There was a time, midway through the life-cycle of the PS3 and Xbox 360, where the 3D mascot platformer seemed all but dead. Ratchet & Clank – after their excellent 2009 outing A Crack In Time – were buried in a slew of disappointing spin-off titles, games that were a far cry from the formula that made the series great in the first place.
On top of this, there wasn’t a peek to be heard from Jak & Daxter, whose developer Naughty Dog had recently entered uncharted territory. Spyro was gone, Croc was nowhere to be found, and there wasn’t a hope in hell for Banjo-Kazooie.
But, fortunately, things are looking a lot brighter now. Ratchet & Clank are back in their very own PS4 exclusive platforming adventure, and they have a tie-in movie to boot. Yooka-Laylee, a spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie, had one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns in recent memory, and Crash Bandicoot is heavily rumoured to be making another appearance on his home console in the not so distant future.
So, just why are these games so popular? How have they endured the age of brown multiplayer shooters and smaller-budget indie platformers? There’s no shortage of things to love about 3D platformers, and their family-friendly charm is just the tip of the iceberg.
Collecting Loads Of Stuff
Like many a Lego game and the shoot-and-loot Borderlands franchise, the best 3D platformers on the planet rely on a hefty dose of shiny collectables. From the bolts in Ratchet & Clank to Jak & Daxter’s precursor orbs, the environments positively burst with flashes of colour and floating, well-hidden collectable items.
Ratchet & Clank is particularly privy to this effect, the whack of a crate positively showering everyone’s favourite Lombax in a hefty dose of tiny bolts. These bolts are the game’s main currency, and their fancier gold counterparts can be used to purchase weapons and equipment.
Excellent PSP spin-off Daxter was drenched tiny, egg-shaped precursor orbs, and overall, these small tidbits regularly keep players coming back for more, increasing the completion of that save file by picking up every last piece of the puzzle.
Fun fact: the Jak & Daxter precursor orb has made an appearance in Uncharted’s one through three as a hidden treasure dubbed ‘The Strange Relic.’ Interconnected Sony Video Game Universe anyone?
Wacky Weapons And Combat
Ratchet & Clank and Jak and Daxter are no strangers to the intricacies of a unique firearm collection. Want to throw out a disco ball and watch all your enemies dance? You got it! Want to spray green eco out of an extermination tank to stun your enemies? No problem! These unique weapons really set 3D platformers apart from games with more bog-standard, traditional guns, like assault rifles and snipers.
Arguably the most famous weapon in 3D-platformer history is Ratchet & Clank’s Mr. Zurkon, a sentient robot ally that will spew out witty quips interspersed with deadly gunfire. It’s a fantastic piece of kit that encompasses all the best features of the genre; a family-friendly take on a traditionally more violent weapon, that is as deadly as it is hilarious. To quote the man himself, “Mr. Zurkon will send you to a dimension. A dimension of death.” Preach, brother.
Goofy Side-Characters And Story
From the loveable, dim-witted Captain Qwark to the obese, hover-chair wielding Krew in Jak ll, 3D platformers possess an abundance of memorable characters and creatures. Even the titular Daxter and robotic Clank can be pushed under this banner, with Daxter’s undying energy and Clank’s dry remarks frequently slapping a smile on the face of the gamer.
3D platformers are an adventure through different galaxies and worlds, and that affords them the ability to come up with any character or creature design the dev team deems appropriate. These stories are not bound by the conventional laws of our own human reality, so why should they be restrained? The argument that games let us experience other vibrant worlds has no better show of support than 3D platformers – and it’s this that is part of the appeal.
Slightly Less Family-Friendly Titles
The stories may be family-friendly, but the titles of a certain franchise – cough, Ratchet & Clank, cough – are most definitely not.
While the Ratchet & Clank series may look cartoony, is there really any doubt that these games are made for adults? Going Commando. Up Your Arsenal. Tools Of Destruction. Quest For Booty. Size Matters. Put your detective cap on and see if you can sniff out any double entendres in those subtitles!
So, if you’ve had a rough day, pick up a 3D platformer to make that stress vanish. If you’re a PlayStation fan, then you’ve no shortage of options – so get out there and start collecting something shiny.