Ratchet & Clank, the first time the intergalactic duo have appeared on Sony’s dominant current-gen hardware, is the game that they deserve. A far cry from the serviceable – but misguided – All 4 One and Full Frontal Assault, this 2016 adventure is a traditional Ratchet & Clank game all the way through – and it’s infinitely more enjoyable for it. A plethora of wacky weapons such as the Groovitron, endearing characters and a genuinely witty script help make this Ratchet & Clank platforming adventure one of the best, if not the best, PS4 exclusive video game money can buy.
Speaking of money, you’ll be shelling out less than expected. Ratchet & Clank, despite its apparent AAA status and the fact that it was developed by industry heavyweight Insomniac, will set you back a measly £29.99 in the UK and $39.99 in the U.S. It’s a superb price and one that makes it seem like Sony had no idea how good this PS4 game was – perhaps they were worried about how well it would perform, and suspected a lower cost would attract a bigger audience? Whatever their reasoning, the winner here is the PS4 gamer, and Ratchet & Clank will most definitely not cause any guilt in the financials department.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, however, and the price is indicative of the biggest problem with Ratchet & Clank; its amount of content. Or, more specifically, its lack of content, a six or seven-hour campaign, 28 collectable gold bolts and a New Game Plus mode more or less constituting the finished product. While this does fall in line with its reduced price point, it means Ratchet & Clank suffers from a bit of an identity crisis; was this game meant to be a much bigger, full-priced experience? Its marketing and the fact that a Ratchet & Clank movie is coming up shortly would indicate that this is a Triple A title – so why the low price and small amount of content?
These are questions I began to ask myself post-game completion, as while I was playing, I was having too much fun to care about industry politics. Ratchet & Clank acts as a pseudo-reboot for the titular guardians of the galaxy, poaching gameplay and story elements from their first PS2 outing and refining, changing and improving them where necessary (seeing a PS4 Ratchet & Clank remaster would be awesome as well). The result is an experience that feels fresh but stays unwaveringly true to that addictive gameplay loop that made the duo such a well-loved property in the first place.
That gameplay loop consists of three primary elements. You’ll be jumping, swinging and navigating a whole host of vibrant, immensely detailed alien worlds, completing assigned objectives and interacting with the locals along the way. Next, you’ll be destroying any creatures that dare get in your way, using a variety of weapons that I can only describe as the crazed fever-dreams of a psychotic war criminal. And thirdly, there are a number of engaging puzzles and problems to solve, which range from unlocking doors to secret areas and using gadgets to navigate treacherous environments.
The platforming – jumping, swinging and climbing – is fine, and serviceable, but that’s not why you should be here. It’s the second and third parts of that loop that are utterly fantastic, and it’s what gives the game its own identity and feel. In terms of your arsenal, you’ll be purchasing weapons using the in-game currency – bolts – and each weapon has a decidedly insane function that is both easy to use and wonderful to look at. Whether you’re turning enemies into sheep with the Sheepinator, making your foes dance with the Groovitron, or deploying your murderous, vengeful robotic sidekick Mr. Zurkon, no two encounters in this new Ratchet & Clank are ever the same.
It never gets old to deploy a Groovitron, turn all your opponents into sheep and watch them breakdance around the room. It might sound overly preachy, but it reminded me why I play games; I want to be transported to insane worlds, I want to explore them and I want to have fun in a way I’ve never had fun before. If the idea of dancing sheep doesn’t curl the corners of your mouth, then the humour and silliness found in Ratchet & Clank probably isn’t for you, but for me, the game is an utter breath of fresh air. There’s currently nothing like it on the PS4.
Your Ratchet & Clank weapons can be upgraded depending on how much you use them, which adds an extra layer of strategy to battles and really makes you stop, think and assess the situation before charging in. Do I want to upgrade my Plasma Sniper Rifle, in case I have a long-range fight coming up? Or should I focus on my rocket launchers, so I can defend myself against giant mechs and robots? There are a number of different approaches you can take in each situation, and like any good game, you aren’t restricted to one particular choice.
Elsewhere, there’s enjoyment to be found in a couple of hoverboard races located on planets Rilgar and Kalebo. These come in three tiers – bronze, silver and gold – meaning there are six different races in total, and each tier is more difficult than the last. Hoverboarding breaks up the shooting and platforming nicely, rewarding you with a hefty number of bolts and a couple of trophies for the fastest of players. Just try not to pull your hair out, as I did. On top of these speedy side-missions, there are a number of difficult laser-pointing puzzles to solve, which are immensely satisfying to complete but not so hard as to incite rage.
Thankfully, Ratchet & Clank isn’t all style without substance, and the game possesses an endearing plot with a positive message for kids and adults alike. Narrated by the eccentric Captain Qwark, disgraced former leader of the Galactic Rangers, Ratchet & Clank bounces from hilarious sight gags to witty one-liners and a heartfelt, relatable message about friendship and helping others. It’s great to see a game for kids – and make no mistake, Ratchet & Clank is firmly aimed at a younger audience – that doesn’t take the player for granted, or assume they’re of a lower intelligence. Children will have a ball, but older players aren’t left in the dark either, a couple of easter eggs indicating that Insomniac may still be interested in a few of their older titles – Spyro and Resistance, anyone?
A franchise that has previously drawn attention for its bizarre array of subtitles tinged with adult humour, Ratchet & Clank is a decidedly kid-friendly affair that is infinitely enjoyable for gamers of any age. It’s great to see that a 3D mascot platformer can be released, and be successful, in an age where multiplayer bro shooters and RPGs seem to be dominating the release calendar. There’s plenty to adore here, and a tonne of crazy, fun-to-use weapons, beautiful, lush environments and some engaging puzzles help make this one of the best games on the PlayStation 4, and the best PlayStation exclusive of 2016. Your move, Nathan Drake.
• Weaponry and gadgets
• Gorgeous cartoon graphics
• Hoverboard racing
• Script, story and characters
• Lack of content