Ratchet & Clank: A Crack In Time Review (PS3)

Insomniacís more popular and longer-going franchise, Ratchet and Clank, is a kidís game that adults can enjoy. In fact, my testing proved that not only do kids enjoy the game, they enjoy watching it because of its cartoony feel. Everything from the dialog and combat to cinematics is not only child appropriate, but actually funny. Well, to them at least.

I wonít lie, I laughed a few times, more than I did for the potty-humor filled Brutal Legend. But the kids, they laughed quite a bit, more than I expected. On occasion I had to explain the humor when the room was too silent, because some of the jokes were deeper or required previous knowledge.†

The plot, however, is perhaps more than most adolescents can understand. Ratchet and Clank, having been split since the previous Tools of Destruction, find themselves working towards very different missions until their paths almost suddenly converge. Ratchet finds another Lombax, his species, and realizes he may be able to save the rest of his kind. Clank finds his family as well, and the purpose of his creation.

See Ratchet. See Ratchet run. Run Ratchet run. Dr. Nefarious, the over-the-top evil robot mastermind who plots evil and makes us laugh.

What is hard to understand is the time elements. Once Clank learns to control time and our two heroes are reunited, gameplay involving time takes a turn that is extremely well done, but not explained at all. Examples include going back in time to fight a battle, only to return to the present because seeds you planted have grown. The hard part is sliding back and forth through these time portals for various reasons. If youíve watched lots of movies or TV shows with time travel, youíll get it. Otherwise, itíll feel loopy.

Some of the motivations behind the extremely well defined characters are also questionable. General Alister Azimuth, the other Lombax, is questionably insane (which is understandable considering the plot, but not for a child) after his time in solidarity. Dr. Nefarious, Ratchetís arch nemesis, wantís nothing more than to control the clock, even though itís made quite clear that using it incorrectly will destroy the entire universe. Some leeway here can be given, but the story continues to the extent that everyone wants to put the universe in jeopardy, and only Ratchet and Clank have any sense whatsoever.

Secondary characters like the useless Captain Qwark and random enemies and allies met along the way are incredibly fleshed out. There is a depth to the game that makes it feel real, like everything is thought out. And it is, which is why itís so enjoyable to play and watch. Cinematics are expertly done, and look astonishing, though they are rare.

The Great Clock is where all of Clank's gameplay takes place. He'll have his own combat and story to follow. This includes the most interesting puzzles of all, time puzzles. They're not on the level of Braid, but they'll get the ol' brain workin' again.

Gameplay varies little from prior Ratchet and Clank titles, except that the majority of the game is spent with only one of the two protagonists, not both. Ratchet and Clank are rarely alone, however: Ratchet spends a lot of time with General Alister and Captain Qwark, while Clank is around Sigmund, his assistant, and various programs showing his father. Gameplay is also mixed between the two, though most is based around Ratchet, as he deals with the most combat.

Ratchet uses his signature wrench for melee combat, which is all-powerful and the weapon of choice. There are 16 additional secondary weapons that can be obtained, most through simply playing the game without fulfilling secondary objectives. What is clear is that it isnít until the end of the game that other weapons are really needed, because the wrench is so powerful. Only when taking on either massive bosses or hordes of enemies does Ratchet ever need to use a gun or one of the several amusing weapons in his arsenal.

After a brief stint on one world, Ratchet is given the entire star system as a playground. Small planetoids have secondary objectives, such as obtaining golden screws or Zoni or completing missions from various aliens. Some are puzzles, some are combat, some are platforming, and a few are just finding the item in question. Traversing these planetoids is similar to Super Mario Galaxy, where Ratchet runs around a small planet with the camera following from a distance, turning with the planet all the while.

Bosses have a knack for being huge, but are generally not too difficult. Too many enemies? Just use one of the super weapons and take them all out at once...or make them dance. Whichever you prefer.

Travelling between objectives is done through Ratchetís ship, and there is indeed space combat as well. Itís extremely simplified though, so donít expect something of the vein of Descent: Freespace. Space in A Crack in Time is 3-dimentional, but combat therein is only in two dimensions. All enemies are on the same plane as Ratchet, so players will never fly up or down, only left and right. Obviously, this title was not meant to be a flight simulator, though combat in space is very easy even against the more difficult opponents because of this.

The story will have Ratchet travel between four star systems, while Clank spends most of his time on ďThe Great ClockĒ, a giant clock ďin the center of the universe, give or take 50 feet.Ē No one knows its location, and Dr. Nefarious has been searching for it until now, and seeks to control it. Clank, built by the same creature that built the great clock, is taught how to make it work, all part of Nefariousí plan. It all comes together quite well, even at the end so that Ratchet and Clank are reunited, Nefarious is defeated and the universe is spared of ultimate destruction.

For kids, Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time is one of the few games that will actually be fun to play and watch. Itís not like what we grew up on; this has a true plot, a true story, and itís actually entertaining. Itís improved upon the previous Ratchet and Clank platforming formula, and has excellent pace and a lot of secondary games to play, from finding all the Zoni to competing in a galactic tournament. Adults may find it a bit slow, though Iím fond of the title because of its wholeness. Few titles these days share that quality.

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By Revan (SI Elite) on Nov 27, 2009
Good game! I agree on the rating too. Not bad, but not quite as good as the others. I dunno, something just felt a little lacking.
Maybe I've just lost interest in these games.
By noobst3R (SI Core) on Nov 30, 2009
Too bad it isn't available for 360, Ratchet and Clank series are the only thing i miss except for FFX from PlayStation2.