Review: The RATCHET & CLANK TRILOGY brings the inter-galactic heroes’ original adventures into the modern era. Is Insomniac’s updated trilogy a loose bolt or the absolute nuts?
Ratchet & Clank is a series that fell victim to its own success. This year marks its tenth anniversary, and in that time we’ve seen a total of ten games. Most of them have been met with critical praise (apart from the most recent Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One, which was a disappointment when held up against the rest), but with so many games, the action-platforming duo feel a bit tired.
The Rachet & Clank Trilogy, though, reminds us of when they first appeared on PlayStation 2, fresh-faced and contending with a raft of similar games, most notably Naughty Dog’s Jak & Daxter. With each game in the series Insomniac got braver, veering towards the RPG territory while still leaving the 3D platforming backbone firmly in place.
It’s certainly one of the best collections that has been released, if only because of the fact they’ve done all the simple things right. Load times feel fast, the multiplayer of Ratchet & Clank 3 is all there to play over PSN, and the only criticism you could really make is that you have to quit out of each game completely when you want to switch to a different one.
There’s links between the stories of each game, but they’re perfectly understandable and enjoyable even if you’re playing them as standalone experiences, thanks in part to the witty dialogue and amusing cutscenes that often poke fun at standard videogame convention. The same characters crop up across all three, as Ratchet goes from zero-to-hero, effectively replacing the phony Captain Quark as everyone’s favourite world-saver.
The first game introduces you to the duo, throwing you straight into the action on an alien planet. You start off with just a wrench and a Bomb Glove, but weapons and gadgets come thick and fast, and you’ll have plenty of choice after just an hour of playing. The platforming sections are solid, mixing simple jumping with more complicated sections where you have to hover and swing too. Combat, although being a very basic “hit everything you see” set up, is kept interesting by the varied enemies and weapons.
Ratchet & Clank 2 adds a lot of small improvements that don’t completely overhaul how the game works, but iron out some of the slightly frustrating issues from the initial game. There’s now the ability to strafe, making combat far smoother and no longer blighted by the fact you’ll accidentally turn and fire in completely the wrong direction every now and then.
Whereas Ratchet & Clank 2 added polish, number 3 takes the formula to whole new levels and really expands upon the RPG elements. In the first two games you didn’t have a hub – entering your ship simply gave you a list of planets to visit. By number three, there’s an entire spaceship just for hanging out in, featuring mini-games, upgrade systems, and training arenas.
As well as adding a hub, the third entry revamps a lot of the basic elements, including the game’s health system. It’s no longer a case of one hit taking away one bar, but instead enemy attacks do different amounts of damage to your health bar. It’s frustrating at first and doesn’t really suit the action-platformer genre, as you’re never sure just how much damage a new enemies’ attack is going to do.
Robots and Aliens
There’s an even larger range of weapons and gadgets to choose from, with an experience-based leveling system that improves both Ratchet and the arsenal he’s carrying. If you’re not familiar with Ratchet & Clank already, then you might know of Insomniac’s fondness for outlandish weapons from the Resistance series – when they manage to stray from traditional weaponry even in a gritty FPS, you know they’ll have fun in a completely cartoon universe. You unlock more weapons as you go, and you’re pretty free to unlock them in any order you want. There’s a range of gadgets too – you can refract laser beams, hack into consoles, fire grappling hooks and tractor beams – which can be used to complete puzzles and platforming sections.
As with Naughty Dog’s Jak & Daxter HD Collection, the art style of Ratchet & Clank is apt for an HD remake, making the cartoon visuals look crisp and vibrant and allowing the game to look better without ever highlighting the limits of the older tech like some other HD revamps do.
Flying through the universe – even having to do battle between travels in the second entry in space wars, which are the only real part of the entire trilogy that feel shoehorned in and underdeveloped – you’ll land on new and interesting lands, each with a different style that blends sci-fi with nature. The different planets aren’t just impressive because of their distinct visual style, but also because of how well crafted each one is. You’re not plonked down at point A and expected to jump over a series of obstacles until you reach point B but offered multiple paths in each level, which give you the chance to find hidden areas and bonus objectives.
Some of these added bonuses are optional, offering rewards in the form of credits instead of story progression – the best being a gladiator arena that has you pit your skills against increasingly difficult waves of enemies, including some very challenging yet interesting bosses. It’s usual boss warfare – dodge patterned attacks and wait for your openings – but the fact you don’t have to beat them means it actually stays fun. You’re choosing to take on this challenge, so it never becomes a chore.
If you’ve got an itching for some good ol’ last generation action-platforming, it doesn’t get much better than the original Ratchet & Clank trilogy. With the new HD overcoat giving the already vibrant art style an even better pop, the updated collection is fantastic, presenting the games to you without any extra fuss and letting them do all the talking.
Ratchet & Clank HD Collection, from Sony, Insomniac Games and Idol Games, is out now for PS3.