Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time

After the mysterious disappearence of Clank in Tools of Destruction and the subsequent piratical mischief in Quest for Booty, it's now time to mess with the fabric of the universe as time itself comes under fire from classic villain Dr. Nefarious, intent on correcting any heroic moves of the past, especially those carried out by friendly fuzzball Ratchet. The next part in the Ratchet and Clank Future series, A Crack in Time, sees Ratchet continuing his quest to save Clank, while his tiny robot companion plots his own course as the new administrator of The Great Clock. What results is two distinct strands of gameplay, with Ratchet running and gunning his way across numerous varied planets to save his friend, and Clank having a slightly more cerebral experience, manipulating time and gaining insight into his intended destiny.

Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time

As in Tools of Destruction, Ratchet gameplay is all about platform action and an exciting array of weaponry. Taking down swarms of enemies would be boring with archaic bouncing and blasters the only weapons available. For this iteration in the series, Ratchet has everything from Tesla spikes (ideal for creating ground-based electric trip wires) through to a rift monster (emerging from a different dimension to slap enemies with enormous tentacles), affectionately called Fred. Favourites from earlier games also make an appearence, including loyal robotic bodyguard Mr Zurkon, buzz blades and the elusive Ryno. The most impressive aspect of the weaponry though is the balance of each gun. Since each weapon is constrained in either power, range or ammo capacity, there are no obvious choices, and players will likely find themselves using all weapons during the course of the game. In fact, some boss fights are so intense that ammo will swiftly become a rarity, forcing players to improvise with different weaponry. For example, imagine using a cryomine to freeze an enormous enemy to then be able to squeeze a handheld amphibian, causing it to belch a shockwave at your foe. Similarly, the long-range plasma spiker is far easier to aim if your enemy is caught in a gravnet. Such combinations ensure that no weapon is redundant and there'll always be scope to simply use the weapons you have fun with.

Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time

Of course, that's not the full extent of the game in any Ratchet title. The core of the adventure is still platform exploration of beautiful, mysterious, but ultimately treacherous worlds. The Ratchet series always does more than simply the tired fire, ice and jungle levels. In A Crack in Time, it's no surprise to find purple jungles, cities in the sky, deep canyons, desert rocks and worlds drenched by continual rain. The result is a superb mix of unique, instantly memorable areas to explore that lead to an incredibly enjoyable adventure, helped of course by the superb control system the game utilizes, honed and perfected with each highly-successful entry in the Ratchet roster. The platforming mechanics are kept simple with direction control, camera control and jumping allowing smooth and intuitive navigation of each level. The weapon system makes use of a handy target-lock-on mechanism, leaving players free to unleash fury on the waves of enemies, marvelling at the comic mayhem of the various weapons.

The individual worlds are superbly designed, with enemy spawn points, jumping sections and puzzles balanced to ensure that the player is never completely overwhelmed or left to boredom. If you're given a moment to catch your breath, you can guarantee there'll be something interesting to look at in the scenery or a secret to uncover somewhere nearby. And it's the hidden collectibles that provide the game an extra layer of depth. A rapid playthrough of the game could be finished in less than ten hours, but Ratchet would be left dangerously underpowered, with many of the game's best secrets criminally untouched. By exploring each world fully, Ratchet will find new weapons and upgrades, as well as collectible gold bolts, used to unlock alternative costumes. Best of all though, thorough exploration will occasionally reveal additional side-quests and, later in the game, even a virtual museum dedicated to the game.

Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time

The game is structured as a series of solar systems, unlocked with game progression, each containing several full-size worlds and a good selection of small moons. The latter can also be explored, without loading a new game environment, and usually contain extras like gold bolts or the mysterious Zoni. Getting from one part of space to another is a simple matter of hopping in Ratchet's ship, fully controllable in this game, and ready to be piloted across the full extent of each solar system. This opens up several other side missions, including aerial dogfights with space pirates and towing missions for the benefit of stranded freighters. If there's a weak part to any aspect of the controls though, it's the space sections. Even ignoring the fact that flight is restricted to two dimensions, the controls, especially the roll, are somewhat flimsy. It's easy to adjust to the new setup, but they never feel as intuitive or complete as those in, say, Warhawk.

It does all look very pretty though, even in the scattered space sections, thanks to the many beautiful planets arcing across space in front of the viewscreen. The main worlds of the story are where the game really shines though, with some inventive and interesting environments to enjoy. The small details, like luggage from tourists in the big cities, and tiny plants in jungle areas complete a living, breathing world. However, two points of criticism: firstly, the visuals in the game don't feel like a major step forwards from Tools of Destruction, which is odd considering the leaps taken in other series like Uncharted and Modern Warfare. The second point is that, no matter how much each world is filled with exciting and believeable fine details, the bigger picture has gone missing somewhere along the line. The plight of Ratchet and Clank as they fight to save the universe seems largely ignored by the rest of the galaxy, with only the usual suspects, like Dr Nefarious, giving a monkeys. A large factor in this is the mysterious absence of Talwyn Apogee, possible love interest for Ratchet, who featured in both Tools of Destruction and Quest for Booty. Her absence and the lack of persistent news crews or fleet of defence starships de-humanizes the experience slightly, making it an enjoyable Ratchet experience, but lacking in completeness.

Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time

Despite the lack of big picture, the story itself is highly entertaining, and fans of the two heros will no doubt greatly enjoy the plot as it unfolds. There are a few surprises (given away by early trailers), like the appearence of another lombax, and some terrific Clank sections involving time manipulation. In certain areas of The Great Clock, Clank can make multiple recordings of himself to solve multi-button puzzles. Though the puzzles in the main game don't become too taxing, there are several challenge rooms that can be entered optionally, each presenting a genuine workout for the old grey cells. The classic battle arena setting is also integrated into the story, with Ratchet taking on more waves of enemies under more inventive circumstances. An old favourite returns with random weapon switching taking place at regular intervals, forcing Ratchet to improvise with the gun available. Add to that an optional end boss battle and the choice to replay the entire game in challenge mode (with weapon upgrade levels increased from five to ten and increasing bolt multipliers as reward for kill streaks against enemies) and there's enough to keep fans happy for at least twenty hours.

Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time

One final favourite feature of the Ratchet series, the score, continues on excellent form, with some stirring and enjoyable music providing great motivation and a sense of purpose. Effects, particularly for the terrific arsenal of weapons, and voicework are also top notch, as they have always been in the series, and once again this is a large component of the game's success. And the game is exactly that: a success. Despite a mild lack of improvement over previous iterations on PS3, and a missing sense of the bigger picture, A Crack in Time is an incredibly good game, and the PS3 is lucky to have the series on board. It's perhaps time for Insomniac to try something new with Ratchet and Clank, but this entry is a highly enjoyable continuation of the story and deserving of high praise.

Game details

Game logo

Publisher:

Sony

Developer:

Insomniac Games

Players:

1

Online:

None

Release:

2009-11-06

Trophies:

37

Review summary

Gameplay:

Superb weapons, a great story and plenty of fun

Graphics:

Lovely, but not a great step from Tools of Destruction

Sound:

Enjoyable voicework, fun effects and superb music

Lastability:

Good replay incentive and a decent length game

9.6

Meteoric

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