Review: Ratchet & Clank (2016)

Insomniac are old hands at the whole 3D platformer thing at this point. Insomniac’s first foray into the third dimension was Spyro the Dragon, released all the way back in 1998, and they’ve been polishing their art to a mirror shine ever since. 2016’s Ratchet and Clank marks Insomniac’s eleventh game in the series. After not enjoying the last few entries, I was worried that fatigue had finally set in. I have never been so happily surprised to say that this game (based on a film, based on a game) is one of the best of the year so far, and one the team clearly had fun making.

The fun is incredibly infectious to boot. I’ve spent most of my time playing this game grinning from ear to ear. Everything from the outrageously over-the-top weapon design to the cheesy, goofy dialogue was designed to make you smile. Ratchet and Clank may well be a movie-tie in heavily based on the 2002 original, but with every goofy joke or fourth-wall breaking jab at its reboot status I felt my cynicism quickly melt away. I was expecting to come out of this game having grown out of a series I’ve been with since I was seven, but instead I’ve fallen in love all over again.

Fans will know the story by this point. Ratchet meets Clank. They become friends. Clank becomes Ratchet’s backpack. Goofy weapons. Crazy gadgets. Visiting planets (one of which will be an ice planet) and saving the galaxy. When I say this game is heavily based on the 2002 original, I wasn’t kidding. Many of the locations and general direction of the story arc will be instantly recognisable to fans of the first game; even if events are this time being narrated by the undependable Captain Qwark in flashback fashion.

Ratchet and Clank can also boast being one of the prettiest games I’ve ever played. The scenery is drop-dead gorgeous; sometimes you just have to stop and take in the truly lush landscapes Insomniac has painstakingly crafted. The cinematics also look great. I’m unclear on how this game will tie in with the upcoming film, but these cutscenes look incredible, and proved to me that Ratchet and Clank will no doubt flourish on the big screen.

Ratchet and Clank has been a reminder of just how fun a good 3D platformer can be. What starts out as simple running and jumping quickly turns into dashing up walls with your magnetic boots, grinding along rails ala Sonic Adventure 2 and flying around on a jetpack joyride. The game is designed to encourage the player to have as much chaotic fun with the weapons as possible, and as such isn’t a difficult game to finish. The fun comes from laying down a Groovitron disco ball (forcing everyone to dance) turning an enemy into a sheep using the Sheepinator and then watching that sheep start dancing. I honestly find the easy difficultly doesn’t matter at all.

There’s a reason Insomniac has made eleven games in this series. When a Ratchet and Clank game is done right, they’re some of the most fun games around. This new entry is easily one of the best in the series and one I would easily recommend; whether you’ve played the old games or not.

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