Ratchet & Clank for PlayStation 3 Review

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I had a PlayStation growing up and my go-to 3D platformers were the first three Spyro games which were developed by Insomniac Games. They’re great platformers that still hold up even after all these years. After Year of the Dragon, Insomniac would go on to create the Ratchet & Clank series. I’ve always had an interest in the series but I never got to play them when they were in there prime. Well I finally decided to give the first game a shot. Developed by Insomniac Games and published by Sony Computer Entertainment, Ratchet & Clank was released for PlayStation 2 in November, 2002. A remastered version was released for the PlayStation 3 in June, 2012 and Vita in July, 2014 as part of the Ratchet & Clank Collection which is a collection of the first three games in the series. For this review, I played the PS3 version.

Set in the fictional Solana galaxy, a robot named Clank crash lands on the planet Veldin and meets up with a Lombax and mechanic named Ratchet. He reveals to Ratchet that he’s on a mission to stop Chairmen Drek, a Blargian business tycoon who harvests planets to create a new one for his race. They join forces and set out on an adventure to stop Drek and save the galaxy. I really enjoyed the story and not because it’s some of the greatest writing of the generation but because it’s just simple silly fun. The game is presented like a cartoon. The characters are wacky and the interactions are often amusing. The dialogue can be hit or miss but that didn’t prevent me from smiling as I blasted my way around this colorful and diverse galaxy.

Ratchet & Clank is an action platformer. You’ll get to use a large array of weapons to defeat enemies and gadgets to progress. You travel from planet to planet completing objectives on your quest to save the galaxy. You primarily play as Ratchet with Clank on his back but you will have to control Clank in any areas that are inaccessible to Ratchet. Ratchet can walk, run, jump, double jump, wall jump, and aim in first-person. Clank’s moveset is a little more restricted but he can activate and command Gadge-Bots which is pretty awesome.

The biggest draw of the game is the arsenal and gadgets. Weapons are used to combat enemies and gadgets are used to get around and access new areas. Ratchet carries an OmniWrench which he primarily uses as a weapon. As you progress through the game and collect Bolts which is the game’s form of currency, you can spend them at Gadgetron Vendors to buy new weapons and ammo. Some are sold by specific NPCs as are certain Gadgets, and sometimes you’ll come across new weapons and gadgets in the environments.

The arsenal in Ratchet & Clank is diverse and almost every weapon is fun to use. You’ve got missile launchers, a flamethrower, you can lob bombs, and there’s even a weapon that will suck in enemies and fire them out as projectiles. The early planets are pretty easy to get through but the challenge does ramp up and some of the later planets can be tough if you don’t have the right weapons. All you really need is the R.Y.N.O. It’s a missile launcher that can fire up to nine at once and will kill anything. It’s almost like cheating. Although, it will cost you a hefty amount of bolts to get. Another expensive but worthwhile weapon is the Tesla Claw which fires a beam of electricity.

You will need Gadgets to progress through the game. You can swing around certain areas with the Swingshot, get passed security doors with the Trespasser, breathe underwater and in poisonous atmospheres with the O2 mask, and jump higher, farther, and glide with the Heli-Pack. Most of them need to be equipped manually but some will auto-equip and others are just simple upgrades like the Bolt Grabber for example. This allows Ratchet to pick up bolts from an extended range. The game will tell you if a gadget is required to progress through an area and will even tell you if it can be found on the current planet.

As fun as Ratchet & Clank is, it does come with some issues. For one thing, the game features a very lackluster lock-on system which was improved upon in the sequels. With a projectile-based weapon equipped, a reticle will appear on enemies when you’re close enough to them. This reticle indicates your projectiles will home in on the enemy or enemies. But the camera won’t focus on them making it easy for the player to lose focus on what’s going on.

My second issue is with the weapon and gadget switching. You’re given a quick select menu but it can’t hold all the weapons and gadgets. You can assign weapons and gadgets to the quick select slots and those that are not must be selected from the pause menu which can be annoying when you have to switch between gadgets frequently. Yes, you can just re-configure your quick select menu to hold the gadgets you need for the planet you’re on but that, too, is annoying. What’s also annoying is that most gadgets don’t auto-equip. I think the Swingshot, Trespasser, and Hydrodisplacer which drains and fills pools of water should auto-equip when you approach an area that requires them. Maybe a simple button prompt when you approach grapple targets, security locks, and Hydrodisplacer plug points would do the trick.

