By Shawn Trommeshauser
(Dreaming in Digital)
Ratchet & Clank was developed by Insomniac Games in 2002 for the Sony PlayStation 2 (PS2). In 2012 it was remade for the PlayStation 3, remastered for high-definition televisions and bundled with two of its sequels. Before that time, this company’s biggest claim to fame was Spyro the Dragon on the original PlayStation – another series which I never had the chance to try back in the 90’s. Even though the PS2 was one of the game consoles I played the most, I never got into the 3D platformers of the time. Games like Sly Cooper and Jak & Daxter all looked colourful and amusing. They received good reviews and they were all popular enough to earn several sequels each, but something always put me off about the style.
Perhaps it was seeing too much about them in the magazines and web previews. The character designs didn’t appeal to me. I was disappointed by the 3D platformers of the previous console generation. I felt it was very hard to live up to the standards Nintendo set with Super Mario 64. Whatever the case, I lost interest and ended up skipping all of those series in the PlayStation 2 days.
That all changed over the holidays. I gave the Ratchet & Clank HD remake a spin and after two hours of game-time, I found the opening of the game left me rather unimpressed (it felt very rushed) and the music … I couldn’t remember a single note once I had stopped playing. This game had no background, there was no dialog, and the scene shifts were very abrupt. It left me looking at a black loading screen almost as often as the animated cut scenes.
Once the game got going, I found myself in a training area designed to teach the basics. It was very smoothly integrated and none of the instructional voiceovers interrupted gameplay. This is something that many other games need to take note of — I’m looking directly at you, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword [which is available on Amazon – Ed].
The worlds that are constructed to play in are gorgeous for a console game from the early 2000’s. I’m certain that the textures have been improved in the HD release, but the construction and atmosphere of these environments shine. You’re given separate planets to explore, and the art design does a terrific job of making the areas feel larger than they actually are. The worlds are colorful and very stylized. With cartoonish characters to match. This could turn some people away, but I find that it works because it’s consistent throughout the presentation of the game.
The enemies are varied and distinct, from buzz saw wielding lumberjack droids to Sand Sharks that pop up from underfoot. I was killed a couple of times, but the game never felt unfairly difficult. Respawning back at your ship happens quickly and doesn’t feel like a waste of time as your accomplishments are not reset and neither are the number of bolts (this game’s currency) you’ve collected.
Gadgets and weapons are discovered as you progress, or by purchasing them with bolts. After only two hours of play I was already being overwhelmed with the huge variety of weapons at my disposal. I get the impression that a lot of the game is spent upgrading and learning how to use all the new tools that the player will gather.
The voice acting is alright and the actors do their job well enough, but the villain, Drek, played by a veteran of the animation world, Kevin Michael Richardson (Transformers: Prime and All Hail King Julien!), is the standout. He’s enjoying himself in his role of the evil corporate businessman, Executive Drek, and you can hear it in every scene he steals. His evil plot to strip inhabited worlds of natural resources to use in the construction of a new home world to replace his own world is so polluted that it’s become uninhabitable.
My biggest complaint about the game is that Ratchet and Clank have no chemistry, and their reason for travelling together is sadly lacking in any depth. Ratchet is always shown as being ‘too cool’ to take the destruction of worlds seriously, despite the fact that his greed happens to reward them with just the right tools they need to get further in the adventure. Clank is a helpful, but naïve robot companion spends most of the game in the form of a backpack.
Clank – Could you help me find this TV superhero/space adventurer so he can save the galaxy?
Ratchet – What do I get out of it?
Clank – I can get your spaceship working.
Ratchet – Cool. Let’s go.
A Ratchet and Clank movie has also been scheduled for 2016. You can see the trailer on YouTube or below. The voice actors are mostly the same as the cast from the games, but there have been some changes such as Paul Giamatti in the role of Drek. It looks to be a retelling of the first game’s story and while it certainly keeps the visual style of the game, the writers appear to have given Ratchet much more personality. This is a most welcome change and could show how the character has evolved over time.
Now that I’ve tried Ratchet & Clank, I think I’ll finish it. I did enjoy the time I spent on it, and having a better idea of what I’ll be getting myself into, I’m finding that I’m not only eager to play more of the games, but see the film as well. It’s not going to be a must-play for everyone, but if you like platformers you might just enjoy the ride.
3½ Stars out of 5