy ships to reach the next planet. The humour hit the perfect note once more and the boss battles returned as prominent as ever making it an improvement on the first game in many ways.
Ratchet and Clank 3
Ratchet and Clank 3 probably has the most serious tone of all three games (if one can call it serious), though it still finds a good balance in the genre. The story follows Ratchet as he finds out that his home planet is under attack by the Tyrhannoids commanded by Dr Nefarious. Dr Nefarious wants to… you guessed it, destroy the world and assume absolute power.
While the plot is familiar, the storyline plays out in a slightly more personal way as it actually affects Ratchet more than anything else before it. There are times in this game where he is separated from Clank and you realize just how important their partnership is. It doesn’t take away from the humour of the game, nor how enjoyable it can be. It just ignites something different to keep the series from going stale.
Ratchet 3 continues the trend of awesome weaponry and the ability to upgrade and it was the first of the games to have a hub of sorts. Ratchet and Clank head to the Starship Phoenix where players can upgrade armour and weapons, check on missions and even head to a VR area to practice. It’s the first time this was introduced and added some fresh new dynamics to the game. It further includes little missions playing as Captain Qwark, accessed by collecting Vidcomics through the main levels. Lastly, you can upgrade your ship to change appearance for purely aesthetic reasons.
The gameplay, however, didn’t change much with even more platforming, weapons and of course boss battles. The camera feels a lot smoother in the third of the games which definitely provides a more seamless experience, but other than that it is a continuation of what has come before it. Returning in R&C 3 is online multiplayer modes with events such as Capture the Flag and more. The modes work decently though it was very tricky finding any games to play in so an extensive review of how well it works was difficult to provide. It works and is fun when you can find a game.
In terms of the Vita version of the trilogy there is not a whole lot different. The game looks as good as ever on the Vita’s lovely little OLED screen and the colours and scenery of each planet are so well detailed. It runs smoothly and there can be little complaint over the almost non-existent loading times.
What is a problem though is that the game seems to be a bit buggy. Numerous times, particularly in R&C1 the sound would just cut out for no reason and it made it feel very hollow. At some points, this time more so in R&C2, the game would get some kind of error preventing me from progressing without closing the game and loading it again. The frequency of this hampered the experience somewhat and it’s odd to think the developers allowed this to creep into the game. Hopefully a patch will be released to fix these issues.
All in all, R&C trilogy on the Vita is a decent port from the originals and the trilogy on PS3. The gameplay is ideal for handheld and mostly works well enough without worries. It does, however, have its issues which can’t be looked past and hopefully will be sorted out.
It’s all good that the game has moved to Vita, but one has to question who hasn’t played the R&C games yet and if you are prepared to sit through a platformer that really does resonate the old platformer days. I love the series and would recommend it to anyone who hasn’t played it, who loves old school platformers and some good humour.
For those people who don’t really have an interest, this version is unlikely to sell you on it. And for those who have played the originals and the remake on PS3, there is very little new here for you to experience. If you want to play the games again then you will enjoy it in this portable version, but if you have had a bit of Ratchet and Clank overkill, rather give this version a skip.