Ratchet & Clank – Review

Title   Ratchet & Clank
Developer  Insomniac Games
Publisher  Sony
Platform  PlayStation 4
Genre  Platformer
Release Date  April 22nd, 2016
Official Site  http://www.insomniacgames.com/games/ratchet-clank/

ratchetclankrev1In 2002, Ratchet & Clank on PS2 introduced us to the titular long-eared Lombax and his charming robot sidekick as they embarked on a heroic galactic quest. They visited strange alien worlds, met a colourful cast of characters, and got to grips with some of the wackiest weaponry imaginable as they joked, platformed and shot their way across the stars and into our hearts. In 2016, Ratchet & Clank on PS4 reimagines that very first adventure from the ground up, updating it with luxurious HD visuals, adding in new levels and bosses, and bringing along some of the greatest gadgets and gizmos cherry-picked from the duo’s fourteen year career. The result is one of the most joyous 3D platformers to come from outside of Nintendo, one of the PS4’s top exclusives, and one of the finest Ratchet & Clank adventures to date.

A reboot of sorts, this latest instalment re-examines and reworks the platforming pair’s origin story, splicing the original’s plot – revolving around the megalomaniacal Chairman Drek harvesting parts of several planets in order to create a new one – with characters and plot devices from later games, while also tying in with the new animated movie. By no means let that last part put you off, though. This is no lazy effort to cash in on the feature film, but a faithful and lovingly crafted celebration of one of the genre’s most endearing duos. Granted, the shoehorned in clips from the movie, and some under-explained motivations and appearances from certain characters mean this isn’t Insomniac’s or, indeed, the series’ storytelling highpoint (although the pompous Captain Quark’s narration is a nice touch), but it remains easy to follow throughout for new and returning players alike. For the latter it never detracts from the nostalgic charm and enjoyment of seeing these PlayStation icons’ fateful first encounter reborn for today’s hardware.


Reborn, yes, but not necessarily reinvented. This isn’t a vast departure from what the Ratchet & Clank games on PS3 played like, opting to refine the winning mixture of fun platforming, light puzzling, frenetic blasting and crate smashing, which is to say no bad thing. Certainly, compared to the original it’s got plenty of extra bells and whistles, such as the jetpack from 2013’s Into The Nexus, not to mention the ability to strafe (which was absent in the first game), but anyone looking for a significant step forward for the series after the space-faring and time-hopping A Crack In Time will have to keep waiting.

Nevertheless, as mildly disappointing the lack of a revolutionary overhaul may be (although, being a remake, it’s hardly surprising), it’s all too easy to be won over by the sheer levels quality and polish on show, not to mention how eye-soothingly pretty it all looks. Claims of parity between the in-game graphics and the CG movie are ever so slightly exaggerated, but it comes mighty close. The age-old cliché is that it’s like playing a Pixar movie, and honestly it’s hard to argue here. From the tropical waters of Pokitaru and the lava-spewing wastes of Gaspar, to the fuzziness of Ratchet’s fur and the knowing smile he gives after buying a new weapon, and even the bespoke dance animation for each and every enemy type resultant of the Groovitron, everything looks splendid. The screen positively explodes with activity, brimming with vibrant colours, explosive effects and, of course, bolts. Lots and lots of bolts.

ratchetclankrev3Even more pleasing is the gratifying knowledge that pretty much all of the on-screen carnage is by your hand. Whether you’re bashing Blarg with Ratchet’s trusty OmniWrench 8000 or pulling the trigger on one of his ever expanding arsenal of guns, you never feel anything less than empowered, even when up against giant bosses such as the returning Blargian Snagglebeast or all new Mrs Zurkon. That probably speaks more of the game’s relative lack of any real challenge rather than the effect of wading into war carrying weapons almost as big as Ratchet himself, but this actually works in the game’s favour. Barring one specific difficulty spike early on, involving rising water levels which took multiple retries and more than a few swears to beat, Ratchet & Clank gracefully whisks you along at a pleasurable pace, treating you to new sights, handing you new toys, and generally making sure you’re having a blast of a time.

Speaking of blast, while the Ratchet & Clank games are technically classed as platformers – you will be jumping gaps and scaling obstacles throughout – more than anything else you’ll find yourself shooting aliens in their ugly faces left, right and centre. Few games have such a healthy obsession with outrageously barmy guns as anything from Insomniac, and this new Ratchet & Clank isn’t bucking the developer’s trademark trend. It’s a slightly leaner selection of weapons compared to previous outings, but every one of them is an absolute hoot to play with, coming in everything from explosive, long-range, and area-of-effect forms, and all have their own unique little twist.


Famous tools of destruction from prior games make a welcome return, like the aforementioned dance-till-death Groovitron, which makes enemies caught within its disco ball radius bust out into a groove and open to attacks. Another is the alarmingly adorable Mr Zurkon, a small, armed robotic personal bodyguard who talks like a six year old Arnold Schwarzenegger, spurting out one-liners such as “Goodbye, stinky aliens” and “Yoo-hoo, Mr Zurkon is looking to kill you” when faced with hostiles. Meanwhile, new additions include the Proton Drum, which deploys a pulsating ball of energy that shoots out damaging shockwaves, and the Pixelizer, which transforms enemies caught by its blast into delicate and blocky 8-bit sprites complete with retro sound effect, and is surely destined to become a fan favourite.

