After the fantastic and iconic Spyro-trilogy for the original PlayStation, Insomniac games were ready with another take on the platforming-genre for Sony’s next console, appropriately titled the Playstation 2. Instead of another games set in the realm of fantasy, Ratchet and Clank instead took a sci-fi approach. The original got a remake for Playstation 3, one incredible upgrade for the Playstation 4 and even got a movie. So how well does it hold up.
A small step for a Lombax
The story starts with B5429671, a small robot that, right after being created in a factory, becomes self-aware. Having seen something troubling on one of the video-robots, he escapes from the mysterious factory and crash-lands on planet Velding. Ratchet, a Lombax (cat-like alien) investigates the crash site and meets up with B5429671 who tells him about a corrupt Chairman known as Drek, who has ruined their homeworld and will continue to do this to harvest large portions of planets. Ratchet agrees to help B5429671, whom he nicknames Clank, as long as he serves as the ignition system for his ship.
The plot and overall story are not really well told. You simply go with the flow to meet more characters who, while rarely have anything to do with the plot, will let you know your next destination by telling you or showing you a robot-video. Things simply happen and feels sluggishly connected. The characters are quite humorous, wise-cracking and silly, with the sophisticated and clearly evil Drek being a highlight, where you can tell the voice-actor had a blast playing as him. It fits the overall tone that you simply shrug and go along with it, but while the characters are enjoyable, there is no real chemistry between them. Like Ratchet and Clank themselves: they are simply good-guys that will do their best to help people and even when they try to make some development through drama between them, it falls flat and feels more cliché than anything else. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it lacks the extra development that it sorely need and this goes for pretty much all of the characters you meet.
Story score: 6/10
Jump and then shoot
This is a platformer in the vain of Spyro, where you will be able to select worlds from your ship to travel to and explore until you have found out where your next destination is or your curiosity ends. The areas are pretty big, but never feel confusing to navigate due to memorable locations and a map that shows where you have been and where your objectives are.
The platforming is quite fun, with double-jump, long-jumps, high-jump, wall-jumps and swing-ropes giving you a lot of options to traverse through the stages. Later on, you will also get upgrades for Clank, so you will be able to float or jump longer distances. You might not need all the options you get to be honest, since the game never goes far with testing your abilities, but they are there if you choose to use them. Ratchet has also the ability to swim and rail-grind and while neither are any deep, they work well and are fun.
The weapons you can find or buy, give you a good selection of ways to deal with enemies; from the glove-bombs to the suck cannon. Each feels unique and you always have access to a certain amount of them through quick-selection. You also have a melee attack with Ratchet’s wrench that can also be thrown as a boomerang. Ammo is scarce however, so you might have to use a weapon that is ill-suited for the situation or buy more ammo from the stores in the area. The shops are luckily plenty, but so are the enemies and they quickly get stronger as you progress through the game. Like ammunition, money is scarce a well, so getting new weapons or the expensive health-upgrades is not an easy feat.
One of the most puzzling and frustrating parts about this game is unfortunately the shooting. First of all: there are no strafing or lock-on features. Having to rely upon auto-lock is at times a bit of a hassle, especially when the enemies can fire back at you from far distances and have rapid fire. What’s also odd, is that R2 and L2 are the same as R1 and L1, instead of using them to make the combat control better. Why we needed both L1 and L2 to get into First-person view or R1 and R2 to duck is beyond me. You will get a jetpack that can somewhat make you strafe, but it’s not reliable and clunky. Combining this with a checkpoints-system that can be quite harsh at times, it turns what is at first an entertaining game into a frustrating one. The game also offers some variety with flying spaceships and controlling Clank and his mini-bots army. While they do work and can be fun, they add little to nothing and I would not shed a tear if they were removed. The same can be said for the boss-fights, they don’t add anything and are forgettable, basic and almost feel like they were added in last-minute.
While Ratchet and Clank has good level-design, it definitely needed some improvement with the shooting-part, but at least the platforming is done well.
Gameplay score: 6/10
Set in a sci-fi world with robots and aliens, the visuals are great, with each area being easily recognizable, colorful and well-designed; from the tropical Jowai Resort, to the futuristic city Metropolis. The odd part however, is that in the remake for PS3, Aspect ration for cutscenes are still 4:3, and I have no idea why this is, when it uses the in-game graphics. The character-models are pretty good, with the few plot-important characters having the most distinguished design, compared to the others you meet. Not as impressive or varied as the areas you visit, but definitely good.
The soundtrack is filled with chill-techno, that focuses on rhythmic instruments like drums and bass, while also having the digital-sound of typical techno implemented, mixed with some classical instruments like the violin. It fits the style of the visuals well and while maybe not the most grand or even memorable soundtrack, it is enjoyable. The voice-actors do their job well, are over-the-top and seems to be having a blast acting their respective roles. While the sound department does its job, none of the weapons feel satisfying to use and don’t give it the extra kick it could have used. Collecting bolts however is satisfying with small “clings” each time they are picked up.
Presentation score: 8/10
Never know when you need more bolts!
After 10 hours of going through the campaign once, there is allot to come back to: from golden bolts and skill points to new game+ with harder enemies and the ability to start with all the guns you acquired. All of these yield a good selection of post-end content, which I won’t spoil here. It is just a shame that the game itself hasn’t aged too well, so it might not be in everyone’s interest to go back one more time with higher difficulty, but it has at least good amount of content for those who do.
Extras score: 7/10
Ratchet and Clank is a classic that can still be enjoyable, but has a few problems that are too big to fully recommend. The remake for the PS4 fixes just about any of these problems, with upgradeable weapons, strafing and, even though the rewritten story will certainly anger some fans and might not be as humorous, I actually find it more enjoyable, since it gives Ratchet and Clank better chemistry and more plot-focus. If you think of the score below as the one for the PS3 and PS2-versions, you can add about 1 more point to the PS4-version where just about everything is upgraded.