Review: Ratchet & Clank Future – A Crack in Time (PS3)

Title: Ratchet & Clank Future A Crack in Time
Format: Blu-ray
Release Date: October 27, 2009
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Insomniac Games
Original MSRP: $59.99

After seeing all the great footage of PlayStation Move Heroes and All 4 One I started to feel like I may have been ignoring my copy of the last Ratchet and Clank game to grace my gaming shelves.  Ignoring might be too harsh a word but the case had most certainly gathered a nice layer of dust.  I actually feel somewhat bad, now that I think about it.  Tools of Destruction was one of the first games I played on the PlayStation 3 and I absolutely adored it.  The colors, characters and environments were so eye-poppingly gorgeous how could I have waited so long to “crack” A Crack in Time?  Even more concerning to me was whether or not I would even remember the events that occurred at the conclusion of Tools of Destruction.  Thankfully, A Crack in Time opens with a nice recap told through the wild ramblings of Captain Qwark himself – and it was just enough for me to get back up to speed and anticipate the journey to come.

In a nutshell,  the conclusion of Tools saw Clank being whisked away by the mysterious Zoni.  It was a  sad ending to a fun and exciting adventure that Ratchet and Clank shared together.  What A Crack in Time focuses on is Ratchet’s desperate struggle to reunite with his longtime friend while allowing for sneak peaks into Clank’s “imprisonment” and how he evolves into the keeper of time and the defender of the universe.  I know, it sounds pretty heavy, but what you wind up with is nothing short of an amazing PlayStation 3 exclusive.

Insomniac Games has, yet again, done a wonderful job of delivering a variety of gameplay that continually convinces the gamer into playing  “just one more level” until said gamer realizes that it’s past midnight and he has a 7AM work meeting the next day.  If that’s not a sign of a great game I simply do not know what is.

A Crack in Time can be broken down into 3 separate and uniquely individual gameplay elements: action and combat through the point of view of Ratchet, platforming and puzzle solving from Clank’s perspective and, finally, a fair amount of space combat and exploration behind the controls of Ratchet’s ship.  Each element has near-perfect pacing and is spread out enough from the others that they rarely, if ever, get boring, repetitive or bland.

I won’t spend too much time on Ratchet and his ever growing – and ingenious – arsenal.  If you’ve played a Ratchet & Clank game you know that it’s all about the weapons.  Not just any weapons mind you.  This isn’t your daddy’s copy of Black Ops.  These weapons will put your standard assault shotgun to shame.  These weapons scream creativity, comedy and downright bad-assery.  The upgrades and modification options are all still there.  No need to change up a good thing.

The outer space sequences are in full force with A Crack in Time and provide for some nice filler in between the more specific Ratchet or Clank levels.  There are plenty of side missions that the player encounters while flying from one world to the next.  I was reminded, oddly, of my experience playing Mass Effect in that as new systems are unlocked to further the main mission, travel and exploration of additional planets are made available.  Yet, unlike the mundane and repetitious  scanning of planet after planet for valuable resources (I’m looking at you BioWare) experiencing the multitude of planets in the Ratchet & Clank universe is cause for celebration.

The real meat-n-potatoes of A Crack in Time can be found in the platforming and puzzle solving of the various Clank levels.  The developers at Insomniac Games have added a unique twist to the puzzle solver with time manipulation: slowing down, reversing and replicating time and its events.  I’ve had an opportunity to play several games over the last year that dabble with this concept – most recently with Singularity – but none of them come remotely close to the creativity and depth that Insomniac Games has achieved with A Crack in Time.

I’ve been thinking of a way to describe these sequences and have realized that this is easier said than done.  Essentially, players will find themselves challenged with finding ways to flip multiple switches while only being able to control a single Clank.  However, you’ll have the ability to place Ratchet through various tasks while recording his movements, come back and record Clank doing a separate task all while the first Clank is going about his business.  Now add a third or forth recorded Clank into the equation and you’ve got yourself a significant time-bending puzzler.  Sound odd?  It actually was, at first, and included a fairly steep learning curve but, once mastered, resulted in some very memorable moments throughout the game.

Historically speaking, the visuals of the Ratchet & Clank franchise have always been one of the driving factors why I continue to revisit these wonderfully diverse characters – and A Crack in Time ratchets (pun intended) things up yet again.  The art direction and color palette continue to impress.  The level of fantasy and sci-fi are stunning and remain both solid and smooth even as the frenetic action sequences build in intensity.

Not to be outdone by the environmental beauty of A Crack in Time the diverse character modeling also continues to have a strong presence.  From the cute and cuddly Zoni to the erratic behavior of some of the larger boss battles, one would think that this level of creativity can only come from the imagination of chemically altered minds.

One might expect an action adventure game the likes of Ratchet & Clank to have a substantially high level of audio precision and excellence.  Although this may be true to some extent, A Crack in Time shines the brightest with its high quality of voice-over acting.

Besides providing an expansive library of character voices, the writers at Insomniac Games have also made it a point to allow every character encountered the ability to add to the overall comical and light-hearted story of A Crack in Time.  I found myself laughing out loud on numerous occasions while playing through the campaign.  No character better represents this than Captain Qwark.  His one-liners are so fitting, so quick and appropriate, that I found myself disappointed that he wasn’t more directly involved with the story.  Initially, there were indications that he was to be Ratchet’s right-hand man but, to my dismay, he was quickly removed from the action.  Although Qwark does make several repeat appearances as the game develops, they never seemed to last long enough.

It’s because of Qwark’s Tick-like vernacular and Puddy-like exposition that I find myself looking more and more forward to getting a full dose of his character with All 4 One.

Like sitting down with an old friend you haven’t seen in awhile, Ratchet & Clank’s A Crack in Time gave me that same warm feeling.  As the game progressed I had to ask myself why it had been so long since we last spent time together.  A Crack in Time not only offers a decent length campaign but plenty of reasons to keep the disc in your PlayStation 3 after all is said and done.  There are side missions aplenty and more than enough challenges to keep things interesting for several hours more.  It almost goes without saying that Ratchet & Clank Future A Crack in Time is well deserving of the title – Greatest Hit.


Written by Bill Braun

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