Ratchet & Clank

Ratchet & Clank

Pure platforming bliss.
Author: Kyle Sutton
Published: February 24, 2003
It's easy to say that the life of the PSone was undoubtedly full of innovative games and genres, but the platforming genre was arguably dominated by two distinct developers: Naughty Dog and Insomniac Games. Crash Bandicoot (1, 2 and 3) and Spyro the Dragon (1, 2 and 3) took the PSone by storm - two groundbreaking platform releases containing gorgeous visuals and addictive gameplay. In 2001, Naughty Dog made their first bold appearance on the PS2 with the release of Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, a solid, innovative game following in the successful footsteps of Crash Bandicoot. To follow up in this 1-2 punch of platforming success, Insomniac's Ratchet & Clank has arrived to take the genre to a new level. But R&C doesn't just "follow up" on Jak and Daxter, it literally takes the platforming genre and molds it into something so huge and expansive, it wouldn't be right to even label Ratchet & Clank as simply a platformer. You'll be running, jumping, swinging, flying and blasting your way through gigantic environments with an unbelievably huge arsenal at your disposal. This is not your average adventure game that has you guide one or two dull characters through a mediocre quest. This is so much more.

The humorous, well-crafted story of Ratchet & Clank is based around two loveable characters: Ratchet and Clank (believe it or not). Ratchet is an outgoing Lombax (a furry animal with long ears) who is crafty with his wrench and prefers doing things his way. Clank, on the other hand, is a brainy little robot who tries to find the more intelligible solution to problems. These two unlikely characters meet when Clank escapes from a distant robot planet and on his escape ship, gets shot down by enemies on his trail and comes crashing down onto Ratchet's planet. Ratchet, meanwhile, is busy working on his ship when he's suddenly startled by the ship that crashes nearby. Once Ratchet recovers Clank from the clash, Clank reveals to him that the world is in grave danger. The greedy Chairman Drek is looking to create a new planet, and to do so, he plans to steal chunks from neighboring planets and in reality, send them to their doom. Meanwhile, the two characters agree that they'll need the help of superhero Captain Quark and inform him of this universal crisis. This sparks Ratchet and Clank to begin a marvelous quest, where they must work together through the thick and thin in order to put a stop to Drek's evil plan, even if they have to do it by themselves.

Ratchet & Clank's story ultimately seems like your typical good vs. evil adventure, but the brilliant voice acting and dialogue give the game such a deeper meaning, and give you even more incentive to play your way through it. Even without the story's influence, though, the gameplay of R&C can truly stand its own ground. The biggest factor that creates this is without a doubt the gigantic weapons, items, and gadgets available to use. Though the weapons are obviously intended to blast the enemies in your way, the gadgets are a variety of devices which must be used to solve puzzles and upgrade your personal inventory. For example, the Trespasser must be used in order to open doors, while the Heli-Pack gives you more hangtime and higher jumps. The weapons vary from a giant multi-rocket launching bazooka known as the R.Y.N.O (Rip You a New One) to the humorous Morph-o-ray, which turns your enemies into chickens (yes, chickens). Since the game provides almost thirty weapons and gadgets, it's normal to think that the plethora of weapons and gadgets are hardly necessisary to get through the game. Yet believe it or not, you'll need to use all of these devices one time or another in order to navigate through the game's vast planets. Instead of your average run-of-the-mill platformer, Ratchet & Clank does not force you to rely on one weapon throughout the game. Not at all. You, the gamer, decide which weapon best suits your needs for each enemy encounter, and with freedom like that, there's no arguing that R&C does a damn good job crossing into forbidden platformer territory.

Freedom itself is truly stressed to its limits throughout the entire game. Vast planets, a plethora of enemies and characters, and a truckload of gadgets and weapons make Ratchet & Clank the Grand Theft Auto of adventure gaming. And while most platformers will suffer from being too short, R&C is jam-packed with tons of levels and missions, and Easter Eggs such as Gold Bolts and Skill Points (which both open up secret extra features to the game) which will keep you coming back for more. This game provides at least 20 solid hours of playing time, and with the addictive gameplay that Ratchet & Clank delivers, you may be playing for even longer. And to be sure that the game flows as smoothly as it's suppose to, Insomniac Games was kind enough to throw in a control scheme that is so on-task and responsive, nothing will come between you and your enjoyment of the game. These groundbreaking features of R&C prove that Insomniac truly knows the ropes of developing for the PlayStation 2.

