While growing up, I had a best friend who moved around a lot. Thankfully we still managed to keep in contact and remain friends. At least until she moved to Australia. A few years after she moved, and after only a few half-hearted attempts to keep up our friendship, she came back to New Zealand for a holiday. The strange combination of glee, trepidation and just the slightest mental reminder not to get my hopes up is the same combination I felt when I got my hands on Ratchet & Clank. Except with significantly less small talk and awkward photos.
Ratchet & Clank was a staple of many PS2 players when it first came out. The series was so popular it moved onto the PS3 and released a new game every year for eight years. Even Spyro wasn’t that popular. This new reimagining of Ratchet & Clank will be released on April 20th alongside the Ratchet & Clank movie, which Insomniac also had a hand in. Rather than being a remake of the original game, it’s best described as a game about a movie about a game. If that isn’t a mouthful I don’t know what is.
What it means, though, is that you’re not getting an exact copy of the old PS2 game with shiny new graphics, but rather, a new game. There are new characters, new weapons, a new plot, completely rebuilt levels, and a whole new planet to explore. Ratchet & Clank both have new backstories, and there is about an hour of brand new cutscenes. But despite all the new features in the game, it still feels strangely familiar. You’ll know what’s going on if you played the PS2 game (or PS3 remaster), but you never know quite what’s around the next corner, even though you feel like you should. Hopefully it’s hoverboarding.
Ratchet & Clank is narrated by Captain Qwark, the loveable but also very hateable companion / antagonist / hero from the original series. It’s a complicated relationship. He does his job of narrating and fourth wall breaking well; comments about video game tropes like breaking boxes for money, and jabs about pre-ordering games are plenty, though not quite as funny as the jokes from the original instalment and seem a little forced.
Chairman Drax makes a return, but is more fleshed out, leaving you with a understandable but not sympathetic villain to rally against. He is accompanied by a host of familiar enemies and boss fights and a few new faces. Dr. Nefarious makes an entrance as a “squishy”, non-robotic version of himself with the sole purpose of turning people into sheep and ruining your day. The Fongoids and Zoni, races from the later games, are both seen and mentioned respectively.
Then there are the weapons. Ratchet & Clank has always focused on creative weaponr, and this time you get all the best guns from the whole series, like the Groovitron and Mr. Zurkon, along with brand new guns like the Pixelator - a shotgun that turns your enemies into pixelated bodies on the ground.
There are still plenty of collectibles like Gold Bolts hidden throughout the world, sometimes in familiar places, though there aren’t as many to collect. These unlock different cosmetic options such as a VHS screen filter and armour colours for Ratchet. There are also cards that will boost your weapons and other stats when you collect a full set.
The game plays very well with rather intuitive controls and an assignable D-pad for quick weapon selection during firefights. Most of the gadgets seem to be just given to you at various points in the game, such as the slingshot that you start with; there doesn’t seem to be as much buying of things from NPCs. Everyone seems to be just a tad nicer to Ratchet, even the Gadgetron vendor, doesn’t vaguely insult you anymore. it does make the game generally easier though, simply because you can afford to buy more guns earlier on.
Ratchet & Clank may prove to be a game a bit too childish for adult players new to the series, and even on hard mode the challenge is a little lacking (excluding the hover train on Kerwan, which I was terrible at as a child and still suck at). I only played the first few planets, though, and this could ramp up dramatically in the full game. Those of us who grew up with Ratchet & Clank will enjoy the nostalgia blast, and it makes a nice addition to the sadly few child friendly games on the PS4.