The Ratchet & Clank series has generally tried to set itself apart as platformers that certainly do not take themselves seriously. The player is meant to have as much fun playing the game as the game is being played and telling a story. The latest installment, merely titled Ratchet & Clank, for the PS4 is no exception to this rule.
Ratchet & Clank from Insomniac was released as a tie-in to a movie of the same name also released in 2016. It is also a re-imagining of the initial release back in 2002. The good news is that you neither need to have seen the movie or played the original release to appreciate this game. I had not experienced either, and it certainly took nothing away from the enjoyment.
The story of Ratchet & Clank is of a young Lombax, Ratchet, who very much wants to be a part of Captain Quark’s Galactic Rangers, an elite universe saving group. Along the way to achieving this very goal and, well, saving the universe, Ratchet is joined by a defective warbot whom he names Clank. The narrative is told largely by Captain Quark himself, a self-proclaimed protector of all who generally finds himself in more trouble than good. Captain Quark relates the story as a flashback, told from a prison cell in what is primarily the tale of how he came to be there. The flashback style not only allows Quark to narrate each section of the game, but also offers fun moments of monologue as the player takes wrong turns or misses a jump for the third time. Overall, the story presentation is the best I have seen in the series to date.
The gameplay is classic Ratchet & Clank. For those of you who may be new to the series, the game is primarily an action platformer. Ratchet employs a number of weapons to defeat enemies while running, jumping, rail grinding, and boosting his way around the very large open levels. Movement feels very good with crisp animations and good control. Small puzzle elements give a nice break to what can be chaotic battle sequences. Racing is even introduced in a few areas, which offers a good departure as well.
This installment of Ratchet & Clank also continues carrying the torch with excellent visuals. Each world visited in the game carries its own feel and aesthetic, some feeling almost claustrophobic while others as expansive as a major city. The wide variety of enemies encountered are also detailed and well animated. Insomniac does not disappoint by providing near prerendered quality characters and scenes during normal gameplay.
Finally, you cannot have a Ratchet & Clank review without talking about the weapons. Many of the favorites from the series return in the game, providing the player with a myriad of ways to dispatch enemies. Call in Zurkon, a handy death and wise crack dealing robot. Or make your enemies dance with the Groovetron. Better yet, turn them all into harmless sheep with the Sheepinator. Weapons are collected as the game progresses by spending bolts and then upgrading with material found throughout levels. Weapons also level up as they are used, unlocking more upgrades and eventually a special alternate configuration. Switching between each weapon type is a great time, often resulting in dispatching dancing, pixelized enemies with a volley of lock-on rockets.
For any fan of action games or platformers, Ratchet & Clank for PS4 is definitely a game to consider. The fun story and dialogue are worth it alone, but the visual treats and wacky weapons make this a truly good time. With the availability of relatively inexpensive copies, you will definitely get your money’s worth in this 10 to 12 hour adventure.