Editorial: Ratchet, Clank, and Fun

For readers unfamiliar with my console history, first off: what the fuck is wrong with you? Secondly, the non-screw-ups will know that I was late to the non-Nintendo game. So when I finally got Sony consoles, I was mostly focused on catching up on RPGs. This decision has paid off, it seems, because the three most beloved PS2 platforming trilogies have made their way to the PS3 via HD collections.

So much fun.
Wow fun.

I have already completed The Sly Collection a number of years ago and loved it; particularly the second and third games, and I tried a few hours of the first Jax and Daxter title which was fun, but no Sly Cooper. Most recently I purchased the Ratchet & Clank Collection having enjoyed A Crack in Time very much – not to mention it being the first game I ever completed to Platinum trophy status.

With both the first Sly Cooper and Jak and Daxter games, it was easy to tell that – even in polished HD form – the games were the first in a series on a previous generation console. Lots of fun to be sure, but the presentation was underwhelming, the controls a little loose, and it was generally easy to predict where fixes would occur in the follow-ups.

With the first Ratchet & Clank game, it is not the same experience. While the menus leave something to be desired, the game feels frighteningly polished. The controls are tight and fun and the upgrades made me wonder how I was playing the game before said upgrade became available. The cutscenes were humourous and well-directed and the characterization was surprisingly deep for such a cartoony title.

And then there are the weapons. What the series is known for and with good cause. The weapons are endlessly creative. Even the simple blaster or flamethrower are incredibly fun to control and it is possible the game would have been well supported on only three or four total weapons. However – just like the upgrades – once Ratchet receives a new weapon, it becomes hard to imagine how the lombax would have survived without it.

Yes, somehow with over a dozen weapons (excluding the gadgets), I used the vast majority throughout the entire game. They all have strengths, weaknesses, and a distinct feel to them. It adds an unique level of customization to let players choose which weapons to use in different situations.

Add that to the ability to collect hard-to-reach gold bolts to eventually trade in for uber-powerful gold upgrades to each weapon, the title feels incredibly complete for an inaugural game in a series. In complete contrast to my experience with Sly and Jak, I found myself often wondering how the series would be able to improve its mechanics for later entries; and this came from a guy who had already played a later entry.

Seriously guys. Fun.
Non-stop fun.

I am only about halfway through the second game in the series and Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando is finding ways to continually impress me. Bolts are easier to come by in more creative ways, but there are more upgrades and weapons to balance it out. There are arena challenges and massive optional landscapes to explore. Each new weapon has the ability to upgrade to a more powerful form if used often enough – further encouraging use of multiple weapons – and Ratchet’s health increases based on how much total damage he has racked up on his adventure.

In fact after a very short intro, the game lets its players begin with most of Ratchet’s abilities from the first game, and with an appropriate save file, players can buy most of the first game’s weapons for free. It shows the series’ dedication to always trying to find new ways to make the player feel more powerful as they progress without using the God of War tactic of resetting powers every game.

I might review the collection when I complete it, but I think my opinion should be quite obvious. These games are up to a decade old and I think they impress by today’s standards. It is further proof of Lusipurr’s theory that one does not need a bigger budget to make a better game. The visuals are very nice in the Ratchet & Clank Collection, but the real success is the tight gameplay, great characters, and perfect progression of power.

Do you fine readers agree? Did you already play the Ratchet games as they were released, or were you introduced later like I was? Perhaps you still have not tried them at all. I am curious in your experiences, LusiClanks!

4 comments

  1. I’ve never played any of the Ratchet and Clank games but I am a big fan of sequels that let the player begin with all of the abilities from the previous game and then add new things on top of them. That’s one thing I loved about Banjo-Tooie; most (all?) of the abilities from the previous game are available from the start and the abilities learned in the second game are all completely new.

  2. @EP – I’m sure that I never have a single clue as to what you’re talking about. Ever

    @Dan – I actually don’t mind when powers reset and Ratchet totally could have gotten away with starting without the powers from the last game with no explanation, so I was pretty surprised. I think it’s really a great opportunity to show off the creativity of a studio.

  3. @EP: ???

    @Ethos: Everyone I know who has played R&C sings its praises, but it was a series I was never able to get into for some reason. Ah well; glad you had a good experience with it!

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