Many of Ratchet & Clank's features are undoubtedly original, yet some details, such as the main character and sidekick scheme, have obviously been done before. Yet it was only natural of Insomniac Games to take this character foundation and build it into something phenomenal. Throughout a good portion of the game, Ratchet will basically lead the way, blasting and hacking thought levels, while Clank basically just clings to Ratchet like a backpack. On the other hand, there will be a few instances when Clank must be put to work (such as on a planet that has no breathable air). When this is the case, a truly ingenious gameplay design appears that is exclusive to Clank only. He has simple melee moves such as a low-range punch, yet scattered through some areas are small bots which Clank can control telepathically! In a Follow the Leader sort of way, these little robots will tag along behind Clank, and when a job needs to be done, Clank can use his mind powers to order these bots to either Follow, Attack, Enter, or Wait. This type of gameplay scheme gives Ratchet & Clank such an intelligent variety, yet the only noticeable drawback is that the playable Clank is not used as much as he should have been. In any case, R&C's innovative gameplay mechanics run smoothly, tastefully, and above all, prove that it doesn't take a completely original idea to create a solid platformer.

When it comes to the visuals, I honestly only have one comment for Ratchet & Clank... why can't all games look this damn good?! Each of the game's worlds are beautifully polished with breathing environments and outstanding landscapes. Lively enemies walk along the down to earth surroundings, while the skies are full of hovercrafts and flying ships. Simply taking a glimpse of the in-game graphics using the first-person view gives the eyes a sight to remember. And while running at a solid 60 FPS, the visuals of R&C simply and cleanly flow together like a running river, which brings up another good point. Not only do the bodies of water present in Ratchet & Clank look great, but their physics are about as true-to-life as you can get. Ratchet will have an extremely tough time trying to swim up a river with a down current, yet he can freely troll around in a unmoving lake or water body. These graphical features, though seemingly minor, add up and are able to create a marvelous, living atmosphere.

The cutscenes and short movies featured in a platformer are usually nothing to brag about, but Ratchet & Clank proves the contrary. Each character has responsive facial looks and fluent motions, and, believe it or not, the lip movements actually fit the dialogue. In a cartoon style of graphics, the cutscenes of R&C display some amazing work, and humorous clips as well. A few of these short movies (which are usually from the game's Infobots) do a parody of corny commercials and old movie reels (featuring the patriotic music in the background), which do a great job of moving along the game's storyline with some good ol' humor.

If there's an aspect of a game that Insomniac Games is known for mastering, it would be the music category. And as the Spyro the Dragon games featured a lively soundtrack, Ratchet & Clank does the same with its upbeat and techno-like tunes. The game sports a variety of catchy songs, which surprisingly do a great job of capturing the essence of each world. The colorful logging site of Planet Euroda features a light techno score, while the dark Blackwater City has a dramatic orchestra playing in the background. And while the soundtrack is nothing to call home about, each of its original tunes blend together to form the game's truly diverse and heart-warming atmosphere.

You know a lot of work has been put into a game when it's voice acting quality rivals that of the most popular cartoons on television, and Ratchet & Clank craftily pulls this feat off. Through the ingenious voice-overs, the game's characters are brought to life and each given a unique personality of their own. Ratchet is the cool-sounding teenager, while Clank is the know-it-all robot, who at times, also strives to be a hipster. Captain Quark's spoken dialogue completes his bold, but sellout superhero ego, while even Chairman Drek has a devious voice that fits him perfectly. To pack even more goodness into the voicing, R&C features five, count 'em, five different languages that can be toggled with and spoken by the game's characters (as well as displayed in text)! Ratchet & Clank's colorful cast features some obvious personality through their looks, yet the terrific voice acting does nothing but the best for each of the game's original characters.

In all honesty, Ratchet & Clank is truly the perfect example of what a game should be. With its rich cast of characters, deep gameplay, gorgeous graphics and wonderful soundtrack, R&C packs the ingredients to a perfect platformer and combines them seamlessly. Ratchet & Clank is not a clone Jak and Daxter. Nor is it another Spyro the Dragon. It is a genuine, immense, and loveable experience all packed into one game, and without a doubt, a must-have for all PS2 gamers.
The Verdict