Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time
key review info
- Game: Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time
- Platform: Playstation 3
- Gamepad support: N/a
- Reviewed on:
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Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time is a fitting end (if it is really the end, hard to know when it comes to such a long running and interesting series) to the adventures of the very unusual duo of a Lombax and a sentient robot.
The first installment in the series arrived in November 2002 and just seven years later, there are five games in the original series, including a ground breaking one on the PlayStation Portable, three videogames in the Future series, featuring the one reviewed here and another spinoff on the PSP, which puts Clank in the spotlight. It's been a good few years of Ratchet and his partner, and Sony platforms have benefited from the exclusive nature of the franchise.
Right from the onset, it must be said that Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time is a refinement of the gameplay elements found in Tools of Destruction and Quest for Booty and not a leap from the designs used there. There's nothing mind-blowing innovative here but the people at Insomniac do not need to inject anything new into the series at this point, as almost all aspects are solid and coherent, providing challenges while not inducing frustration.
This is not Halo where each new release needs to introduce fresh tactics and shooting mechanics in order to allow for enjoyment on the part of gamers. This is Ratchet & Clank, a game where the weapons were so out of this world in the first installments that it is truly hard to expect them to top it the ninth time around, yet Insomniac manages to go over, over the top.
StoryYou know that the plot is going to evolve around the Zoni, mysterious, loveable yet somewhat creepy creatures. They take Clank away and hide him somewhere distant and Ratchet is set to explore the depths of the known and unknown universe in order to get back his robotic friend. What is apparently a simple rescue mission gets more and more convoluted, as Ratchet, who is paired up with the super hero caricature that is Captain Qwark (best pun in the game), finds out that the Zoni are working for the evil and also robotic Doctor Nefarious, who is trying to control something called the Great Clock, an artifact, which can give him the power to control time and through it reality itself. It's not something out of Battlestar Galactica, with deep meditations on what it means to be Lombax, or a robot or on the nature of reality, but the goals are clearly set, easy to understand by all possible classes of players and it keeps the gamer engaged. Throw in the possibility that the Clock could be used to actually bring the entire Lombax race back and A Crack in Time comes close to being dramatic at times, although jokes are quickly thrown in to lighten out the mood.
Because Clank and Ratchet are separated, the game will transition from one to another. The Lombax handles the heavy duty fighting, mostly alongside some other character, like Qwark, while the robot does some platforming and puzzle solving inside the McGuffin, which is the Great Clock.
The puzzles are mostly based around the idea of time manipulation. This is, happily, not even close to Braid. Even if the robot can shift time around, the puzzles are pretty straight forward. The typical idea is to record him doing one thing, play that back, then progress, record again and then repeat until the multiple level puzzle is completed. It's interesting and it manages to be intelligible and innovative at the same time. Thankfully, his sections are not very long and most of the game, you will be controlling his Lombax friend.
Meanwhile, Ratchet will be killing things, be on foot in a variety of locations or in his space ship, looking for Clank. There are tons of weapons to use, although most of them count more as novelty items than as useful killing tools. There's one that actually summons an inter-dimensional beast complete with tentacles to take enemies out. There's one based around the belching of a weird animal. You'll use these a few times for the laughter factor, you will show them to your friends and then promptly forget about them. The real stars of the shooting gallery are the three Constructo weapons, a bomb, a pistol and a shotgun. They are upgradeable and tend to be the best at their job, especially after visiting a few of the smaller planetoids usually hiding the parts you need to upgrade them.
The upgrade abundance can feel a bit overpowering. Everything is getting better all the time and I actually ceased paying attention at some point. You never feel like you need to seek out something in order to get through a particular area but the constant upgrading and leveling up of weapons manages to tingle that brain center handling reward and pleasure. It might be a lot but it does not detract you too much from the experience.
Graphics and sound
A Crack in Time has the same Pixar meets science fiction look of the previous games in the series. It's crisp, well drawn, there are a lot of details to the main characters and the weapons look impressive, even more so than in the previous videogames. Maybe the best character of the game is the new grizzled Lombax, General Azimuth, who seems at the same time somewhat weary and eager to transfer some of his wisdom to Ratchet. If there's a big complaint about the looks of the game, that is related to the colors, which can at times be way too bright for normal humans over 12 who do not watch unnatural amounts of cartoons. I bet kids love it, but it can very quickly tire the old eyes. Don't expect the same level of depth of field or attention to detail as in PlayStation 3 graphics champion Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, but A Crack in Time is one of the more better looking titles of the year so far.
The sound is also suitable for the experience. The weapons sound weighty and at the same time somewhat playful, the characters are sometimes funny, sometimes interesting but never too boring and there are some background pieces set to stick in the player's head for an hour or two and sound very appropriate for the Sci Fi setting. Considering the length of the game, a little more variation would have been interesting, but it's not a major gripe.
Apparently, Insomniac and Sony are set to give the Ratchet & Clank series a bit of a rest after A Crack in Time is out, so fans should definitely pick this up and give it a spin in order to see how the Future saga wraps up. All the elements that are to be expected of it are there and the new stuff fits in seamlessly. It's bright, fun, the kind of videogaming experience that can bring families together for a few nights. Kids might get bored at some point but older gamers will probably feel compelled to finish the game and collect all the weapon mods and explore all the potentially different areas. Those who have not yet played a Ratchet & Clank videogame should probably not pick this up just yet but head to the bargain store and try to get Tools of Destruction for a good price. If they like it, then the whole Future series shares the same tone, with some improvements and with more story.