Ratchet & Clank are on a brand-new adventure and this time the stakes are pretty high. To start off with the duo end up in another dimension, one where Nefarious won and has turned society into an oppressed police state. To make things worse, the seemingly inseparable friends are forced apart. Stranded and alone in a strange new dimension, our lombax hero starts his latest journey and what a ride it is.
New worlds, new friends, new guns
After years of his enemies singling out the lombax, Ratchet is surprised when a weapons vendor mistakes him for someone else. This oppressed world has a resistance movement, and Ratchet needs help to get back to his diminutive friend.
Luckily Ratchet is a pretty proficient little fella, and you can start looking for resources to buy and upgrade weapons or people to help out in the city. Magnetic ramps lead to side-quest objectives or a stash of the crystals you use to make your guns sing. Ratchet’s tether gun can attach to breaks in the dimensions, either opening tears to pocket dimensions or teleporting to the rift, allowing for some pretty clever traversal tricks. As the game progresses several new traversal tricks will help you explore new areas or reach places you saw earlier on, scratching your head about how to get there. I won’t spoil the cool tricks, but each one is really fun and makes exploration so charming and rewarding.
Speaking of the weapons dealer, I think Ms Zurkon and her violence-loving son are the coolest shopkeepers around. The weapons they stock range from standard fare like a rocket launcher to completely outrageous tools to help you take down hordes of enemies. Ms Zurkon has a habit of letting you know what is coming soon, so you can save your resources for something exciting later on if you want, and her son gives each weapon a hype-filled video that shows off the features and firepower in store. Whether you like a shotgun-style weapon or throwing bombs at your enemies, or turning them into topiaries before sending a wing of razor blades that form a cloud as they zip through the enemy, again and again, there are so many clever little weapons here. Some of them make clever use of the haptic triggers of the DualSense, either helping you aim a shot or unleashing hell with a full pull of the trigger.
Ms Zurkon and her violence-loving son are the coolest shopkeepers around.
Normally I like to talk about how the vibrations possible with the DualSense controller helps make the gunplay feel more immersive, but it is the sounds from the tiny speaker in the control that does the heavy lifting here. Each weapon brings its own sound effects to bear from the controller, which makes your shots feel powerful as you hear them shoot off or hit an enemy.
The upgrades improve the weapons pretty drastically, meaning you can really invest in a favourite and turn it into a shining jewel of destruction. On top of that, your guns level up and at level 5 they unlock something particularly awesome. Your basic blaster starts shooting three projectiles, and your upgrades will help with accuracy, the spread of the projectiles and how much ammo you can carry or pick up from ammo crates. From everything to more explosive firepower, to making enemies drop more resources, you can tune your weapons into fine tools of mayhem.
But as much as I love the weapons and their cheerful salespeople, it is the cast that I fell in love with. Clank spends a load of time with Rivet, a lombax from this horribly oppressed dimension. Rivet doesn’t trust robots for several reasons and watching her grow and learn to overcome preconceptions, as well as past trauma, was an absolute joy. Not that she is all defensive and hurt, she is confident and charming and loves to lend a hand, just like another furry hero we know. I can’t overstate how much I am in love with Rivet. The expressiveness of her face, the way she thinks and acts and treats those around her had me feeling like I wanted to spend all of my time with her. It probably helps that Jennifer Hale’s vocal performance absolutely nails the role.
While Ratchet and Rivet can deal with problems that can be hit or shot at pretty well, there are some things only our robotic friends can help with, which adds a few puzzle and shooter sections to the mix.
Fixing the dimensions is going to take a whole lot of work, and Clank ends up inside anomalies, where he needs to correct the timelines of places. Which means, you guessed it, we have to solve puzzles from time to time. I quite enjoyed these breaks from the normal action as Clank talks about the problem at hand as well as the big picture issues. The puzzles require you to get a stream of Clanks to run from one side of the room to the other without falling off or getting shoved into fan blades. With the help of switches and energy globes that can make Clank and his images really heavy or fast for a while, you go about fixing the damage to the dimensions and learning the secrets of how everything works.
I can’t overstate how much I am in love with Rivet.
Similarly, when finding a virus filled console you can call on Glitch to go in and sort out the problems. This tiny little friend will skitter around, click-clacking around and shooting viruses and destroying their nests. Glitch might be small but she has some serious firepower, like a tiny vehicle section hidden away in whatever room.
I love the sense of variety as you play. There is never a planet you land on that feels so large that it becomes boring or repetitive, and moments of platforming, shooting enemies and the like are split up by fast-paced rail grinding, travelling on the back of a really fast critter, or solving puzzles with Clank or blasting viruses with Glitch. One level has a really well-done horror homage, which is a great change from working your way through a large-scale mining operation or navigating a busy neon-lit city.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart takes us into a new realm, but it still has enough familiarity to hang onto. It has that warm fuzzy feeling of your favourite blanket taken out of the cupboard as the temperature begins to drop. And to top it all off, every character and creature you meet feels relevant and enjoyable, and there are several characters I have screenshots of that I remember fondly, and I look forward to playing this game again with my wife along for the ride. It is that good, I want to play more of it. I want to play the whole game right through and go looking for more easter eggs.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart has a whole bevy of accessibility options and difficulty settings to make sure that everyone feels invited to give the game a go. Changing how inputs work, the damage that enemies deal, or just being able to straight up skip a puzzle if you want, the game is built to be enjoyed by everyone who wants to. It feels like this should be the standard, but considering the last big PlayStation Studios title was almost devoid of accessibility features, it is worth taking a moment to acknowledge good work.
While I was playing the game, I couldn’t stop thinking about how Rift Apart is a solid contender for game of the year. Fun, flashy setpieces, silky smooth traversal and solid gameplay with a generous helping of fun, exciting weapons all mix up with a surprisingly heartfelt story to become an absolute joy to behold. If you own a PS5, you really should buy this one.