As I was getting ready to put together my Ratchet and Clank review, I got thinking about the days when games like this and their other buddies on the PlayStation format like Jak and Daxter or Crash Bandicoot, were the very essence of everything that made gaming great. And this of course dates back to the foundations of awesome console games such as Sonic the Hedgehog and Mario games getting gamers everywhere excited to play because it was fun, colourful and put a smile on your face.
How sad is it that this has diminished in recent years? Games are more serious now than ever and gamers have to take their play seriously too. That’s the way it is now.
Well, maybe it isn’t.
Ratchet and Clank are back, taking everything back to the beginning again and telling the tale of the Lombax and his small robot friend for a new generation of gamers. And it’s brilliant, a game that gamers like me can enjoy as it reminds me of good old action platforming back in the day. But also anyone can just get into because it’s so much fun to play, and well put together by the exceptional team at Insomniac games.
With a visual style that really does utilise the PS4’s graphical prowess excellently, a story that brings the awesome characters to life with some funny moments and wonderful action. But the best part, fun and chaotic gameplay that is just a blast whether you are in control of Ratchet, Clank or one of the game’s vehicles. Only a few bugs get in the way of what is an excellent game as you’ll find out in the details of our review below.
Look and Feel – “Beautiful Chaos”
Things get pretty crazy very fast in Ratchet and Clank and you are soon thrust into this action from very early in the game. Action is everywhere with gunfire, explosions, disco balls and nuts & bolts flying all over the place. Everything here just works so well, but it’s only in the games calmer moments that you realise just how graphically stunning it is.
Thankfully you see this all nice and early in the game.
There is a wonderful cut sequence with Ratchet and Clank meeting that really gets you if you are a fan of the series, but even if you are not you’ll appreciate it since it’s very well put together. More on that in the story section, but this then becomes an element of the game that pulls you through your experience around the fast, all-action gameplay.
One thing that strikes me is Ratchet and Clank is, in a way, the game they wanted Knack to be. Showing of the capabilities of the PlayStation 4 visually with some excellent particle effects as the bolts fly around you as you collect them. Rockets explode and those fun weapons all deliver some outstanding effects.
It all holds together technically too with only a random box disappearing trick occasionally getting in the way if the camera gets too close to the action. It looks great, colourful and presented in a cartoonish style without feeling cheap or a casual experience. Things blow up and all the levels are just crazy in away with unusual areas and people inhabiting it.
In truth it’s all a beautiful, chaotic mess. And that suits this game perfectly.
Story – “It All Started With A Hapless Lombax Named Ratchet”
The story begins with a disheartened Captain Qwark telling the tale of what happened to get him trapped within a prison with some rather shady criminals. Not what you would expect of a big hero. Soon you are in control on Ratchet on his home planet, working to repair spacecraft but dreaming off being a space ranger like your hero, who is also Quark. In a bit of a Luke Skywalker type feel to the whole event, you meet with the rather small Warbot Clank, a defect which you control through a series of chases and puzzles to escape destruction.
Ratchet has just past a trial to be a Space Ranger as the two meet up, you are wrapped up in an invasion as the Blarg attempt to capture clank. Within moments you are using some of the more usual weapons in your arsenal, but not to worry the fun ones are not far away.
Once you have cleared the Blarg from your home world of Veldin, you are into space and have some flexibility in how you complete your missions. The story element’s hold you back of course as key milestones must be hit, but once you learn of the plot evil plot of the Blarg you are free to take on missions in any order you choose. You can also take on optional challenges in these areas and locate bonus equipment to make your task earlier in the game easier.
Both Ratchet and Clank’s stories are nicely told and the characters suit one another perfectly, it may have been better to have more Clank sections in the game for me since during the main part of the game he lost a little, but for his comments here and there. But ultimately, it’s a really well told story with some twists and turns along with solid voice acting and well thought out movie sequences.
Gameplay – “Shut up and Dance With Me!”
Before I go into detail on this one, I have to talk about my favourite weapon in the entire game and maybe one of the best in gaming: The Groovitron.
Why is it so cool?
Because it behaves like a grenade and launches a disco ball into the air and plays some pumping tunes that your enemies can’t help but get dancing to, and some of them have some sick dance moves. It’s fun, puts a smile on your face and sums up the atmosphere of the game. But what I love most is that it doesn’t matter what enemy you use it on. There’s no “immunity” for the big boss battles to devalue it, and seeing a big monster start breakdancing has got to be one of my favourite moments in a game in recent years.
And that’s what this game is all about, having fun playing with some of Insomniac Game’s most insane inventions such as the Sheepinator and the always funny Mr Zurkon who comes with such quotes as “”Why do you hide stinky aliens? Mr. Zurkon wishes only to kill you.” And “Mr. Zurkon doesn’t need bolts, his currency is pain.” As you play. Oh and Did I mention the Groovitron? Oh, right yeah…
The game is just so much fun but also manages to be rich in content too with so many variations on weapons that involve rockets, grenades and more. Plus all of them can be upgraded and then change names to a more powerful version of the original. Ratchet also levels up with some light RPG style levelling that sees life and endurance increase.
Playing is a healthy mix of action and platforming captured in a gorgeous 3D environment, there are boxes to smash for bolts and ammo as you jump platforms using tech you find along your journey to support you. Magnetic boots unlock areas you can walk up and over and take some time walking on the celling, or grind boots that allow you to fly down pipes avoiding hazards and finding bonuses. There’s even a jetpack and hover board racing plus moments where you’ll control your spaceship in combat alongside other cool set pieces.
My only criticism is how, very rarely, the camera doesn’t quite get it right and on some worlds with rather small platforms and no animation to stop you falling off the edge which all gets a bit annoying when everything is kicking off around you.
But there some fantastic moments in the game, fun gameplay that really does put a smile on your face as you go along plus some really cool set-pieces and great boss fights there is just so much to enjoy in Ratchet and Clank any gamer would find pleasure in it.
The game will give you a good ten to twelve hours of gameplay on your first time through if you try and complete the additional missions and grab as much as you can. Doing everything will need you to go through the game again, in a new game plus style mode that will eventually see you get a nice platinum if you keep going.
With a really nice presentation, fun and engaging story with gameplay that will keep you coming back for more and get you smiling away there really is every reason to invest in this game as soon as you can. It’s release at a price point that suggests games like these are not as popular anymore, that just makes it more the bargain by and reason to show developers we want more amazing action platform titles like this one.