GAME REVIEW: Ratchet + Clank (2016)

14 years after their debut, Playstation’s shiniest and furriest duo return in one of the greatest remakes ever.

“Fan favourites Ratchet and Clank are back. Can they repeat the same magic we saw during our last competition?” says an overly enthusiastic commentator during your hoverboard race on Rilgar, unintentionally harking back to the great platformer boom of the early 2000’s. Crocodiles, lizards and bandicoots(?) lead the genre with Insomniac having two horses in the 3D race with their former entry being beloved purple dragon Spyro. The latter was Ratchet & Clank, an unlikely duo who have put on a suphero performance, managing to do what most Playstation icons can’t by traversing not one, not two but three console generations.

In a strange turn of events, predicted by the original game nonetheless, Ratchet + Clank have reached the status where they can have their name adorned on a feature length film. The results have been…less than stellar…but it feels like the ultimate pay off as the game (based on the movie, based on the game) is not only full to the brim with nostalgia: it’s a damn solid game overall.

Right from the get go, you know that you’re in for something special with Ratchet and Clank. This is the first game I’ve played where I’ve totally avoided the objective on hand to admire the look of the environment as, having played the PS2 original, there are a lot of memories attached to these levels. From the rich, piranha infested waters of Pokitaru to the snow and war afflicted land of Batalia, Ratchet and Clank is full of levels that have a Pixar level of shine to them. They aren’t just areas for you to test out your lucrative arsenal of weapons, more on that later, they’re characters in their own right and are accompanied by some equally impressive music as well.

How Blue-tiful: Pokitaru is one of 14 spectacular looking planets.

Now about those weapons. Ratchet and Clanks prides itself on not only its sense of humour and interesting world but its gameplay and that’s where these aforementioned weapons come into play. Ranging from the aptly named Groovitron, which causes all enemies in the vicinity to start dancing, to the Pixelizer which turns enemies into 8-bit versions of themselves with a shotgun blast, Ratchet + Clank is the pinnacle of imagination when it comes to how creative these weapons are and whilst they may lose their laughs fairly quickly, they never get any less cool to use, especially with the leveling up system in place.

Whilst it may be seen as a sin to profess it, the PS2 original was not perfect and having played it recently, I can say that implementing the evolve-as-you-use method with the weapons adds an extra layer of replay value as well as immersion. All too often games ground themselves in realism and, to their credit, immerse you in their gritty, depressing narratives so it’s refreshing to have a game where you can turns enemies into sheep and rocket jump over their fleecy coats.

Snaggle-what?!: Many bosses will greet you on your journey to save the galaxy.

Speaking of narratives, Ratchet + Clank’s story is where the only issues with the game lies. Delivered to us via Captain Qwark, think Zap Brannigan from Futurama with a love for the colour green, the story suffers from being affiliated with the movie as it moves at such an alarmingly fast pace that we never get a chance for the characters to develop. The eponymously titled protagonists friendship seems rather tacked on despite having been established near flawlessly in the original series. Given the benefit of the doubt, I’m sure Insomniac would have managed to avert this issue and it’s something that, helped out by a sequel, could easily be fixed.

Despite that nitpicking, the story is pretty solid though predictable. It’s your classic tale of intergalactic peril with Ratchet and Clank stopping the evil tycoon Chairman Drek from destroying every planet in the galaxy. It’s fairly bread and butter as things go but it’s all that it needs to be: a template for the developers to display their wacky ideas and humour without feeling too jarring.

Pesky Slimeballs: Enemies look as vile as ever with the refined graphics

Launching with a £30 price tag, the game packs a lot of replay value with a challenge mode, Ratchet + Clank’s New Game Plus of sorts, providing the bulk of your playtime and will have you doing multiple playthroughs to fully upgrade your weapons and collect everyone of those holocards. It’s not quite Gwent but it’ll do.

When all is said and done, you’ll be forgiven for forgetting that this game is simply a byproduct of it’s big blockbuster brother. Ratchet + Clank manages not only to outdo its own film but the entire series that it’s rebooting with it’s newly refined graphics and gameplay giving a breath of fresh air to both the series and gaming itself. All nitpicks aside, you’d be crazy not to go out of your way to play this game.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some boxes to smash.


– Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

Blinded by Nostalgia?

Our relationship with games is at risk: is too much of a good thing really that bad?

Back in October I wrote a commemorative piece on Playstation, Sony’s flagship console that was, for many, their first gaming experience. There was the bombardment of platformers where Crash and Spyro were the kings of their genre as well as likes of Lara Croft and Cloud etching themselves into our fond memories.

However, it wasn’t until I read this one comment on a survey I made to get your feedback that something clicked.

Ratchet and Clank. Honestly, so many childhood memories from that trilogy. Yes, trilogy, there were no more after the first three.

Now, before you verbally assault me, I have no problem with the Ratchet and Clank series (in fact its one of my favourite PS2 series) but seeing the “there was no more after the first three” made me worry about nostalgia in gaming.

It’s not surprising that many of us look back at these games fondly. After all, many of our childhood memories are about these games, whether it be 100% completing your favourite adventure game or winning the league title with Liverpool on PES. However, this way of thinking that old = good and modern = bad is doing more harm that you’d realise.

This is for two reasons, the first being that not all old games are actually that good. Some of the worst games of all time happen to be from consoles PS2 prior and whilst some games nowadays like Battlefront infuriate gamers with their robbing tactics, I think I can speak for everyone that gaming as a whole would like to forget certain abominations: ET (which caused the gaming industry crash of ’83), Bubsy 3D, The Simpsons Wrestling.

Secondly, some of the best games of all time have been some of the most recent ones. Take for instance Mass Effect 2, a game that gives Star Wars a run for its money with its epic and interesting lore, amazing story and characters that you feel something for. Then there’s Last of Us, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Portal, Bioshock, the Batman Arkham series. As much as people criticise new games, there’s no denying they’re true testaments to how far gaming has came.

I’m not saying anyone’s in the wrong here at all. The moral of this brief rant is simple: take off the rose tinted glasses, you might stumble upon a new favourite.

Big love, Liam x

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