There was a time when mascots ruled the gaming space but the days of Mario, Sonic and Crash battling it out for market share are long gone. While Mario remains relevant, Sonic is a shadow of his former self and Crash burned out years ago. Despite mascot games falling out of favor with the gaming populace, Insomniac Games has continued, quite successfully, to deliver games featuring their mascot duo, Ratchet & Clank.
Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One marks the third full sized release in the series on the Playstation 3 console. It is also the biggest departure from the rather successful formula that the series has employed over the past decade. For the most part, the Ratchet & Clank series has always focused on single player gameplay while dabbling with multiplayer on the side. All 4 One was designed from the ground up to be a multiplayer experience.
On a purely conceptual level Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One can best be described as New Super Mario Bros. Wii mixed with a healthy dose of the familiar Ratchet & Clank arena combat. Truthfully though, that would be selling it a tad bit short because All 4 One is a full sized Ratchet & Clank adventure complete with a fully cinematic story and all the great dialog that fans have come to expect from the series. It may not be as grand as the last couple Ratchet & Clank games but it still has all the charm.
A lot of that charm comes directly from the characters of the series themselves and All 4 One takes full advantage of this fact. Players can take control of either of the titular characters or they have a choice of playing as superhero screw-up and current galactic president, Captain Quark, or series super villain, Doctor Nefarious. Quark has always bungled his way through previous adventures, sometimes even as a playable character, but this marks the first time Nefarious has had to side with the Ratchet & Clank. Coming into the game I was very skeptical that his inclusion as a playable character would be handled well but my worries were unfounded as Insomniac delivers a funny yet acceptable reason for his inclusion on the team.
While it can be played entirely solo, the game works best when played with three other players, preferably friends. When playing with friends the game can be a frantic and fun experience but it can also be amazingly frustrating depending upon how one approaches games. Providing you are able to get along with your friends, the banter between the characters in game is a treat, especially for series veterans, like myself.
The Ratchet & Clank games have always focused on platforming mixed with a large amount of arena combat. All 4 One does little to change up this formula, although I did feel there was less platforming overall in the game and that what platforming there was had been toned down in terms of difficulty. In fact everything in All 4 One seems to have been toned down in terms of difficulty. Outside of a couple rough patches, playing the game single player posed little issue for me and playing with three other Ratchet vets the game seemed incredibly easy, especially when the new combat features are used to full effect. However, All 4 One also makes the perfect entry for fans to introduce new people to the series.
One of the stalwarts of Insomniac has been its ability to create insanely imaginative weaponry that is fun to use and All 4 One is no different. All 4 One features a slew of great weapons and gadgets to use but the one I found the most fun, and arguably most useful, was the new Critter Strike. The Critter Strike turns enemies, via a concentrated beam of energy, into well… critters, the default of which are baby pigs. Combining the Critter Strike with the new Overload mechanic, a cooperative tactic that focuses fire with the same weapon on one enemy to “overload” the damage, makes taking down the biggest enemies in the game, save bosses, both amazingly easy and highly amusing. Unfortunately, the inclusion of Overload nearly breaks the game. Outside of bosses, the most dangerous of enemies can easily be brought down using upgraded weapons and concentrated fire.
Despite the fun I had with All 4 One, I could not help but feel something was off about it all. There is very little challenge here and while it features the series signature visuals and humorous storytelling, the gameplay seems toned back. Ratchet & Clank as a series has never been overly difficult but there was always some semblance of a challenge to them which is why All 4 One ultimately falls short of greatness.
Pros: Fantastic sense of humor, solid visuals, four player co-operative play can be quite fun
Cons: Core Ratchet & Clank gameplay is oversimplified to accommodate all manner of players
3* out of 5