A lot could have gone wrong with Ratchet & Clank. Anytime a company decides to remake a game that’s over ten years old, 14 in this case, it’s a bit alarming. Is this just a cash grab? Are they trying to gauge interest in the series? Even worse, Ratchet & Clank was being reimagined as a movie tie-in with the movie of the same name. All of that information sets off a lot of red flags in most gamers’ minds. Even with all that knowledge, Ratchet & Clank turns out to be a great reimaging of a classic platformer from an era since past. The jokes are still funny, the graphics are beyond beautiful, and the different telling of the two heroes’ origin is a welcome refresh. Rather than slap on a new coat of paint and call it a tie-in, Insomniac went all out to give these iconic characters their due.
If you’re a fan of Ratchet & Clank you’ll pick up on a lot of similarities between this game and the original title from 2002. That’s intended; this is a reimaging of the origin story, not a completely new idea. And besides, not a whole lot was wrong with the original title and its original, funny story, so why fix it? That being said, this is a Ratchet & Clank game, you don’t come here for nuanced story and quality writing. There are some cheap quips and some genuinely funny lines to be sure, but these games have always been about the action and the platforming. It’s a relief that those two pieces of the Ratchet & Clank puzzle hold up surprisingly well. In fact, I didn’t realize how bad I wanted a new Ratchet & Clank game until I started playing this one. The simple but elegant level design leads players through a bevy of platform puzzles and action theaters that are as bombastic as ever. Enemies explode into bolts as you reign hell down on them, and it looks oh so pretty while you do so.
Ratchet & Clank received an extreme facelift in the best possible way. A 14-year gap between this title and the original means Insomniac had a lot of tools to work with, and it shows. We’re so inundated with realistic, gritty titles that something as colorful and radiant as Ratchet & Clank makes a big splash. The game moves well too, it feels fast and the action never slowed down despite the copious amounts of explosions that were on screen. Every planet feels unique and the character models and cutscenes all look incredible. It was hard to discern what was from the movie and what was a game cutscene at times. This is all to say that Insomniac did more than up-rez Ratchet & Clank. This is a new game that was built from the ground up as if the title was first being released in 2016, and the game benefits heavily from that fact.
Graphics are great, but what are our heroes without guns? Every Ratchet & Clank title (all 13 of them) prides itself on the collection of entertaining and humorous guns that fall into Ratchet’s hands. Old favorites like the Groovitron and Mr. Zurkon return to help Ratchet take care of baddies while new toys like the Pixelizer help to keep things fresh and interesting. In fact, shooting the Pixelizer for the first time is a great moment in this game. Like previous titles, your weapons upgrade as you use them more, evolving into stronger and more useful items. On top of that, Ratchet & Clank introduces a fun new way to upgrade weapons. A sphere grid of sorts is attached to every weapon; you can unlock things like additional ammo or more bolts by using upgrade points. On the grids are “?” spaces that can be unlocked by buying the circle of upgrades that surround the question mark. These special abilities make the weapons even more ridiculous and give a good reason for players to play through the game on New Game + to see all they can.
Writing, as with most Ratchet & Clank games is a bit hit or miss. While some subtle jokes are enjoyable, others feel forced and awkward. I also felt that the game ran a little long towards the end. I felt all-powerful and ready to go, but there was still a lot left to do. Even so, I found myself wanting to jump back into a New Game + at some point to upgrade my weapons and fully deck out Ratchet.
Overall I was really surprised by Ratchet & Clank, which feels like an odd thing to say. For such a storied franchise, there was a lot that could go wrong with this release. Aside from the first three titles in the series, the Ratchet & Clank series had varied in quality over the past five or so years. Luckily Ratchet & Clank is one of the series’ high points. Ratchet & Clank offers fans both new and old a way to jump into a fun world and blow stuff up. Whether you’ve played every game in the series or this is your first experience with a Lombax, you really can’t go wrong with Ratchet & Clank.