Ratchet and Clank travel to new planets by ship. Every planet has its own objectives to complete. A common goal in each planet is to find Gadgetron Infobots which reveal new planets on your Galactic Map. The planets are filled with bolts lying around and in breakable crates, hazards, and enemies. Each planet has its own set of dangers and foes with their own attacks and patterns. You’ll engage different kinds of alien creatures, robots, aircraft, and tanks. You’ll have to take down some bosses, you’ll get to man turrets, and ride on rails after acquiring the Grindboots. The later planets can be really tough because you’ll be up against a lot of foes with long range attacks like turrets and aircraft that fire rockets. The planets are rather large with plenty of areas to explore and secrets to find. They are open-ended so you can basically go anywhere you want. You can reference a map of each planet and once you reach certain areas, shortcuts or transports become available so you can get back to those areas easily. Ratchet and Clank doesn’t go overboard with minigames but there a couple. Hoverboard Racing is one but my favorite is when you get to fly Jet Fighters and shoot down enemies.

There’s a lot to see, do, and collect in Ratchet & Clank. Many secret areas house Gold Bolts which act as a form of special currency. You can spend them along with regular Bolts on Gold Weapons which are upgraded versions of the standard ones. Gold Weapons are more powerful or efficient in some way but not all weapons have gold variants. After beating the game, you have the option to continue playing or play through the game again with all your equipment and bolts. This is known as the Challenge mode. Think of it as New Game +. If you look at the game’s Goodies menu, you’ll see a bunch of stuff that can be unlocked by meeting certain requirements. Furthermore, this is menu is where you can see what Skill Points you’ve acquired. Each planet has a set of Skill Points which are just hidden tasks to complete.

I think Ratchet & Clank was a decent looking game for its time. It’s colorful, vibrant, and visually diverse. Some planets feature different weather effects and you’ll see ships and creatures flying around in the backgrounds. The diversity of the planets along with their unique set of foes and environmental details help give off this whole future alien sci-fi vibe. That combined with the cartoon-y style and humor make Ratchet & Clank a joy to explore. While I do think this remastered version does make the game look better overall, it could have been better. It seems like the developers just upscaled the PS2 game and called it a day. Some textures are blurry, lava in particular looks terrible, and pop-in is noticeable from time to time. Whenever you swim underwater or use the Suck Cannon, their respective meters appear on the screen and then move off to the side but they don’t go off-screen and act as an eyesore until you do something that makes them disappear.

As you’re exploring the planets, you’ll get to listen to a decent soundtrack filled with tunes that match the whole future and alien aesthetic but I can’t say any one song stood out to me as memorable. As for the sound effects, attacks sound satisfying and enemies will often make comical noises and explode when killed. There’s a nice whimsical quality to the audio work which perfectly fits the cartoon-y style. On the technical side, the performance was solid throughout and other than some clipping, I didn’t encounter any major bugs or issues.

I had a blast with Ratchet & Clank and it was refreshing to play. It guides you in some ways but it doesn’t hold your hand. There’s plenty to see and do, the open-ended planets let you explore freely and uninterrupted, and the wide array of weapons and gadgets let you approach and engage foes in fun and different ways. In addition to all of that, it’s a solid platformer and action game. The planets are well designed and each one has its own unique set of obstacles to overcome. New challenges are thrown at you as you progress and it’s fun revisting previously explored planets once you’ve acquired the appropriate gadgets to explore them further. I think the lock-on system, camera, and equipment switching could have used some more tweaking but my issues with the game didn’t stop me from enjoying it. There’s a lot more good than bad here and the game holds up pretty well.

I would absolutely recommend Ratchet & Clank to fans of action games and platformers. It’s a great time and should keep you occupied for a while. There’s a lot of planets to explore, secrets to uncover, equipment to collect, and challenges to overcome. It’s fun, silly, action-packed, and rewarding. If you enjoy platformers, aliens, robots, and blowing shit up, definitely check out Ratchet & Clank.

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