Game Review: “Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time”

   I have always been a devout fan of the Ratchet & Clank series, particularly the original PlayStation 2 installments, but the Future series was one I never offered enough attention. I had my fill by then, I think, and I was not ready for reentry into the series, regardless of how much I may love it or be a series fan.

  When the Ratchet & Clank reboot game arrived in 2016, in spite of my enjoyment, I only referred to it as “Decent,” a conclusion I think may have been jarring to some gamers. Remember, however, that I played Ratchet & Clank (2016) after beating the 2002 original, several completions of Going Commando and Up Your Arsenalafter having beating Deadlocked and Size Matters, after beating Secret Agent Clank and Tools of Destruction. In other words, while the 2016 reboot might have offered a wonderful series introduction for newcomers, I found it was more of a middling series celebration, capturing a lot of what I liked but feeling, nonetheless, like a retread. That is why I am excited as a fan to look into the Future series.

   The formula never changes too dramatically with the Ratchet & Clank series, and the same can be said for the Future series as well. I don’t have a big criticism about this, but I also understand why it could stand as an actual problem. I thoroughly enjoy Ratchet & Clank, but I still mostly ignored an entire generation of Ratchet & Clank games from burnout (I had played and beaten the Tools of Destruction game, as stated, however). It is not because I was finished with the series by any stretch, but because I felt like I needed some time to stretch and recharge before I reentered the world developer Insomniac Games had cooked up. Although it would be nice to see some experimentation with gun-play and some of the core mechanics, I am still interested in the series’ fun and charm regardless of if that is what Insomniac wants to do.

   This is not to say Insomniac does not try to make additional tweaks to the formula on occasion, as we will likely discuss later with Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One. However, a lot of the time, I have noticed, when Insomniac implements something, it is something inconsequential and gimmicky that I otherwise forget about. In some respects, it reminds me of when the PlayStation controller each generation has a new highlighted feature that fails to catch on.

   Released in 2009, A Crack in Time is a sequel to Tools of Destruction and Quest for Booty. As prefaced, I have played Tools of Destruction already but I have not yet reviewed it. As many of you know, the series’ story and continuity is one I believe you can pop in and out of very easily regardless of which entry you are playing. You might need some footnotes here and there, but it is not really that crucial.

   After Quest for Booty, Dr. Nefarious is assigned by the Zoni to repair Clank. As you can expect from a man with nefarious in his name, however, he has evil intentions on his mind. His hopes are to find a key to a room called the “Orvus Chamber” that is buried in Clank’s memories. This offers insight on Clank’s origins, having been created by a man named Orvus for an important task. Basically, Orvus designed the Great Clock, a construct designed to keep time and protect it, located in the center of the universe. Meanwhile, Ratchet and Qwark are on the search for Clank. Ratchet comes to meet someone named Azimuth, the only other Lombax left behind after Tachyon’s vendetta against them. Azimuth wants to use the clock as a way to fix what has been done to the Lombaxes and undo a mistake he blames himself for.

   Per usual, I spent a lot of time with this iteration of the Ratchet & Clank series and had a lot of fun with it. The visuals are colorful and exuberant, with pretty environments and distinguished charm to each world. The combat system remains tried-and-tested, offering a chaotic and fun experience more often than not. The sound-quality and characterizations remain at a high-standard as well.

   It does not reinvent the wheel, mind you. The weapon selection is disappointing and most of the boss-battles are samey in-nature to a lot of what we have seen prior. Most of the new inclusions are a mixed-bag of emotion as well. I mentioned how a lot of new features usually found in a Ratchet & Clank game are gimmicky and that applies when describing the Clank levels. Basically, you have the ability to manipulate time and the feature is incorporated in your progression through most of the Clank levels (Clank and Ratchet are separated for most of the game). This is not bad, and in-fact, some of the puzzles are decent, but every time the “Meanwhile, …” segment hits and I run around as Clank, it always feels like air being deflated out from a balloon.

   Hoverboots are included in the series as well. You can zip around merrily at your heart’s content. Personally, I don’t care for the addition, but I know some liked them. I think the only reason I dislike them is because how broken they feel with one of the final bosses, controlling in clunkier fashion than I would like and causing a lot of glitches.

   The humor lands on a handful of occasions, offering a dry, sarcastic wit, and I enjoy the characters in-general across the board. The only character I have ever really soured on at all over the years is Captain Qwark, who I think of as more of a cameo character whereas Insomniac clearly sees him as among the main cast.

   By the end, I spent around fifteen hours on Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time, completing the campaign on the Hard difficulty and gathering about 67% of the Trophies. Completing the campaign on the Hard difficulty was very laid-back, and thereby, I would actually recommend it, even to casual players. It is also a very easy Platinum as well. If I would have spent another five or so hours on A Crack in Time, collecting all the leftover collectibles I missed, all I would have left is completing the the Challenge Mode and that’d be it. However, after completing the reboot twice and still failing to get the Groovitron trophy I needed for a Platinum, I am trying to get better about making my games feel like busywork or chores.

   Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time is a solid entry in my book. It is “more of the same,” so to speak, and thus, other entries will be enough to help you decide if this is up your alley. Luckily, for me, it is. The story is solid even if it can feel a little telegraphed and inconsequential, complimented mostly by the charm of its cast. I believe I enjoyed it slightly more than I enjoyed the reboot, but that might, in part, be because of my overexposure to a lot of what the reboot consisted of, and not necessarily its actual merits. In the end, it is fun and inoffensive, enjoyable and charming, and I would recommend it. 

Rating: – 3.5 out of 5.0