Sometimes a genre begins to get to a point where it isn't as much fun to play anymore. The platformer genre has gotten to that point. So many clones, so many crappy games. Hell, even SUPER MARIO SUNSHINE had some critics.
With that in mind, the creators of Spyro have developed one of the most impressive and innovative video games ever. Insomniac's RATCHET AND CLANK brings elements of RPGs and deeper adventure games to the platformer genre. But most importantly, it's got a ton of guns and gadgets.
Ratchet is just minding his own business and working on a starship when Clank, a robot that was manufactured much too small with a brain too big, suddenly arrives with news of impending doom for the galaxy. Working together, the two head off to save the galaxy.
The game features 18 planets that are all connected through an elaborate macrodesign. While the game isn't strictly linear, you won't deviate too much from a certain path. For instance, you'll meet an agent who will give you a prize if you win the hoverboard races. But you need the hoverboard first, and to get that you'll have to find the star of the hoverboard team and then head to the planet with the races. Other times you might have to find an H20 mask, but will first need to go to another planet to get something to acquire that H20 mask. It's all very elaborate, and never feels too contrived. Most of the time, a new planet is unlocked when you find an "infobot" that plays a cut scene pertaining to the next planet.
The cut scenes help to drive the game. The story revolves around Chairman Drekk trying to steal pieces from other planets to create a new super planet. In these cut scenes, humor is a key factor. And this humor isn't dumbed down. It's going to be the most appreciated by mature folks who have seen a lot of sci-fi, not your typical grade-schooler.
The gameplay is pretty similar to most other platformers. You have your ratchet, which is used in melee combat and can be thrown like a boomerang. Typical jumping, wall-jumping, butt-stomping, gliding, and long jumping are the backbone of the game. But where it takes a major deviation is in the weapons.
Have you ever sucked enemies up and then fired them back out? How about turned your enemies into chickens? How many platformers have rocket launchers? Bomb gloves? Little attack robots that chase your enemies around and blow them up? And most importantly the RYNO gun. RYNO stands for Rip Ya a New One. The weapons are the freshest and most innovative part of RATCHET AND CLANK. They're incredibly rewarding, and a lot of fun to use. It also makes sure that no matter who plays the game, they'll have a different experience with it.
The weapons aren't just handed to you. You'll have to collect bolts in the levels (killing enemies, breaking boxes), and then you'll have to buy them from the vendors in the levels. You'll also have to purchase ammo, and of course the occasional infobot, upgrade for Clank or other rare item (helmet, boots) in order to stress your finances a little more.
There's more than just the typical enemy fighting and platformer puzzles. You'll race hoverboards, fly jet fighters, and have to unlock doors. Half of the time figuring out how to get past a certain group of enemies (ie which weapon to use) is a puzzle within itself.
After getting through the game's story and finishing it, that doesn't mean you won't ever play it again. There are still plenty of extras to unlock. I can't tell you everything about it, but some of them are very well worth the extra time you invest in the game. There are also dozens of skill points to earn. These won't be easy, but they'll unlock even more extras.
There is a decidedly cool sense of style to RATCHET AND CLANK. The game feels much like the classic sci-fi movies, very rounded and artistic, almost retro at times. The game is very colorful and the massive worlds are incredible eye-candy. I had to pick up my jaw usually whenever I started a new world.
The animation is excellent. Plenty of detail and all of the characters in the game look and move with a smooth fluidity. The same can be said for the framerate most of the time. I have had a few hitches to it, but normally it isn't that big of a problem. The special effects and lighting effects are excellent and look sharp, continuing to add to the sci-fi feel.
Each level has its own music that distinctly fits. The weapons have their own sound effects as do most of the enemies. You'll hear plenty of bolt collecting and it almost has the same charm of Sonic collecting rings, or Mario collecting coins. Another plus is the fantastic voice acting that adds a whole other layer to the game.
Simply put, RATCHET AND CLANK is the best first-party PlayStation game of the year, and a contender for Game of the Year. It is a must-own.