People always talk about Halo and its oft-quoted ‘thirty seconds of fun’, but Ratchet & Clank has always had its own take on the theory, whereby for half a minute you’ll be using one weapon and the next you’ll be using another. Generally speaking ammo is plentiful, but not universal, meaning it’s necessary to mix up the weapons and strategies you use. Sometimes you’ll hang back and pick enemies off from afar with the sniper-like Plasma Slayer, Warmonger rocket launcher, or spawn in self-destructing robots which home in on hostiles with the Glove Of Doom. Other times you’ll march into the thick of it firing off ricocheting Buzz Blades, lobbing Fusion Bombs and setting enemies alight with the Pyrocitor.

ratchetclankrev5Sure, you’ll have your preferences, but every single gun in Ratchet’s armoury is fun to use straight off the bat. Better yet, though, is the rewarding upgrade system at play. It’s the same system found in previous games, which has spread to fellow Insomniac stablemates Resistance and Sunset Overdrive over the years, and that’s because it works so darn well. Basically, the more you use a weapon the more it will level up, and the more it levels up the more upgrades you can apply, providing you’ve gathered sufficient Raritanium dropped by defeated enemies or found through exploration. Weapons rank up a maximum of five levels (on your first playthrough, that is), automatically upping their damage and unlocking the more vanilla (yet still essential) upgrades for purchase, such as increasing ammo capacity, rate of fire and the percentage of bolts you can earn.

The most powerful upgrades are called Mystery Mods, and can only be unlocked once all surrounding upgrades on the respective weapon’s upgrade tree have been bought. What’s more, their rewards are unknown until you’ve unlocked them, hence the name. You can bet your last bolt that they’ll seriously bolster your firepower, though, but not as much as levelling up each weapon to the max, which will either significantly enhance their existing capabilities or even add whole new ones. For instance, Mr Zurkon will bring along his son, Zurkon Jr, to share in the alien insulting, and the Combuster’s shots will split into three projectiles allowing for better crowd control.

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the details surrounding Ratchet & Clank’s eccentric brand of blasting, and that’s mostly because it is the series’ unique selling point – you don’t see Mario and Luigi roaming the Mushroom Kingdom brandishing grenades and rocket launchers now, do you. But let’s not forget Ratchet & Clank is more than a one trick Lombax. There is of course some actual platforming from time to time, through a bunch of levels taking in the age-old platformer traditions of fire, ice and water themes, as well as some intergalactic varieties. As already stated, they look better than ever, and the Lombax and robot double act control swimmingly on PS4, with a degree of precision and ease that makes them such a wonder to control.


There’s also a fine selection of brain-benders to solve where you get to control the teeny, tiny tinman himself. These are navigational puzzles involving Gadgebots, which can transform into three different types allowing Clank to reach his destination. The Bridgebot will see the device extend across perilous gaps granting safe passage, the electrically-charged Powerbot boots up dormant generators to open doors or operate machinery, and the Springbot acts as a bounce-pad so that Clank can jump up to higher surfaces. Puzzles start off dead simple, but later ones require you to think about the order in which you use the available Gadgebots. You may need three Powerbots to open up your escape route, but only have four Gadgebots to hand in the room, meaning you’ll have to use Bridgebots and Springbots in the correct sequence and places to bring them all together.

ratchetclankrev7Clank’s puzzle sections are neatly designed and are a welcome change of momentum, but they’re used too sparingly, with only three brief playable scenes in total for the green-eyed robot, and while they do increase in complexity, there’s nothing quite on the same scale or as taxing as those found in A Crack In Time. More or bigger conundrums would have been appreciated, yet Ratchet & Clank still has more to offer in the way of distractions to make up for it. Elsewhere, there are Hoverboard races to win, Telepathopus brains to collect, and aerial dogfights to battle, plus there’s a manageable and worthwhile stack of collectibles to find (collecting all nine RYNO Holocards to unlock the game’s most powerful weapon is a must for those intending on a second playthrough in Challenge Mode), which is made all the more easier once the Map-O-Matic has been discovered.

All in all, then, it all adds up to a delightfully varied and tremendously entertaining adventure, despite some storytelling stumbles here and there. And yes, Ratchet & Clank on PS4 does cover similar ground as any previous game in the series you might care to mention, yet it still feels remarkably fresh and unique for today. This is partly because the production values and attention to detail are the highest they’ve ever been, and partly because there simply aren’t many games of this ilk around anymore. Insomniac has delivered a fantastic and nostalgic franchise reboot that, even if it doesn’t push the envelope, proves there’s still life left in the genre.

  • Near CG Movie-like visuals, with excellent lighting and animation
  • Typically over-the-top weapons with rewarding upgrade system
  • The series’ likably quirky charm and sense of humour remains
  • Bags of variety, both visual and gameplay
  • Not the series’ finest storytelling
  • Sticks close to the traditional Ratchet formula
  • One early difficulty spike particularly grates

The original Ratchet & Clank from fourteen years ago is fondly remembered as an instant platforming classic, and in another fourteen years’ time it’s likely we’ll reflect back on this PS4 reimagining with the same twinkly look in our eye. It’s charming, funny, and as gorgeous to look at as it is magnificently fun to play. Ratchet and Clank fly the flag for the 3D platformer on PlayStation proud once again.

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