Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time
Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: Oct 17, 2009
Pros: Overall fun gameplay, great variety of weaponry, Clank puzzles are both challenging and enjoyable, customizable weapons, hoverboots are a nice addition to Ratchet platforming, great voicework with hilarious dialogue
Cons: Side-missions are quite repetitive, same formula with new additions. space battles feel out of place
Who would have guessed that we would still be seeing more titles from Ratchet and Clank since it first hit in November 2002? The wacky animations, colorful cast, and insane weaponry has captivated gamers for years. With the same formula, A Crack in Time does just like previous installments, delivering mayhem and overall fun.
The story picks up after Tools of Destruction, in which Ratchet is in search of Clank, who was taken by a group of mysterious entities known as the Zoni. Ratchet discovers that Clank's kidnapping was engineered by Doctor Nefarious. Using the Zoni as his pawns, Doctor Nefarious attempts to gain access to a room in "The Great Clock", whose secret entry lies in Clank's head. It's up to Ratchet to find Clank and stop Doctor Nefarious's scheme.
The story seems generic, but plenty of twists and turns are thrown in along the way. You discover Clank's history and purpose, as well as delve into Lombax history with the introduction of a new Lombax, Azimuth. Needless to say, the plot is nothing out of the ordinary, but is plenty to hold your attention and keep you interested.
The music in Ratchet and Clank is filled with symphony scores and techno mixes. Nothing beats the tune you hear when The Groovitron is thrown and your enemies are in a full dance frenzy. The music for each world seems to fit with the enviornment. When you are flying around in your spaceship you have the option to tune the radio..mind you, there are only 3 channels. The channels allow you to choose your favorite genre of the 3 but the commercials/news bulletins are the main reason to listen. Though none of the music is entirely epic, it stays within reason to match the mood, and is never too over-the-top.
Visually, this game holds up quite nicely. All of the environments are incredibly detailed. Of particular mention, "The Great Clock" is an amazing sight when the camera first pans around. Filled with flying debris, golden decor, and incredible scale; it truly is a sight worthy of a first person tour.The environments and overall feel of the game make it seem like you are playing a cartoon that you would typically watch on a Saturday morning.
The character models also hold up well. From Ratchet's furry ears to the shiny metallic luster of Clank, the character models maintain an impressive look while upholding the cartoony style. Even the baddies' mechanical parts are highly detailed. The most impressive visual comes when there are a slew of enemies on screen and you unleash the game's most devastating weapon: The Ryno V. Missiles and shrapnel litter the screen without a single drop in framerate. Poetic how much beauty lies in destruction in this game...
There are two elements of gameplay: Ratchet's run and gun gameplay, and Clank's puzzles.
You start out in a 'System' which consists of small moons that you can land on as well as the main worlds that continue the story. The moons act much like Mario Galaxy, small globes you walk around and only exist for sidequest purposes. You get into a few space skirmishes in your starship between planets on occasion, and its these moments that hurt the game more than help. Though not dreadful, it leaves a little to be desired and feels out of place. After finishing a system and warping to another, it switches to Clank's run through the The Great Clock. It's this constant switch that keeps gameplay interesting.
In both scenarios, you also collect various items scattered throughout the worlds. Golden Bolts unlock various skins and costumes, Customizing Weapon Caches (explained later), and lost Zoni's that upgrade your starship. Some are in plain view, but many of these are hidden on both moons and main worlds, taking some dedication to find. Tack on a skill point list, challenge mode after completion. and trophies; and there is plenty of replay value scattered through this title.
The weapons this time around are just as fulfilling as previous installments. As you progress through the game, more weapons are unlocked at the vendor. Happily, The Groovitron makes its return, which when used will throw all enemies near it into a full dance off. You will probably use all your ammo for this once you buy it from the vendor...and yes it does work on bosses. Of particular mention is the Rift Gun, previously featured in Tools of Destruction it opens a portal to another dimension where a hungry monster grabs enemies and pulls them into the rift. There is also the Spiral of Death ( A Yo-Yo like disc launcher created by a fan of the series), Tesla Spikes, and the Sonic Eruptor (a monster that burps your enemies away). These weapons gain levels as you kill enemies, increasing damage, area of effect, etc. The large variety of them keep the gameplay interesting as you mix their properties together for the best effect. While most enemies on normal mode won't require you to mix these up too much, the more difficult setting will require you to think about what weapon suits the situation best.
The slingshot and grindrail make a return, but the hoverboot platforming is what truly shines. Ramps with boost marks are used to leap over gaps. These ramps become a lot smaller in later levels and combine with small pads that you bounce off by pressing the X button at the appropriate time. The hoverboots come in handy for blazing through certain sections or running from battle to gather ammo and health.
While Ratchet focuses more on combat, Clank provides some of the most interesting puzzles to grace the series. Clank is granted a staff that acts as a time controlling device. It can perform simple tasks such as fix broken equipment or reflect blaster fire, but its main power is the ability to throw "time bombs". These bombs slow time down for whatever enters the circle. You find yourself using this for both platforming and combat. Though Clank still has to use melee combat, but his main purpose is solving puzzles using recorded versions of himself. Shall I try to explain?
The puzzles get much more complicated as you progress through the game, giving you up to 4 pads to record 4 versions of 4 different actions. Not mention the time you spend re-recording one version to perform more than one action. It's such a unique and entertaining puzzle, that I find it to be a major highlight of the game. While they may start simple, you will find yourself stopping to think about the next move on the latter puzzles.