There are few games this generation that literally made me smile so damn hard my cheeks hurt. That is because I only just managed to get a PS3, a copy of Ratchet and Clank A Crack in Time and huge memories of my childhood back about a week ago. Yes, Iím a child of the PS1 era, and playing a game like Ratchet and Clank A Crack in Time (or R&CACIT as it shall be now known for sanity reasons) takes me back to all of the things I remember loving about games. Itís colourful, itís witty, itís big and itís focused. This is the kind of pedigree gaming that I wanted to see in HD, not big linear rollercoasters, not overwhelming overworlds, just a solid, built to purpose video game. R&CACIT is like having Christmas in July, and youíre 8 again, and you got the pony.
First of all, the game is gorgeous. Itís a clichť, but damn it to hell, it looks like a fucking Pixar movie. Not just in cutscenes, not at specific moments, the whole, damn, game. Characters are well animated, heck, characters are practically living! You know when you catch NPC's talking during in-engine cutscenes and it looks horrible? R&CACIT doesnít. It looks like an actual goddamn actor, even if youíre currently doing something while they say it. The lighting, too, is sublime. Long shadows of great canyons, sparking machine metropolises and the ticking and whirring of The Great Clock look beyond beautiful. It makes Ratchetís world look not just believable, but better than reality. I want to live on the planets of R&CACIT, because they make my world look dull and dirty. Which it is.
But what of the gameplay? Well, you know that old saying ďif it ainít broke donít fix itĒ? Insomniac likes that philosophy. They also seem to like the philosophy ďif you can go one better, aim for tenĒ because the game is jammed pack with weapons, gadgets, platforming, intergalactic spaceship warfare, gladiator arenas, mind boggling puzzles and exploration. The idea we had years ago when we thought video game genres would meld into one super genre is exemplified and perfected in R&CACIT. A third person shooter with a brilliant platforming engine mixed with hover boot gliding and the occasional time travelling teasers makes R&CACIT stand out from the crowd as a game with no boundaries. What is even better though is how they tie all these modes together. They give you levelling systems with the weapons, they give you upgrades to find around the world and they give you funny, weird challenges to discover. Itís varied, but itís not splintered, and it feels so connected that each gameplay mechanic proves itself necessary. You cannot imagine the game without a single piece missing, and more importantly, youíd hate to see them go.
But here is where I come to the best thing about R&CACIT: It is tight. No padding, no annoying collectathons that are required to beat the game, no cheap tricks to lengthen it. All of the additional collectables are not only at a reasonable limit, but they are actually fun to find. To obtain a lot of the hidden items you have to land on small planets and complete challenges or explore them for goodies. The great thing about this is how deliberate it feels, thereís no expectation of you to do these planets, the rewards are helpful but not required, and the actual challenges themselves are good honest fun. R&CACIT isnít the kind of game to, say, hide arbitrary treasures around the game world in a desperate bid to make the game replayable. The gold bolts almost hit this category, but when you are given a treasure finder after you beat the game and the fact that obtaining the bolts actually requires you do awesome things, well, it pans out like a new challenge, not a tedious task.
The writing is also pretty good. I say pretty good, because frankly it could be a little better. Donít get me wrong, the script is chuckle worthy and characters like Captain Quark are still on-screen riots, but there seems to be a small issue with atmosphere at times. The game builds to a fairly emotional climax, but the sad truth is the very last scene... well... fudges it. Weíre supposed to mourn, but are given all of 5 seconds to do so. Itís a shame, as the plot is otherwise both hilarious and presented with such wonderful pinazz. As villains go Dr Nefarious is a new favourite of mine, his constant screaming of orders and inherently childish attitude make his presence a joy and his evil scheme was both amusing and clever. The things we learn about Clankís origins are also well done, if a tad retconny. The new character of Alistair was well done, the emotional tie between him and Ratchet comes across mostly as genuine, but I do wish Alistair shut up about Ratchet's father...
Overall, I adore this game, and it tops my favourite PS3 games list. After playing both Tools of Destruction and Quest for Booty I had put Ratchet and Clank down as a ďgoodĒ series. Now Iím willing to call it a great one. A brilliant game with little to no peers.
Well... Ratchet and Clank. Thereís 6 games in the main series. If you havenít played one yet, start with Tools of Destruction.
Youíre mentally ill. (Or you have distaste for games primarily aimed at kids. And you hate fun.)
Buy It. The game is huge, itís fun, and you can play it over and over.
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