It seems like just the other day that I was introduced to the unlikely duo of Ratchet and Clank on my Playstation 2. A little robot and a weird looking, fox like creature (a Lombax of course) took center stage of a 3D platformer, something that seemed out of line with my usual type of games. After 10 minutes of action I was hooked, and just the other day is actually 14 years ago now. The duo have gone on quite a ride, through the original trilogy success to a good move onto the PS3 and then a bunch of filler games which left them tired, and a bit desperate.
Insomniac clearly realised that the series needed a reboot, a fresh approach and a way to introduce a new generation of gamers to its wonderful 3D platformer. With a movie nearing release, Insomniac decided what better way to reboot than with a game based on the movie based on the game (the actual tagline for the game). Sure, movie tie-ins have the potential to be disastrous, but Insomniac decided to take a chance… and boy did they pull it off.
There’s simply no clanking about here
From my intro you have probably realised that the Ratchet and Clank remake is a huge success and you should probably just go right now and buy it. Of course there will be those that need a little more convincing, and I am happy to oblige.
Let me start off by killing a few concerns. Yes, it is a movie tie-in, but it is not near the usual disappointment associated. Yes, it is the origins of Ratchet and Clank, but not like you remember it. Yes, there is a dose of nostalgia, but it is outshone by what the game offers to newcomers and veterans and there should be no mistaking the fact that having played the original should not prevent you from playing the remake at all.
For the most part, the beginning of the game is the same, or at least very similar but what follows is a completely reworked game and storyline. It’s now narrated by Captain Qwark himself and follows a relatively different origins story borrowing from the upcoming movie. In the game you will visit areas that will immediately jolt your memory, only to be amazed at how they have redone the same levels, extended them and improved upon them making every section an absolute treat.
It’s at this point that I should tell you that I loved the original storyline and was a bit concerned when I heard they had altered it, but everything in the remake was so perfectly put together that I actually prefer the new story to the original, and that says quite something. The plot remains similar however, with a defect warbot (clank) and a passionate Lombax (Ratchet) being thrust in the middle of an evil plan to destroy the universe, something they must prevent at all costs.
Tweaking the Gameplay
All I could think while playing through Ratchet and Clank is that there simply aren’t enough 3D platformers in the gaming world at the moment. They seem to have been run out of town by big open world games and shooters. It was such a wonderful change of pace and thought process that I am left feeling sad there isn’t more. The platforming sections are excellent, the action sequences are even better.
Insomniac really learnt from their progression (and at times regression) of the series. Included in the game is the ability to strafe, improved camera control, weapon upgrades, gadget upgrades, raritanium upgrades (special upgrade for each weapon) and of course health upgrades all which didn’t exist in the original. The upgrades really help the flow of the game, and assist with giving players something to keep an eye out for on the side.
Weapons for Days!
The new sections did a great job of adding new and different gameplay elements to the game too and even the old bits like the hoverboard race received a massively improved outlay, but even more than that is the amazing weaponry design that Insomniac manage to produce.
The series is known for crazy, awesome weapons and many of those return. Weapons like the Glove of Doom and your standard blaster make an appearance, but weapons that came later in the series join in too and each and every one of the weapons is an absolute joy to use. From rocket launchers, to a little robot that takes out enemies for you, to Groovitrons making the enemies more vulnerable as they dance around, and even frisbee like discs… each has a use and a place in the game.
There are new weapons too, and special mention has to go to the Pixelator which turns enemies into 8-bit versions before killing them off. And what about the Sheepinator which turns the enemies into sheep… yes sheep. There’s just such a great combination and humour about the weapons that you will find yourself loving every single one.
What else is new Lombax?
Apart from the remade levels and weapons there is even more that has been added to the game. Lots of cutscenes, which are taken from the movie, appear in the game alongside the new story. Then there are collectibles such as the holocards which provide you with certain upgrades and advantages.
Following the completion of the game you can play “Challenge” mode which is essentially a new game plus mode allowing you to start the game again but with all your weapons and upgrades intact so that you can search for things you may have missed along the way, and so you can unlock all the upgrades for the weapons (it’s impossible to do so on one playthrough). You can also notch up the difficulty on the second playthrough if you like.
Gold Bolts return too, and unlock all sorts of crazy extras. There are your standard artwork galleries, and then modifiers for the game, such as masks (see image below), faster game speed, and other aesthetics, for the hell of it. Lastly, included in the game, but only once you finish it, is a very special something from Insomniac and that is… oh you know what, I think I will leave it for you to find out, but fans of the series will love it, that’s for sure.
That’s one pretty universe
One thing that stands out more than anything else in the game is the visuals. They are truly a sight to behold and, no matter which level you are on, you can only marvel about the amount of detail that has gone into the game. Landing on a planet and looking into the distance you can see so much going on, and the closer you get the more you realise just how excellent it all looks.
The cutscenes are even more amazing, and that is to be expected coming from the movie, but the transition from cutscene to gameplay is hardly noticeable. It’s by far one of the best-looking games I have ever seen. Sure it doesn’t go for realism like other games, but in terms of the detail it is just brilliant.
Not all the glory
Ratchet and Clank is a fantastic experience, but it isn’t without one or two faults. The first is that the camera can sometimes still get in the way. It only happened a couple of times, but the game sort of lost focus and I lost my bearings a bit before I could get things centered again.
Secondly, by today’s standards, you might not consider it the longest game in the world. My playthrough was around 10-12 hours which for me is perfect for this kind of game. Others might not agree, but if you were to go back for all the collectibles, play the game on a harder level and go for all the Holocards and upgrades I imagine you’d pretty much double that time. So the length is still good and there is a considerable amount of replayability for you too.
Ratchet and Clank, Heroes again
Safe to say that I am a big fan of what Insomniac have done with the remake here. Amazing visuals, tighter gameplay, a great story, awesome weapons, action packed, great boss battles, replayability and a whole lot more. Sure you might want something lower, but the game is just R469 on PSN and to me that is an absolute steal. What game costs less than R500 these days, and a game this good?
You’ll be doing yourself an absolute disservice if you pass up the chance to play Ratchet and Clank. It returns the heroes to the top, where they belong and saving the galaxy has never been this good before. I do not say that lightly. Welcome back Ratchet and Clank, and well done to Insomniac for providing such an incredible experience. It’s a great reminder why the originals remain some of my best gaming experiences to date, and for newcomers there is absolutely no better place to start than right now with the rebooted Ratchet and Clank.