TT Review - Ratchet & Clank

By Brandon Fusco,
Ratchet and Clank have been staples of the action platformer scene since their debut on the PlayStation 2 in 2002. Since the original release of Ratchet & Clank, the franchise has spawned 11 more entries across home consoles and handhelds. After a short detour into multiplatform development, Insomniac has returned to reboot the franchise and bring it into the modern era.

The Lombax ReturnsThe Lombax Returns

This new version of Ratchet & Clank is a re-imagining of the story from the original with features from other games in the series. The framing of the story has changed, and some of the major players have seen some tweaks, but our heroes are still trying to save the galaxy from the evil Drek of Drek Industries and his Blarg army. Like much of the series' cheeky history, Insomniac is more than happy to poke fun at the idea of rebooting the series through small jokes.

The lighter tone of this remake is fantastic, offering the feel of a dramatic, high production Saturday morning cartoon. Although minor, there are some irritations appearing throughout the story telling, some of which seem to be a result of the game’s connection to the upcoming movie. Some cutscenes tend to cut or fade to black abruptly or even before a line of dialog has finished. Other scenes can be downright strange, such as one that sees Clank staying behind to talk to somebody for what appears like it should be an extended period of time. Ratchet continues on alone to do something else, only to have Clank unceremoniously run in from off screen less than a minute later because he was necessary for an upcoming gameplay section.

I'll answer this early. Yes.I'll answer this early. Yes.

As a side effect, there is a minor hitch with the relationship between Ratchet and Clank. Whereas the pair had perhaps a little too much conflict in the original, they are instantly friends with no conflict or evolution throughout this version of the game, robbing touching moments of impact. Cora's voice work is also a problem, with emphasis on dialog wildly mismatching any semblance of normal speech. The rest of the cast is good and the dialog has plenty of chuckles in it.

Any of these gripes are largely forgiven due to fantastic gameplay. Ratchet’s crazy arsenal and acrobatics return alongside Clank’s movement functions and puzzle sequences. Being able to move and shoot while juggling the ammo levels of your favorite weapons can get tricky, but it’s always fun and satisfying to blast through enemies. If it gets too hard, there’s no suggestion that you should continue to beat your head against the wall to get through, and there’s no judgement for reducing the difficulty. Everything is designed to be taken at whatever pace that players want.

Go forth and explore!Go forth and explore!

That’s not to say that Ratchet & Clank holds the player’s hand. Aside from a little bit of aim assistance and the occasional suggestion of which planet to visit from Clank, the game is happy to let players explore each of the dozen or so destinations to find hidden treasures. Most areas start in a large open space with a couple of branching paths that lead to other locations, making it easy to keep track of where you’ve been and what areas you’ve thoroughly explored in an organic manner.

While the gameplay benefits from the series' long history, the most obvious outlet is in the weapon selection. The list of possible weapons reads like a hit list of the best ideas with which the series has invented. For a game that is functioning as a reboot of sorts, the unceremonious nature of purchasing some of the series' most iconic weapons feels a little empty, but their use, especially once they are upgraded, is every bit as rewarding as it has ever been.

Dance parties are better with explosions!Dance parties are better with explosions!

The enemies on the wrong end of these weapons are a blast to fight against. Players start off slowly against meandering melee enemies before the game ramps up to complex encounters with a variety of incoming attack patterns. Things can feel a bit too easy at first for those experienced with platformers, but the difficulty increases smoothly and quickly after the first few locations. By the end, prioritizing enemies and choosing the right weapon has a practiced and rewarding feel. A Challenge Mode is available upon completing Ratchet & Clank that is more difficult still, but grants the player access to souped-up versions of their weapons and a bolt modifier that increases the number of bolts gained if you can manage to defeat enemies without getting hit. Playing through Challenge Mode on hard requires the player to make full use of their arsenal in any given encounter.

Beyond the core gameplay, Clank maintains his solo sections, although there aren’t as many and they are a low point in the gameplay. Runner sections see Clank being chased and attacked while trying to reach a destination before being caught. These are fine, but they lack any kind of excitement compared to the fast paced combat in the rest of the game. The puzzles are interesting, but the pace of movement in large rooms can be frustrating. Even the more complex puzzles can be solved in fewer than a dozen steps, which can take several slow minutes to execute once the solution has been discovered, sapping any sense of reward from the accomplishment by the end.

Air combatAir combat

Other deviations from the gameplay do exist, including air combat in Ratchet's ship, a cannon defense segment, and hover board racing. The flight and hover board sections in particular are spread out and they present new challenges and obstacles to master throughout the game, keeping them fresh without overstaying their welcome. While these are not quite as polished as the rest of the game, they are fun diversions that effectively break up the core game experience.

The 47 trophies in Ratchet & Clank are similarly well thought out. Several story related trophies make sure that something unlocks during the first campaign. Despite a rather thorough first playthrough, I'd only unlocked about 40% of the trophies, although the trophies start unlocking much faster in challenge mode. A late game item ensures that you'll be able to find all of the hidden golden bolts and hidden card packs necessary to get the collection trophies. Playing through a second time on challenge mode is required but the difficulty is set separately, allowing players to play through challenge mode on easy, while the bolt modifier makes purchasing Omega weapons easier. At any given time, you are working towards almost every single trophy in the game aside from a couple of simple situation specific trophies.

Summary

Ratchet and Clank have had a long, grand history together. Their latest outing is a great showing of all that Insomniac has learned in the last 15 years while creating a fresh point for new players to jump in. The game's Saturday morning cartoon feel and aesthetic fit perfectly with the zany chaos of the fine-tuned action platforming and crazy weapons. Some lackluster Clank solo sections and occasionally jarring story telling keep Ratchet & Clank from being perfect, but the gameplay is so consistently great that it instills hope in other upcoming games in the genre.
4.5 / 5
Ratchet & Clank
Positives
  • Core gameplay
  • Smooth progression
  • Varied locations
  • Saturday morning cartoon feel
  • Chuckle worthy jokes
Negatives
  • Clank solo sections are slow
  • Occasionally jarring story telling
Ethics
The reviewer played around 18 hours, which was enough to almost play the game twice while exploring thoroughly and earning 31 of the games 47 trophies. He purchased a PlayStation 4 copy of the game for the purposes of this review.
Brandon Fusco
Written by Brandon Fusco
Brandon is an Editor and TGN's Host with the Most. The most what? The most opinions, the most understanding wife, and the most *funny cat videos. Previously Host of the Trophy Talk Podcast. (*Not Verified)