Ratchet and Clank, the galaxyâs greatest furry mechanic and underappreciated mechanical sidekick, are back. In the latest instalment of the Ratchet and Clank Future series, along with some old acquaintances and new friends, they have to use all their laid-backed confidence, technical know-how, and highly destructive new toys to thwart the evil plans of Dr. Nefarious and save the universe once again.
Following on from Tools of Destruction and A Quest for Booty, A Crack in Time sees Clank captured by the strange and technically advanced Zoni and taken to the Great Clock. Built by Clankâs father, and located in the centre of the universe, its up to Clank to learn the Great Clockâs secrets and become its caretaker. Meanwhile, Ratchet and muscle-bound, muscle-headed Captain Qwark cross paths with the mostly robotic Dr. Nefarious. Nefarious, who Qwark suspects may not even be a real doctor, is once again trying to rid the galaxy of squishies while putting up with incompetent henchmen, a condescending butler and an over-the-top diabolical laugh.
Developer Insomniac Games, who have shown with the two Resistance games that they do on-screen action like on one else, bring all their experience and professionalism to Ratchet and Clankâs latest adventure. What we get is cartoon chaos like never before. The battles in A Crack in Time are remarkable. Percussion waves, explosive rounds, plasma bolts and laser lights, along with showers of debris, bolts and the odd thrown wrench, fill what must be some of the busiest screens in gaming. All this action, taking place in lavish environments, from lush rainforests to hi-tech cities, all drawn with beautiful depth and detail, makes the game an absolute visual treat.
While the action can get full-on, the controls are remarkable straightforward. The front triggers fire and take you into an over the shoulder view, if you want to take the time to aim. The D-Pad takes you through all the guns, grenades, accessories and devilishly inventive paraphernalia that the series is famous for. While the face buttons will get you jumping, swinging, repairing and activating your way through missions packed with platforms, puzzles and an endless supply of robots intent on taking over the galaxy.
To save the galaxy Ratchet not only has to get around the diverse collection of worlds, he also has to find his way between whole planetary systems. To do this he uses his ship the Aphelion. In space you control the Aphelion as it navigates asteroid belts and space junk; you can make deals with smugglers and traders and battle fleets of enemy spacecraft - all with a nice sense of old-time arcade fun. On the way you can also drop onto various small planetoids where you can complete mini-levels for the bolts needed to trade for weapons, armour and upgrades. And let's be honest, when weâre talking about Ratchet and Clank, itâs all about the weapons, the gadgets, the upgrades, and the mods.
On the gadget count, there is no need to worry. Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time is not short on hardware. From your standard blasters and grenades to electrified Tesla spikes, hypnotic disco balls, the remote controlled Dynamo of Doom and the hilarious Mr. Zurcon, a cute little attack-bot who calmly states âMr. Zurcon is going to kill you,â before diving head first into the fray, the variety of Ratchetâs tools are on par with the franchise's previous titles. All the weapons level-up with use, Ratchetâs armour and his ship can also be upgraded and the additions of new accessories such as hover boots make A Crack in Time a mechanically minded Lombaxâs dream come true.
Clank also has a few new tricks up his sleeve. While he is separated from Ratchet, you control him as he experiences the weird world of the Zoni. The Zoni are able to travel in and manipulate time, and with their help Clank is able to use a few time manipulation tricks of his own. In what essentially amounts to puzzle stages, Clank can record and then replay his own movements. This turns what is a single player game into a strange kind of multiplayer puzzler where you control all the players. For example you can record Clank standing on a pad to raise a platform. Then you can record a second Clank standing on the platform as it raises and throwing a time bomb to slow down a fast moving platform thatâs blocking the levelâs exit. While all these recorded Clanks last only a few seconds, with the right timing you can have them opening doors, bouncing across platforms, flipping switches and even fighting enemies in a concerted effort to reach the end of the level. If it sounds complicated, it is. But with a bit of planning you can be recording and replaying your way out of the most complex situations.
If pressed you might argue that Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time is three different games in one. There is the button-mashing, cartoon carnage that Ratchet revels in and excels at. Clank has his mind-bending, time-twisting puzzler. Thirdly there is the Aphelionâs excursions into outer space. All of them are brought together within the familiar context of the 3D platformer. Unfortunately, the familiar parts of this kind of game may be just getting a bit too familiar. The past year has shown just how far developers have pushed the platform genre. No matter how good it is there is the chance that Ratchet and Clankâs time may have passed. While the graphics are spectacular and the story suitably epic and imaginative, Ratchet and Clank may be in danger of being dragged down by the weight of its own success. Especially considering that as well as all the imaginative innovations brought to the genre, it's got to the point where every cartoon summer blockbuster that hits the cinema is accompanied with a Ratchet and Clank-style platform hunt for berries or coins or whatever.
However, the first time you use the Groovitron Glove in the Agorian Battleplex to get the fifty foot brute youâre fighting to break dance, the freshness, humour and care that Insomniac Games brings to the product shines through.
But, if you were still looking for things to fault with the game you might point to the very occasional issue with awkward camera positions or perhaps the space travel components may be a little less fun then they could have been, as well as there not being a particularly long story to get through. Also, weâve all come to expect online multiplayer tournaments, co-op and versus play and stacks of net based communities and support. As far as A Crack in Time is concerned, none of thatâs here. This is old school platforming - for better or worse.
All things considered, Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time is definitely in the âfor betterâ category. For those familiar with the franchise, it brings all the good stuff back. Who doesnât enjoy seeing an evil robot getting hit in the head with a flying wrench? The new features, especially the time-bending, add nicely to the gameplay. It looks stunning, plays nicely and has enough gadgets and hardware to keep Ratchet and Clank, together or on their own, hitting those platforms for a while yet.