Frivolous Waste of Time

Sci-fi, fantasy and video games

Ratchet & Clank for PS4

I didn’t have a PS2 growing up so my nostalgia is placed firmly in the Gamecube (my all time favourite console) era. I never played Ratchet & Clank, although the whole aesthetic appeals to me. I have a soft spot for mascot platformers; Banjo-Kazooie is one of my favourite games of all time. I’m even a bit fond of some of the bad ones, like Croc: Legend of the Gobbos. The Ratchet & Clank reboot was therefore pretty appealing to me. Although it feels in some ways like a blast from the past, Ratchet & Clank has enough concessions to modernity to make it feel exciting and fun even to a newcomer devoid of nostalgia.

Ratchet is a young mechanic with dreams of greatness; he seeks to join the Galactic Rangers, a squadron of elite space cadets led by the beloved, but in actually arrogant and incompetent, Captain Quark. Meanwhile, the Blarg under Chairman Drek have teamed with the sinister Doctor Neferious to create an army of war robots. One robot is defective and is produced as smaller but more intelligent and with a conscience. This robot, Clank, escapes the factory after escaping destruction and crash lands right in front of Ratchet. The two team up to fight the Blargian threat.

There have been some rather hyperbolic comparisons between this reboot and a Pixar film, but that is overstating it quite a lot. There are some fun characters and moments, particularly involving the Zapp Brannigan-esque Quark, but overall the story is incoherent and difficult to follow. It’s not that the story is complicated, it’s just that everything moves so fast and the storytelling moments so sparse it’s difficult to feel like I should care. The cutscenes that are here are pretty great and it seems odd to want more, but there it is. I wanted to love the story of Ratchet & Clank, but to be honest I finished it yesterday and I’m already fuzzy on the details.

Ratchet & Clank is a hybrid platformer and third person shooter and manages to balance these two mechanics rather well. It’s probably more of the latter than the former and it’s fun to play something so utterly detached from the tropes of the present day. Since Gears of War, third person shooters have invariably been tied into cover mechanics. I love Gears of War, but it’s difficult to deny that this can create stale and boring shooting experiences. Ratchet & Clank is nothing like this, with constant movement being the requirement to survive. There are loads of weapons and I found myself genuinely using almost all of them throughout. The hectic combat was a lot of fun and I never tired of blasting my way through the various stages. To break things up there are some simple, but fun, sections about grinding on rails and hoverboard races, as well as a couple of ship battles. These are well paced to break up the shooting and give you other things to do.

This isn’t a huge game, which is reasonable considering the lower launch price. There is an ostensibly open structure, but mostly the game is linear. There are lots of gadgets to gather, such as a jetpack which can be used in some levels, and this gives the game a slight Metroidvania element when previous planets can be returned to so you can gather collectibles. There are upgrade paths for every weapon and on my one playthrough I was only able to get them all to under 50% completion. I imagine upgrading them fully would take at least one other playthrough on the New Game+ challenge mode. The unlocks for the collectible golden screws are great and bequest all sorts of fun little additions. There are side missions, although not many and most are quite brief. I would probably have rather paid a bit more and got a bit more content, but on the value for money scale Ratchet and Clank is fine.

Ratchet & Clank looks gorgeous, with a clean and bright colour palate and a lovely world. It’s not quite Pixar; maybe more late 2000s Dreamworks, but it still looks bloody good. It’s a shame that this kind of vibrant cartoony game has been in short supply this console generation as Ratchet & Clank shows how good they can look with the boost in power. The voice acting is nice and cheesy, as well it should be for this sort of game. For something which essentially exists to promote a movie, Ratchet & Clank is a very handsomely presented package.

This isn’t the kind of game which is going to particularly linger in my memory, but as a fun and light diversion I really cannot fault it. Although I have no Ratchet & Clank nostalgia it did make me nostalgic for a simpler time. When Yooka-Laylee comes out, which is essentially going to be Banjo-Threeie, I’ll be a quivering wreck.

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