Game remasters and remakes regularly get judged on the changes, improvements and faithfulness to the original games by veterans of the series. While that sentiment caters to the fans and followers of the franchise, it usually ignores one of the primary purposes of a remake; attracting new players.
This review, of 2016’s Ratchet & Clank remake, will take a diametrically opposite approach from the norm and feature the point of view of someone who has barely had any experience with the Ratchet & Clank franchise.
We will therefore look at the game as a contemporary entertainment product and see how it stacks up against modern standards in presentation and gameplay without any rose tinted glasses of nostalgia.
Ratchet & Clank is a series of science fiction, action platforming games that started in 2002 on the Playstation 2 and is a franchise that has seen 12 game releases in the past 14 years.
Thankfully, as a remake of the original game, the new Ratchet & Clank does not require any experience or information about the previous games to understand or enjoy its story. The game takes place in a science fiction setting and follows an anthropomorphic feline creature named ‘Ratchet’.
Ratchet is a mechanic trying to get recruited into the famous Galactic Rangers and through a series of events meets a small defective robot, who he names ‘Clank’, and gets embroiled in a conspiracy that threatens the whole galaxy.
The players get to interact with several charming characters throughout this fun adventure narrative that treats its threats in a tongue-in-cheek manner and never takes itself too seriously.
The core gameplay in Ratchet & Clank is divided into two parts; platforming in 3D world and 3rd person shooting.
Across his adventure Ratchet has to deal with scores of enemies. This can be accomplished in two ways. Ratchet can utilize his wrench to melee his way through the hordes of monsters or he can try his hand with ranged combat; where the game truly opens up and showcases its creativity.
Ratchet has a lot of options when it comes to shooting. Ranging from usual options like energy blaster, explosive grenades, flamethrower and rocket launchers to absurdly wacky and original weapons like the Sheepinator; that transforms enemies into harmless sheep or the Groovitron; which compels enemies to dance making them vulnerable to attack.
These weapons are either periodically unlocked in gear shop or are hidden in later levels.
Whenever a weapon becomes available in the shop, players can purchase it by exchanging it for an amount of Bolts, which can be collected by defeating enemies or destroying crates littered across each world.
Another useful collectable material that is found across the levels is called Raritanium. As the name suggests, it is much more rare material than bolts and is utilized to upgrade each weapon that Ratchet has in his arsenal.
Defeating enemies also rewards players with XP that levels up the character as well as his weapons. While the character level affects the amount of health Ratchet has, XP is gained by the amount each weapon is used goes towards levelling up that specific weapon and each level unlocks additional upgrade paths for each weapon.
Platforming in Ratchet & Clank is less about precise jumping and more about exploration and dealing with environmental obstacles such as industrial conveyor belts and laser beams.
Ratchet starts off with a double jump and with the help of Clank, is able to upgrade his gear to gain the ability to propel higher, glide and even fly so as to progress through the verticality present in the game’s environments.
Finding new gadgets unlocks different abilities like grinding on rails with Grindboots or flying with the help of the Jetpack. Almost each and every one of these gadgets opens up new avenues of exploration that are sometimes crucial to progression or just required to reach the game’s many secret areas.
While the intuitive platforming incentivises exploration, the game also provides reprieve from constant jumping and shooting by providing players with occasional light puzzle elements and a couple of high speed hover-board races as well as some Clank only segments that feature more of problem solving gameplay.
Ratchet & Clank is visually a perfect representation of the concept of a playable cartoon. The game features immaculate lighting, wonderful particle and smoke effects as well as breath-taking vistas and environments in around 10 planets it asks its players to explore.
Each world presented in the game shows rich and varied background designs ranging from a futuristic metropolitan city and lava filled military industrial complex to outposts surrounded by swamps and a serene, resort-like water world.
Every environment has its own charm and features a vibrant colour scheme that distinguishes the feel of each planet. The game also crams staggering amount of stuff into the screen which includes dozens of enemies, moving platforms, destructible crates and hundreds of shiny, metallic bolts.
The game also contains surprising amount of detail in its characters ranging from the sheen on the metallic body of Clank to each and every hair that can be seen in Ratchet’s fur, each character is not only detailed but also uniquely expressive.
Each level also features its own set of enemies who can range from generic armoured robots and slime-like amoeboids to creative character designs like the bipedal sand sharks and floating brain tentacle monsters.
This attention to detail is also evident in the game’s animations as every character, whether enemy or NPC, is animated with the smooth visual fidelity that one can expect from the works of great animation studios like Pixar and Dreamworks.
Along with its visual presentation, Ratchet & Clank’s audio design is also on the money with respect to the overall tone of the game.
The game is full of light hearted dialogue and self-referential humour that has a quality similar to that of Pixar animations, where the material is simple yet clever enough appeal to kids and adults alike.
While the goofy characters and physical humour would keep children entertained, the adults will appreciate the subtle pokes the game makes at several tropes ranging from storytelling to gameplay elements of adventure genre, as well as the clever narration dialogue that makes the game a literal retelling of the first Ratchet & Clank game.
This expressive dialogue and charming voice work really helps to bring all the fantastic visual elements of the game into a fully realised presentation of a living and breathing animated game world.
The game’s 10-12 hour long story campaign offers enough game variety and narrative twists to provide players with fun action platforming entertainment without overstaying its welcome.
Ratchet & Clank also contains loads of collectables that not only incentivize further exploration and revisiting old worlds but also rewards the players with unlocks that add to the game experience.
Aside from collecting massive amounts of bolts to buy new weapons and Raritanium for weapon upgrades, each world in the campaign contains several Gold Bolts hidden throughout the levels. These unlock different things in the ‘Extras’ menu ranging from image galleries, fun screen filters and skins to cheats like invincibility and infinite ammo.
The game also features a card collection meta-game within the story campaign. Collecting these Holo-cards not only contains the ‘gotta catch ‘em all’ factor but completing different sets also grants in-game perks like increase in bolts, raritanium and holo card drop rates as well as unlocking a powerful weapon and variants of weapons for game’s Challenge Mode.
Challenge mode is essentially a New Game + option that is unlocked after completing the story mode and allows the players to keep all their weapons and replay a harder version of the game to get new weapon upgrades and earn more bolts with bolt multipliers.
Overall, for a simple action platformer, the game features a lot of depth and content as an incentive for replay.
Ratchet & Clank is a visually arresting remake that does not feel at all like a re-skinned 14 year old game. Its controls are simple enough that kids can play through its colourful world on easy difficulty and its gameplay and weapon variety is robust enough to provide an entertaining gameplay experience for the adults.