The last Lombax and his robot buddy return to tie together plot points for once and for all in Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time.
We've been following the star-spanning adventures of Ratchet and Clank since 2002. In this 9th game in the series, developer Insomniac brings everything to a head, answering questions players have had since they first stepping into Ratchet's little space boots. Dr. Nefarious from Up Your Arsenal returns, Ratchet continues the search for Clank he started in PSN release Quest for Booty, and Clank learns a little something about himself while screwing about with time.
One of the most consistently solid platforming franchises in gaming history, with each iteration the chances of Insomniac screwing something up rises. Does Crack in Time continue the fine tradition, or have they finally made some sort of horrible mistake?
Ratchet & Clank fans who just want more of the same won't be disappointed with A Crack in Time. It's pretty, polished, funny, expansive, satisfying and rewarding, just like all the previous instalments in the series. There are hordes of enemies to batter and bolts to collect. There are puzzles to solve, doors to open, rails to grind on and jump pads to bounce off. Despite the global economic meltdown, business at the crate factory must be booming as there are endless piles of boxes to smash open - wooden ones, metal ones, exploding ones, more wooden ones.
By far the biggest change from previous games in the series is how Clank now has more or less equal game time to Ratchet. One level blasting away aliens as the furry Lombax (Ratchet's species) is followed by a slower, puzzle-laden sequence as Clank. Ratchet is once again extremely nimble, and has access to loads of weapons that are upgraded as they're used and modifiable through collectables. There are numerous control set-ups, with gamers able to choose to play through with a fairly traditional platforming control scheme or with a dual stick third-person shooter setup. I've always opted to play it as a shooter, as the combat is such a core part of the experience, but the choice is yours.
As you might expect, the weapons and gadgets are the real show-stoppers. Some of the classics return along with recent favorites like the negotiator and your flying friend, Mr. Zurkon. New weapons are plentiful as well including a fan-made armament called the spiral of death, a huge bullfrog called the sonic eruptor, and many more that we don't want to spoil. The pistol, shotgun, and bomb glove can be upgraded in a number of categories with cases you find around the universe. The number of guns and gadgets is certainly vast, but the imagination seems to have run a little dry this time around. We didn't feel compelled to spend bolts just to try out some of the weapons like we have in the past, and like prior games in the series, you can find a few that you like and lean on them. This is only exacerbated by the weapons that level as you use them.
Insomniac also added an all new space exploration element to A Crack in Time, which Ratchet can board his upgradable ship and zip around the galaxy...Controlling the ship is pretty basic, moving left and right with the right analog stick, and the buttons used to "pew pew" various enemy ships along the way. While there's nothing particular wrong with the flying sections (they're actually a good bit of fun, and a nice break from the standard action), they can get a bit repetitive. It's a whole lot of "pew pew" and "pow pow" in a vast space that mostly looks the same, which one can only take so much of. There are a few story-related battles that take place during the sections to switch things up a bit, they really take a back-seat to the more traditional style of Ratchet and Clank gameplay.
While Ratchet is tearing about the universe, Clank will be engaging in his own subtler methods of world saving. He'll be using his newly acquired time-shifting abilities to navigate and solve puzzles within the Great Clock. The most devious of these time-and-mind-bending obstacles are the ones that require you to record multiple versions of yourself as you race to trigger different events around the room...The complexity quickly ramps up and you'll eventually have up to four versions of yourself all running around performing tasks that somehow aid the other recordings. If that sounds complicated, it is, but it's also extremely rewarding and once you've completed a puzzle you will not only be showered with bolts, the currency of this universe, but you'll also feel like the smartest human on the planet. If you truly are not feeling up to the task, you can opt to bypass the puzzle entirely, but will miss out on the monetary rewards as well as the boost to your ego.
Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack In Time retains a lot of what was good about the previous games. But it also continues one of the best traditions of its developers - to compress past accomplishments, quickly give players a lot of the old stuff in the game's early going and then try new things. Earlier games' experiments with dialogue systems and multiplayer didn't thrill me. But, the new game's more dynamic physical movement (hooray for hoverboots), more interesting mission flow, amazing graphics and smart system of relatively easy main missions that branch off to more challenging moon challenges, are good innovations. The Ratchet gameplay is improved. The Clank gameplay is a revelation. Two years ago, Ratchet & Clank Future showed how good Insomniac could make this series look on PS3. A year ago, Ratchet & Clank: A Quest For Booty showed that Insomniac was still prepared to innovate with gameplay. A Crack In time, the space case notwithstanding, finally shows the series leaping forward.
Sounds good to me.