Ratchet and Clank review
In a perfect world, we would have remakes for all our favorite games, rather than mere remasters, or worse, simple ports. This 2016 update of Ratchet and Clank’s debut is the latest property lucky enough to receive such a reimagining. It’s an update so thorough that it easily joins the rare class of remakes that includes Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes and the Gamecube version of Resident Evil. We already knew the original was great, but it took a 14-year gap and a remake to truly appreciate the timelessness of its creative weapon designs and well-crafted levels.
One mark of this version’s excellence is that you don’t need the original game as a frame of reference to appreciate it. Of course, anyone with a videographic memory and a love for the series will be overwhelmed by the sublime balance of newness and familiarity. For every recognizable platforming challenge, there’s a new section or weapon that keeps the experience fresh. And whether you’ve played a game in the series or not, this installment can be appreciated on it own merits. Put another way, it manages to downgrade the original game from “must play” status to “recommended”.
For all that this new Ratchet and Clank pulls off, it’s a minor miracle that its story doesn’t replace the one from the 2002 game. Insomniac’s writers adeptly avoid questions of canon by making both stories valid. This is thanks to a Rashomon-esque storytelling method where that new tale about Ratchet and Clank’s fateful meeting is narrated by longtime supporting character Captain Qwark, specifically through his interpretation of events. You can see why Sony went with the back-of-the-box tagline, “The game based on the movie, based on the game.”
Many of the changes have been steered by the plot points of the tie-in film of the same name, which provides plenty of territory for playable scenes. This includes Clank’s escape from the factory and the duo’s cavalry moment at Aleero City, two moments that, incidentally, weren’t playable in the original game. There are a number of film clips that help bring cohesion to the game’s narrative, just enough that they don’t make the movie redundant.
Ratchet and Clank also showcases Insomniac’s devotion to imaginative weaponry. It’s become a trademark for the studio, in the same way altering time has been a signature gameplay device by Remedy and DONTNOD and combo-intensive combat in Ninja Theory’s games. From the missile launching Warmonger to the retro charm of the Pixelizer, the armaments in Ratchet and Clank show the kind of inventiveness you’d see if Pixar made a James Bond movie.
It’s fun to see the mix of new and old weapons, and to play with the funkier armaments in the context of the original story. This makes every level a canvas for destruction as well as a playground of experimentation. Doing well demands making the most of this arsenal, where fending off incoming foes with melee attacks is as important as taking out distant enemies with ranged weapons.
It’s gratifying to figure out the right tool for the job - knowing when a precision weapon is more suited to a given situation than an explosive - and to watch the outcome of your decision play out in a dramatic cartoony kill. And for all its combat complexities, the beauty of this series is how the gameplay is kid-accessible with additional challenges for adult players.
It’s rich in content beyond the critical path and lots of incentives to scour every level for pick-ups and collectibles. It satisfies anyone who has that obsessive compulsive itch to max out all weapon stats and to earn all the trophies. It’s akin to collecting all those countless pegs in the LEGO video games - but the pieces have more practical value in Ratchet and Clank.
This new Ratchet and Clank lets fans to celebrate the past and gives newcomers a superb starting point. It’s a poignant reminder of Sony’s prolific period during the PlayStation 2’s era when it felt like a new franchise was born every few months. It says something when the only downside to Ratchet and Clank 2016 is that it will boost the sense of entitlement of those who want similar, equally gorgeous remakes of Jak and Daxter, Sly Cooper, God of War, you name it.