It’s surprising how well games from our childhood can stay with us. Though we may have not thought of the intricacies of these games for some time, muscle memory holds so much of our past gaming experiences, ready to be brought out should we revisit them. The 2016 reimagining of Ratchet and Clank triggered this feeling often, despite me not playing the original much since I got it in 2003. I had a great deal of fun with the new game, rediscovering it once more with enough new content and smooth presentation to keep me happy for a long while.
Ratchet and Clank puts you in control of the titular duo as they try to thwart the nefarious Chairman Drek’s plan to build a new planet out of pieces of other planets, destroying them in the process. Helped (and hindered) along by Captain Qwark, the Galactic Rangers and a whole host of supporting characters (remember Big Al and Skid McMarx, anyone?) you’ll find yourself on a fifteen or so core experience that shows of the best of the PS2’s classic.
The first, and most striking aspect of the game is its visuals. Combining scenes from the movie with the cutscenes and general gameplay, every inch of the world is stunning. From the fur on Ratchet’s ears to the gardens on Kerwan, I was constantly floored by how good it all looked. Aside from a few oddly janky animations on a few NPCs during dialogue, even the supporting cast were touched up nicely. Add to this a great score that picks up at the right moments and a smooth camera and you’ve got yourself a very pleasant world to play in.After around an hour of playing the game’s opening section is done and you’re allowed the freedom to move between the planets as you wish. Objectives and side missions fill up the menu screen to give you an idea of the choices before you. While it doesn’t matter too much what order you do these in, aside from a few main points the game funnels you through for the story, you will want to revisit places. After acquiring new gadgets you’ll get access to new areas, mainly for those of you who want to hunt down all the gold bolts, RYNO cards and collectibles the galaxy has to offer.
Outside of that, there’s not a tonne of incentive to revisit worlds. Each has about two different paths for players to explore, and once they’re complete there’s not much left to explore. I didn’t mind it so much since the game is first and foremost about the story (and the film), but I felt some areas had more replayability in the original.
Ratchet and Clank is very much a streamlining of the original game, for better or worse. Skipping longer combat scenarios and finding new ways to push you along a certain path that would have been found by exploring are common, condensing the adventure a little. I felt a little sad when I remembered aspects not present, but as a reimagining they have the licence to reshape the game to fit their new narrative, and all nostalgia aside, it’s probably neater for it.The one aspect I found painful in the narrative presentation was some of the writing. The game has some genuinely clever jokes and lines, especially given how aware it is that it’s a reboot of a game and a movie, but it also tries too hard. One moment that really struck me was exploring Skid McMarx’ under-construction sports store. As a stereotype of a stoner skater, he jokes about munchies and throws all manner of 90’s era catchphrases out, but these are played over and over until they go from the character to pandering. While I’m sure plenty of these dumb lines will make kids playing it grin, I found it to be a bit of a detractor in the experience.
I’m very pleased to say the gameplay is really well put together for the reimagining. Rather than throwing out the systems that made these PS2 action platformers great and replacing them with new ones, it smooths out the kinks to make it feel really natural on the dualshock 4. The combat is strafe based, and enemies work on these principles, making shooting while running and flipping side to side a must.
The weapons you’re fighting with have always had almost as much character as the duo themselves, and this one is no different. Keeping hallmarks of the original like the bomb glove and Combuster, it adds new weapons from the whole catalogue of Ratchet and Clank games before it to the mix, like Mr Zurkon and the Sheepinator. The Pixeliser was one of my favourites, both for the sound effects and it’s design. It’s basically a shotgun that shoots pixels, reverting enemies back to pixelated versions of their 2002 selves. On top of this you’ll be able to upgrade the weapons you use most with raritanium as they level up. Unlocking effects like extra ammo capacity, range or fire rate help you shape your favourite guns to how you play, even triggering secret passive bonuses by encircling question mark upgrades. It’s a simple feature that goes a long way toward enjoying an already great game.
“It’s a simple feature that goes a long way toward enjoying an already great game.”
Outside of combat Ratchet controls really well, with plenty of jumping and climbing puzzles awaiting you. Likewise, Clank’s sections have a really unique puzzle style to them reminiscent of his standalone PSP adventure, Secret Agent Clank, mixing up gameplay well. On top of this you’ll be able to pilot a hoverboard in several races and fly around on planets, the latter creating quite a new way to see some planets I’d only ever walked on.
A re-imagining is a great way to approach a game like Ratchet and Clank. Adding new aspects like the trading cards but retaining classic 2000’s era touches like a cheat menu – big head mode, yes please – means it’s a game filled with nostalgia for some yet accessible to others. It’s a really neat package to coincide with the duo’s foray into feature films.
I loved my time with Ratchet and Clank. It made me value having the original game as a child and the ability to re-experience it all in a new way as an adult. If you’ve never played the game before but love Playstation classics like Crash or Spyro I highly recommend you give it a shot, and if you loved the original it’s probably already on your radar. It’s a fun, well realised game with a lot of heart – my only woe is that I can’t see the movie alongside it for a few months.
Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: Playstation 4
A review copy was provided by the publisher.