There shouldn’t be anything too remarkable about another Ratchet & Clank game, but this is the furry Lombax’s first adventure on the PlayStation 3, and more notably, one of the best presented games “ever!”. For once we can actually use that word with some confidence – this really is the closest gaming has come to a playable CGI movie. The lovely graphics, along with the seamless cutscenes and voice acting, make it feel like you’re inside a cartoon world.
The story’s basically a pastiche of every other typical ‘save the world’ game, but it’s delivered brilliantly through the cutscenes. Ratchet and Clank do a nice line in the ‘hero and smartarse sidekick’ department, but the real stars are Captain Quark – the oafish Mr Incredible lookalike – and Emperor Tachyon the evil crown prince of the Cragmites, with his loveable high pitched voice, giant head and plans for world domination. It all really helps pull you through the game.
The gameplay itself is pretty much the same as any other Ratchet & Clank game, though more refined. You spend your time jumping, whacking and shooting a variety of enemies (mostly little aliens sitting inside giant mecha suits). The proceedings are spiced up a little thanks to the vast array of imaginative weaponry. On the basic level, you’ve got your wrenches, guns and electric whips, but then there are things like the Tornado Gun – a device that fires tornados, which you control independently from your character by tilting the Sixaxis controller. That one’s a bit too fiddly and rubbish in practise though. Or there’s the Groovitron – essentially a grenade you throw at a group of enemies that makes them start dancing to a disco beat. There are a couple of dozen devices in total, and best of all each can be upgraded many times – by buying upgrades at the weapon shop with collected Raritanium as well as through repeated usage. As there’s no shortage of bolts and Raritanium to collect, it isn’t too challenging to fully upgrade all of your weapons, but it’s compulsive and adds to the fun.
Saying that the main gameplay is pretty standard stuff, it’s also worth mentioning that the game itself has lots of variety in the form of numerous mini-games. Admittedly, most are just an excuse to shove in the Sixaxis’ motion control, but for the most part they help add some excitement and split up the platforming sections. One mini-game – a door unlocking game which plays like a tilting mercury maze – gets overused, but most (such as a Star Fox style space shoot ‘em up, a robo-wing flying section and a pirate disco dancing game) are well done and add to the game. Then there are the different Clank levels, which only occur a few times but are completely unlike the main game. In these, Clank wanders around small levels without Ratchet, using the powers of the little Zoni creatures to progress. Essentially it’s like a platforming Pikmin – Clank can command the Zoni to manipulate devices and charge up switches, as well as using their powers slow down time and levitate. It’s quite an interesting and unique gameplay style, although it makes up for just a tiny percentage of the complete game.
The game flows extremely well, rarely ever leaving you bored or wondering what to do next. There’s lots of little hidden areas to explore and a heap of things to collect, but the main game pushes you along at just the right pace, never getting too stale and frequently making you smile at the narrative cutscenes. Yes, it is mostly just a game about hitting and shooting aliens and robots, but it’s just so well made.