Rated E10+; Reviewed on PS3
The “Ratchet and Clank” series, along with the equally excellent “Jak and Daxter” and “Sly Cooper“, made the PS2 the undisputed king of action platform games. While the “Jak” series soon took on an epic gravitas and Sly Cooper expanded on its trademark cartoon heists Ratchet and Clank were always about having a good time with a massive arsenal of insanely fun weapons.
Sony’s PS2 reissue collections have been uniformly excellent. The original games stood well on their own merits but in these collections they’ve been updated with enhanced graphics, given full PSN and trophy support and (thanks to the space afforded by Blu-ray) multiple games are packaged on a single disc for a bargain-basement price. This collection includes the first three games in the series leaving only the less story-driven fourth game, “Ratchet and Clank: Deadlocked”, off the roster.
Every single one of the games is a masterpiece but what’s most interesting is marking the evolution between the titles. Playing them one after the other (which is no small undertaking as each game can easily consume 15 hours to play through and as many as 30 to collect all the trophies) you can see how the gameplay was expanded and optimized between the games.
The first game, for example, was somewhat clumsy about choosing gadgets and weapons requiring, more often than not, a pause in the action to choose from a menu. The following games combined gadgets to reduce the number and introduced expanded and contextual selection mechanisms that kept you in the action. The following games also introduced “macro games” – greatly expanded mini-games that included space combat scenarios, various races and the classically 2D Captain Qwark vid comics. The later games also introduce the weapon and gear leveling and upgrade systems and environmental destruction systems that made the games so obsessively fun to play and became a trademark of the series.
Of course good game mechanics can only truly shine in the service of (or, I suppose, in the complete absence of) a good story and this was always one of the strongest points of the series. The stories themselves were all rather simple: galactic invasions, planetary attacks and evil (if wacky) plots. But the characters that populated them were some of the most entertaining and memorable ever. The enigmatic Plumber, Dr. Nefarious and Lawrence and the megalomaniacal Captain Qwark made for story segments that you not only sat through but that you actually laughed out-loud at.
For many people this will mean re-buying games that they’ve already played. Yes – this is a double dip. But the price is definitely reasonable (the collection was released with an MSRP of $40 but is now widely available for half that) and the upgrades, while subtle, were very well done. It really is enough to say that this is Ratchet and Clank. Anybody that’s played before will relive fond memories and anybody that hasn’t played them damn well should.