Gone are the days of the mascot platformers… or so we thought. Sony and Insomniac’s choice to bring Ratchet & Clank back is certainly odd. Especially because the genre is nonexistent at this point. And when you consider how little noise the PS3 installments made. So why bring this franchise back on the PS4? Could the duo that was so popular during the PS2-era make a comeback?
While the story doesn’t completely deviate from the original release, there are a few changes. First: Captain Qwark, the beloved green-clad leader of the Galactic Rangers (a.k.a. space heroes) is now telling our duo’s tale from his jail cell. While there’s more of a focus on Ratchet and Clank becoming legendary Rangers, this is still an origin story of the epic bromance (but without enough bromance) between the wrench-wielding Lombax and his trusty little bot. Their galactic journey takes them from planet to planet in an attempt to defeat the nefarious Drek (Paul Giamatti) before he takes Solana Galaxy for himself.
Even though the narrative is similar to the original, longtime fans will still want to stick around to check out a few of the plot changes made to fit in with the upcoming film, including the addition of a couple of new cast members. The terrifying war-bot Victor Von Ion and the badass Ranger Cora (voiced by Bella Thorne) make their debuts, but are criminally underutilized. There’s zero character development for either of these two. However, I do suspect they’ll both have bigger roles in the aforementioned film the new game is tied to. Some of the planets have also been completely redone, so there’s enough to see for everyone.
Though the lack of bromance is bothersome, the story is at least serviceable. None of that matters though, because HOLY GOAT FARTS the gameplay is brilliant. If there’s one thing Insomniac knows how to do, it’s make a third-person shooter a total blast. For those unfamiliar with the series, most of the time you’ll be jumping around between planets, completing different missions while hopping from platform to platform, solving puzzles, grinding on rails, and fending off mobs of baddies. However, the third-person shooting mechanics here are different from what you’d expect.
The focus in the game isn’t on ducking and hiding behind cover; instead you’ll be strafing across the screen as you blast away at your cartoony foes. It’s definitely a mechanic with older hardware in mind, but it’s so precise and easy to use that it still feels great. Plus, this isn’t meant to be a standard shooter.
Add that with the wacky Insomniac arsenal choices, and you got yourself a good time. You’ll be nabbing weapons like the Groovitron, which forces your enemies to get down to some funky beats while they’re being blasted; to the appropriately named Apocalypse Glove that unleashes a pack of little savage alien-destroying bots. Oh, the Sheepinator makes a glorious return, as well.
Simply put, the objective is to blow sh** up, and it feels so, so, good.
Here’s the thing that makes this game so addictive: each weapon can be leveled up and then powered up using a currency known as Raritanium. So, as your weapon levels up and becomes more powerful, you can make sure to spend currency to increase features like clip size and spread. The carrot is definitely there.
Also, as unique as each weapon may be, they work best when mixed together. I got into the habit of dropping a disco ball from my Groovitron, tossing in some little bots with the Apocalypse Glove, and finishing the job with the Goatinator (Omega Sheepinator) or Pixelizer HD (turns everyone into pixels). The leveling up system gives the player plenty of incentive to experiment in battle, because no matter what, you’ll be making progress. Which makes its way over to the Challenge Mode (NG+).
Never did I dread being in combat. I always enjoyed figuring out new ways of eliminating the impressive amounts of baddies on the screen; it turns into a damn firework show when you have to take out large mobs of aliens. Outside of the gunplay, there are a nice mix of Clank moments where you’ll have to go off as the little fella. Here you’ll experience great escape scenes, but you’ll mostly be solving environmental puzzles.
In true mascot platformer fashion, there are plenty of collectibles. From Gold Bolts, to Holocards, you’ll have no shortage of items to seek out. However, these collectibles are worth finding. Gold Bolts will unlock new areas in the Insomniac Museum, which holds some great art spanning the franchise’s 15-year history. These golden treasures will also unlock different cheats like unlimited ammo, and even get you some sick gear.
Holocards on the other hand are cards you find throughout the game. Completing sets of cards yields extra boosts that make it easier to collect bolts, Raritanium, and even more Holocards. These will also unlock the legendary Ryno.
At some point you can even unlock colorful spheres to replace the nuts and bolts (the main currency) you get from destroying anything in the game, and while it may sound like a small change, it’ll make it look like your television screen is throwing up Skittles. It’s magical.
As for replay value, Challenge Mode is highly recommended. You’ll get to buy Omega versions of each weapon, turning them into more insane wrecking machines. All your progress transfers into the new save file, so you can really test out all your weapons on more formidable foes. It’s also great for trophy hunting!
And finally, the game is gorgeous. The animation is so on point, that it could be confused with a Pixar film. I never noticed any stutter, even in the most bombastic moments that would normally push the PS4 to its limits. The amazing visuals shine even more once you reach the tropical planet Pokitaru. Ignoring the deadly piranha-like fish in its waters, Pokitaru is absurdly beautiful, boasting clear blue waters and different vistas. I would take a vacation there right now. The stunning visuals make each alien, planet, and structure that much more interesting to inspect.
Despite poor use of talents like Paul Giamatti and Bella Thorne, Ratchet & Clank has made a graceful transition to a new generation. The tight gameplay, epic arsenal—which includes the Groovitron and Ryno—and the Pixar-esque animations make this a worthy reboot for a franchise that desperately needed it. Though it could have been easy to apply a fresh layer of paint and call it a day, Insonmiac managed to capture the magic from the original game without it feeling outdated. At the end of the day, it was a blast from beginning to end.
- The game is absolutely gorgeous! It never stutters, even when the screen is just displaying an explosion of colors caused by your arsenal.
- The weapon choices are ace, and the leveling system encourages experimentation. Mixing the Goatinator with the Groovitron is not only deadly, but also hilarious.
- So much replay value! Challenge mode will make better use of your arsenal, Omega forms of already existing weapons is another reason to go through the game at least twice, and Holocards are worth collecting for the extra loot.
- The relationship between Ratchet and Clank needs to be fleshed out. Changing parts of the origin story is fine, but the game needed more moments between the two to make their bond believable.
- New characters are underutilized, and have zero character development. Cora seems like such a badass character, yet I know nothing about her after three playthroughs.
This review was completed using a PS4 copy of Ratchet & Clank provided by Sony. The game hits shelves on April 12, 2016.
Image: Sony, Insomniac Games