Well, the Lombax and Robot dynamic duo are back again, and this time they are fighting time itself.
Although it is not a significant upgrade from its predecessor, Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time‘s visuals are better than its predecessors. It’s neither ground breaking, nor mind blowing, but it is comparable to both Tools of Destruction and Pixar films in terms of visual fidelity. It is so beautiful, players will be immersed in the environment constantly. It is also always invigorating to see games that aren’t swimming browns, blacks, and grays, so this adds a refreshing color schema to the PS3 catalog.
The story revolves around Ratchet and Captain Qwark searching for Clank, who has been taken off to The Great Clock. The Great Clock is at the center of the universe, (give or take fifty feet) and maintains time throughout the universe. Throughout the adventure, both Ratchet and Clank begin to interact with two new characters whom both can be identified as “lost father” archetypes. Clank is attempting to cope with his new position, as caretaker of time. Ratchet’s adventure starts off by looking for Clank, but quickly becomes entangled with the history of the Lombaxes. The primary villain is once again Doctor Nefarious, who also seems to have lost a bit of his charm in his fourth appearance. I would personally have liked to see a more serious threatening villain to match the game’s more serious tones at times. However, his assistant Laurence is hilarious as always, and I smiled every time he was on screen delivering passive-aggressive remarks.
All the classic characters are back with some new ones as well. The story is what you expect with its quirkiness and fun, but at times feels a little forced and lacks some of the laugh-out-loud moments of previous titles. Captain Qwark–being an idiot for the hundredth time–begins to lose his charm this time around. The new characters add a layer of depth some of the other games have lacked, but sometimes they fall a little flat. At times, some of the “You’re just like your father” dialogue delivered from the mysterious other Lombax comes off a little Starfox 64-esque.
This game should have been called Ratchet OR Clank: A Crack in Time, because you play as one or the other and the two are not together for a significant amount of the game. The Ratchet portions of the game are the classic platforming run and gun gameplay that we have grown to love. Honestly, toward the beginning of the game I felt that it was a bit repetitive after playing so many of these titles before, but the Hover Boots have made a significant improvement that both makes the game a more dynamic platformer and quickens the pace. This makes the old “collect three of these” or “help fix this for the alien race” a much more efficient and entertaining activity. Instead of level grinding, the hover boots allow me to grind the levels, which is a big upgrade!
Clank’s gameplay revolves around solving time-related puzzles, and using a Time Shaft, which can manipulate time around objects. It also involves a tricky little dynamic of recording Clank’s actions and then using past body movements and positioning in order to influence the future (think Ghost Mario helping current Mario stomp Goombas and solve puzzles). This aspect of the game is very challenging at times, and can make one pretty frustrated. The other portion of Clank’s gameplay revolves around a Super Stardust HD-esque minigame, which is fun at first yet seems to lack depth. The biggest issue with the Clank gameplay is that it seems to make very little sense within the story. Clank is supposed to be the new caretaker for The Great Clock, yet he spends most of his time simply trying to get from room to room. You would think Clank would be given a master key or something since he’s the new caretaker of time. Ratchets gameplay and story makes up for some of these shortcomings, but with higher production values, and movie-centric attitudes toward gaming, it just feels incomplete an times.
The weapons are one of the largest let downs in the game, at least at the beginning. They do get better as you progress through the game, but until the seventh weapon (midway through the game) I was still using my omniwrench as my primary attack. The ability to customize the weapons is a great improvement over the previous system, and the previews of how the weapons work were very original and downright hilarious. The weapons seem to be more about what technical marvels insomniac could do with the PS3, than about them actually being fun and entertaining. In comparison to other games in the series I believe almost all players will be disappointed with the majority of the weapons. Overall they just seemed to have lost some of their creativity, and exchanged it with processing power that lack imagination.
This speaks to a bigger issue in the overall game. It seems that this is more of a PS3 tech demo than it is a game. It seems like the engineers at Insomniac said, “This is all the new stuff we can do with the PS3 right now, so Story Team, go write a story around it.” Although the technical aspects of this game are quite amazing, without a strong integrated story, it’s not the complete package.
Overall, this game is great and no doubt the best in the series from a technical standpoint. The problem lies in the makeshift story, especially around the Clank’s gameplay. For those that are hardcore Ratchet and Clank fans–like yours truly–you will still enjoy it, but don’t expect the revolutionary feeling that you may have experienced from Tools of Destruction. One must consider the games that Crack in Time is competing against this holiday season. If you are on a limited budget, this is definitely one that can wait.
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Published by: SCEA
Developed by: Insomniac Games
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
Platforms: PS3 Exclusive
Release Date: October 27, 2009
Genre: Third-person action platformer