Game – Ratchet & Clank
Release Date – April 12, 2016
Platform – PlayStation 4
Developer/Publisher – Insomniac Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment
When the original Ratchet & Clank was released in November 2002 for the PlayStation 2, it was praised for its satisfying gameplay, enjoyable platforming and over-the-top weapons. In the 2016 re-imagining of the first chapter in this saga, each of these traits are present and accounted for, ratcheting up the mayhem for a new generation.
Ratchet, thought to be the sole lombax remaining in the entire galaxy, is a mechanic on the planet Veldin when the story begins. Ratchet dreams of becoming a Galactic Ranger, a team of space cadets tasked with maintaining order across the stars, and makes his way to their open tryouts to put his mettle to the test. While not successful in joining the team the first time around, due in large part to the dim-witted bravado of the Galactic Rangers’ leader Captain Qwark, Ratchet soon finds his way on a journey to save the galaxy nonetheless. The catalyst for the trek is a happenstance meeting with Clank, a “defective” warbot who recently escaped the clutches of one of the game’s chief antagonists – Chairman Drek.
The space opera that ensues is light-hearted and humorous at its core, despite the destruction taking place all around you. The voice acting is great, with the comedic timing on one-liners ringing true far more often than not. Several times I was left chuckling, with a few laugh out loud moments peppered in as well. All of this was a satisfying backdrop as our dynamic duo bounced from planet to planet using gadgets, gizmos and guns-aplenty to traverse (or dispatch) the obstacles thrown in their way – and boy is that satisfying.
For veterans of Super Mario Brothers or The Legend of Zelda, the joy that comes from smashing every breakable object within striking distance is amplified to a dizzying degree. Whether arming Ratchet with his trusty OmniWrench or one of his more explosive sidearms, the way in which you interact with everything around you is perhaps the best part about Ratchet & Clank.
Your arsenal may at times seem more like an homage to yesteryear as opposed to a loadout fit to topple a corrupt alien leader and his army of warbots, but that’s yet another thing that makes Ratchet & Clank so special. You can choose to blast minions back to the 80s with the Pixelizer, make them break out in epic disco moves with the Groovitron, or transmogrify them into harmless ewes with the Sheepinator. Of course there are also more conventional ways of assaulting your foes, using guns like the Combuster or Warmonger.
Busting apart crates and defeating enemies nets the pair bolts, the game’s currency. Bolts can be exchanged at Gadgetron kiosks to top off your ammo and purchase new weapons. You can also use the kiosks to upgrade your weapons by spending Raritanium, an uncommon material that can be found throughout the planets you visit or by defeating certain enemies. With dozens of upgrade options for each of the weapons made available to you, there is no shortage of things to spend your hard-earned Raritanium on.
If, for some reason, you needed more incentive to try out all of your armaments, using them to cause damage increases their level and damage output, with a special modified version of the weapon being made available once you max out its experience. This is a great way to get you to experiment with your arsenal and decide which weapons work best in different situations.
Traversing the various planets you visit is just as satisfying as blowing them to pieces. Platforming puzzles are sprinkled in to good effect, with both Ratchet and Clank separately needing to think their way around obstacles from time to time. Gadgets you obtain throughout the game allow you to slingshot, grind and fly your way around the Pixar-quality environments.
That is not an overstatement. This game is gorgeous. Each planet Ratchet & Clank visit looks as if it were pulled straight from the silver screen. Graphical prowess and constant mayhem are usually two of the main ingredients associated with framerate drops and slow-down, but during my playthrough there was nary an instance of choppiness to distract from my gameplay.
The main story should take most players between 10-12 hours depending upon the number of optional activities you decide to tackle. Collectibles aplenty are there for the taking, including Gold Bolts, which give you access to post-game content, and Holocards. Gathering the right combination of Holocards will give you extra bonuses such as increased raritanium and bolt drop rates or access to special Omega weapons in Challenge Mode – the main reason this game begs to be completed more than once.
Challenge Mode is accessible after you complete the game on any difficulty and brings with it some fun additions to the gameplay. For starters, enemies hit harder and can take more damage than before, but you are rewarded with more bolts. If you manage to defeat multiple enemies without taking damage, a bolt multiplier appears, drastically increasing the number of bolts dropped by enemies or crates. You also have access to the previously mentioned Omega weapons, beefed up versions of your originals. Challenge Mode is also where you’ll find the Insomniac Museum, different parts of which are accessed based upon the number of Gold Bolts you have collected throughout your journey.
Ratchet & Clank is a must-own for PlayStation 4 owners and just shy of what I believe to be true excellence in gaming. Whether you are new to this tenacious tag-team, or a series veteran, you will find plenty to love and even more reasons to keep on playing again and again.