Hello and welcome to the first episode of Bonus Points. Now you’re probably wondering what Bonus Points is, and it’s actually pretty simple. Each week I will be critiquing a video game and posting my written review. Bonus Points is a podcast where I go more in-depth with my thoughts and answer any questions or comments you may have on the game. It’s a way to really get a feel for my review.
With all that said, let’s get to my first review:
Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time
Insomniac had an incredibly difficult task ahead of them when they set out to make A Crack in Time. It is the seventh game in the Ratchet & Clank series in eight years and, unlike Quest for Booty, had to live up to the bar set by Tools of Destruction, which is arguably the best game to date. Unfortunately, it seems Insomniac stretched itself too thin over projects and the quality has taken a dip. A Crack in Time is still an amazingly fun game, but it uses too many resources from the previous Playstation 3 releases for my taste.
The story of the final chapter of the Future trilogy picks up directly after the end of Quest for Booty with Clank captured by Dr. Nefarious. He quickly escapes and learns that he is the new caretaker of the Great Clock, a space station that’s home to the Zoni. Meanwhile, Ratchet and Captain Qwark have narrowed their search for Clank and must contend with Nefarious’s forces. The strength of the Future trilogy over the original games continues to be its stories. Where there used to be the thinnest of excuses to save a galaxy, the Future games give Ratchet and Clank more personal journeys where they discover more about their pasts that directly affect their future. The plots aren’t masterpieces by any means, but they are on par with movies like Ice Age and Shrek.
It’s amazing to me how, seven games in, the gameplay of Ratchet & Clank is still as fun as ever. You still start out with one or two basic weapons and slowly build up an arsenal of inventive instruments of destruction. This is the series greatest strength and potentially greatest weakness as is the case for A Crack in Time. The only real standouts are the Spiral of Death, the Rift Inducer, and the Sonic Eruptor. Five weapons return from Tools of Destruction, two of which have been upgraded from items to full-on weapons (the lovable Mr. Zurkon and the awesome Groovitron). As I played through the game, I couldn’t help but notice how much cooler most of the old weapons were compared to the new ones. Unfortunately, the older ones received virtually no upgrades to make them unique.
Insomniac tried to add more variety with the Constructo weapons, which could be customized with hidden kits. None were that exciting though as they followed the pistol, grenade, and shotgun mold. I know it seems like I’m harping on this but three standouts among seventeen is not a good average and fails to match the brilliance of past designs. However I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun the Hover Boots were. You can blast through completed areas so much more quickly and, best of all, are the source of much of the platforming. It’s thrilling to boost along panels, jump over pits, and grind along rails in a single section. The boots are also used in a particularly exciting boss battle. They would be the best addition to the game if it wasn’t for Clank.
In the past times you played as Clank, it would consist of either simplistic squad-based gameplay or Giant Clank taking on giant monsters. Neither of these comes close to Clank’s time-based abilities. He can now throw time spheres that slow down everything inside and has a staff that can repair objects by rewinding time. Most of Clank’s gameplay is based around puzzles where he must use recording pads to create copies of himself to stand on switches and make it through a door. It starts out simple enough but later puzzles really make you think about each move you make. I still haven’t beaten all the challenge rooms yet, each of which are especially devious. Clank’s puzzles are some of the most satisfying moments in the game.
The final new element to A Crack in Time is explorable space and moons. This is actually the first return of the spherical moons since Going Commando in 2003, and they are handled much better in this iteration. Before it was mostly an excuse to shoehorn Giant Clank into the gameplay, now the moons provide Ratchet with platforming and enemy challenges. Admittedly, the platforming is the more fun of the two but it the moons still gave a nice distraction with some actual purpose to it as you were always rewarded for completing a planet’s mission. Exploring space is okay but nothing great. There are a modest amount of missions to do and space battles had their charm, but I wouldn’t call this a great leap forward. I just merely enjoyed it.
One aspect that Ratchet & Clank has always nailed is the graphics. The game is absolutely gorgeous. There’s constantly something going on in the background and the creature designs are fantastic. The frame rate never falters, even when there could be up to thirty enemies all attack at once while you fire back with a rapid-fire weapon and bolts are flying everywhere. It’s extremely impressive. The only graphical hitch I ever noticed was that characters’ feet sometimes disappeared on uneven surfaces. Really it’s just the smallest of nit picks. The biggest problem though is the lack of variety. In past games, each planet had its own enemy set with a few carryovers from time to time. A Crack in Time had between ten and fifteen different enemies with varying weapons compared to previous games 30 to 40 enemies. It’s still not a major deal but a little disappointing nonetheless.
The graphics may draw attention to the game but the sound will keep you hooked. Every character, from the main ones to the NPCs to the cameos, is fantastically done with the standouts being Captain Qwark and Dr. Nefarious. Nefarious is better here than he ever was in Up Your Arsenal and strikes a perfect balance between being funny and legitimately threatening. The music is also quite good and never intrusive to what’s happening on-screen. The added radio stations while traveling through space is a nice touch and has a little something for most tastes as well as humorous commercials and cameos from past games. Finally, each weapon feels satisfying to use thanks to the topnotch sound effects, especially the buzzsaw whir of the Spiral of Death and the musical accompaniment of the RYNO V. The only real problem I had was when the radio chatter would sometimes fight with the mission chatter and make both unrecognizable. It never bothered me that much, but it’s worth noting.
In the end, A Crack in Time is a fun game that doesn’t quite live up to Tools of Destruction. More development time would have fleshed out the gameplay ideas and made each weapon unique. I’m not saying the game was bad by any means and it’s an enjoyable experience right until the end, but I just think it could have been so much more with time.