I love video games, but it’s rare for me to play them right when they are first released. Normally it takes me a somewhere from a few months to a few years to get around to playing to a game. I’ve got a considerable backlog of games that I’ve been meaning to play and it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve been able to start chipping away at the list. With that in mind, I’ve created a series of posts called Late to the Party, wherein I discuss the games that came out in the preceding years that I’m finally getting around to experiencing. Today’s entry in the series is Ratchet and Clank.
The 2016 edition of Ratchet and Clank is a PlayStation 4 remake of the original Ratchet and Clank game that came out back in 2002 on the PlayStation 2. Despite there being numerous entries in the Ratchet and Clank series since then, I never played any of the games, except for a demo for one of them that was released on PlayStation 3. A particular friend of mine for years had raved about how good the original Ratchet and Clank was, and when this remake of it launched he insisted that I play it. Feeling that I was long overdue to play a Ratchet and Clank game anyway, I agreed to give it a try. Having now finished Ratchet and Clank, all I can say is that he was right. This is a special game and I really don’t want to spoil it for anyone, so this commentary will be spoiler free and there will be no screenshots or video from near the end of the game.
Rescuing the mayor
Ratchet and Clank is the story of a pair unlikely misfits who save the galaxy. It stars Ratchet, a mechanic, and his robot friend Clank. Ratchet dreams of joining the Galactic Rangers, and gets his chance when Clank crash-lands nearby his garage. Clank was constructed in the same factory that is building a massive robot army for the villainous Blarg, but he escaped and needs to reach the Galactic Rangers to warn them of the coming Blarg invasion. After defeating Clank’s pursuers and repairing him, Ratchet volunteers to help Clank and the two set off on a galaxy spanning-quest to defeat evil and prove themselves heroes.
Some of the worlds you’ll be visiting
There’s nothing original about Ratchet and Clank’s story, both in the sense that it follows the general pattern of the hero’s journey and the fact that the game is a remake, so it’s similar to the tale that was told back in 2002, but the strength of Ratchet and Clank’s narrative is built more on the characters than the actual events that unfold. Thanks to some sharp writing and excellent voice work, Ratchet and Clank delivers a humorous and lovable cast of characters who give the game much of it’s undeniable charm and more than make up for any deficiencies in the plot line. I have to give a particular commendation to Captain Qwark, the cowardly narcissist who leads the Galactic Rangers and narrates Ratchet and Clank’s adventures with a fair amount of embellishment. If you don’t smile or laugh at any point while playing Ratchet and Clank, then dare I say you are dead inside.
The pain train
Insomniac Studios, the developer behind Ratchet and Clank, has long had a penchant for fun and creative gameplay, and this is fully on display in Ratchet and Clank. The game gives you a steady drip of new weapons to wreck havoc with, ranging from the more standard tools of destruction like grenades and rocket launchers, to some truly absurd devices that do things like turn enemies into sheep and cause impromptu dance parties to break out. My favorite, without a doubt, was Mr. Zurkon, a robot companion that shoots any foes within range, all the while spouting hilarious lines about how he lives to kill (for example, “You are not dead yet. Mr. Zurkon intends to rectify this situation.”). Ratchet and Clank’s gameplay is further enhanced by some superb level design across the various worlds you visit. Hardly ever did I get stuck in a particular section of a level, and never once did I feel like the game was being unfair. Honestly the only thing I have against Ratchet and Clank’s gameplay is that when you revisit worlds to power up your weapons you’ll only run into low-level enemies, which makes the process something of a grind. Other than that, Ratchet and Clank is one of those rare games that plays well from start to finish, taking you on a fun ride that you’re sad to see end.
The look and feel of Ratchet and Clank might best be described as Star Wars meets Pixar. Take the diverse worlds and creatures of the galaxy far, far away and mix them up with the color palette and visual aesthetic of movies like WALL-E and The Incredibles and you get the Ratchet and Clank universe. Every world and visual effect in Ratchet and Clank is beautifully rendered and there is a remarkable level of detail throughout the game. Just as impressive as Ratchet and Clank’s visuals are how well the game runs. Even in it’s most chaotic moments of weapons fire, destruction, and a rain of currency bolts, Ratchet and Clank never stuttered and kept a very smooth framerate. Audio holds up equally well and the game’s music further reinforces the Star Wars vibe, as each track sounded like at any moment it would transition into something from John Williams.
Destroying the Hydroharvesters
Ratchet and Clank is an outstanding game – one of the best I’ve played so far this year. Great characters, fun gameplay, outstanding visuals and audio; this game is the whole package. You don’t need to have played the original Ratchet and Clank (or any of the other games in the series) to enjoy it and it’s just about guaranteed to put a smile on your face. If you have a PlayStation 4, play this game.