As a general rule, I don’t like to look stupid, especially when gushing about games I enjoyed from my childhood. If it doesn’t live up, I begin to judge my past self’s taste along with sounding like a person with an unhealthy pair of rose-tinted goggles. Ratchet & Clank is one of those games from a decade ago, one I place up there with the pivotal games in my gaming brain’s development. The decade that has passed means that the medium as a whole has traveled a long way, not even to mention many sequels the original game spawned. Somehow, despite some of the aspects going against it, Ratchet & Clank HD has aged beautifully and has proved some games are designed well enough to deserve that timeless flavor.
Ratchet’s journey begins innocently as the young mechanic is crafting a spaceship to explore the universe outside of his home planet of Veldin. His plan hits a snag when he is missing a vital piece: a robotic ignition system. In an odd twist of fate, a defective robot, Clank, coincidentally crash lands on Veldin, giving Ratchet a way off his desolate home planet. In exchange for powering up the ship, Ratchet agrees to finding Captain Qwark to help save the galaxy from a dire threat Clank has stumbled upon.
Although the plot is simple in its nature, it begins to morph and change along the way as Insomniac slowly trickles out new details. Phenomenal pacing ensures that you want to keep playing to uncover the truth and see some character’s true intentions. Plot twists may be a little predictable to some, but they are written so well and executed even better, creating a cartoonish story that you genuinely care about. After all these years, it remains to be a plotline for all ages with a few fantastic final scenes that hit me hard on my nostalgia bone.
With numerous sequels having these established characters roaming about, it is easy to forget that they were once new faces on the scene. This same ease is applied to discovering why these characters caught on in the first place; they’re so likable. Insomniac’s witty, hilarious dialogue treats every character with care, even if they are only needed in the story for a few moments. Exaggerated voice acting and animation makes even the smallest personas memorable in some capacity, even if they are perpetuated stereotypes only there to sell you a Thruster Pack.
Ratchet, Clank, and Quark benefit the most from Insomniac’s cunning wordsmiths because of how they develop. The Ratchet at the outset in Veldin is a drastically different Lombax by the time he homes in on the final mission. The same goes with Clank and Qwark and that dynamic nature is key on making each a strong character. Each happy moment gives the tense and not so happy moments some credence because of the differences in emotional elevation. Such arcs give this specific Ratchet title something interesting the many others didn’t capitalize on.
All of these characters inhabit an expansive galaxy ripe for exploring and plundering. Explosive weaponry, nifty gadgets, colorful aliens, and elusive Infobots all chalk up as reasons for visiting these foreign planets, each with different goals and methods of traversal. Ratchet & Clank is a platformer at its core and these mechanics have aged well (except those checkpoints).
Inventive, sci-fi gadgetry aids with navigation and lends variety to the standard game about jumping. The Swingshot will zip you across gaps like Spider-Man, but this may come after you’ve grinded on some iron pipes or solved a laser puzzle using the Trespasser. Insomniac carefully releases these tools with a steady stream so it always feels like you are doing something new, even if you aren’t, along with spicing up the core platform hopping. Variety is at any platformer’s core and the gadgetry showcases this brilliantly.
Weapon-heavy combat changes the gameplay up from normal platforming and it is instantly apparent why the series, and developer itself, gained such a notoriety within this field. While the stock pistol and rocket launcher are present, Insomniac went the extra few miles to add weaponry that went beyond the usual suspects. Between the vacuum-gone-rogue Suck Cannon, the Agents of Doom glove that fires little explosive helpers, the chicken-morphing Morph-O-Ray, and all the other firearms, it’s safe to say that anything and everything will be exploding and all the choice is given to you, the psychopath with the itchy trigger finger. Even though the RPG mechanics are fairly light and the movement isn’t as shooter-friendly as future titles, the simplicity, variety, and raw, hectic fun in the gunplay still reign king.
The replayability from Ratchet & Clank banks on this fact, as referenced by the amount of things to do, collect, and buy. Scraping together the bolts to buy the most elite weapons will take you through the game a few times, along with hunting down all the skill points (read: achievements before achievements) and scrounging to find every last gold bolt to even out your hardware collection. The game itself without these features is of a good length, but knowing you can pop it in for more explosive intergalactic action is refreshing.
“Refreshing” is a good term to describe the game’s aesthetic, one that even looks better now. Alien worlds are devoid of gritty brown realism, which are instantly remarkable because of their beauty. The HD remastering does considerably help the game’s look, but the source art style is strong enough to allow the HD-ifying to look this spectacular. The many planets also have their own look, feel, and atmosphere so even though the game looks great, it looks flashy in different ways each time. The framerate does dip in a few areas, but the game usually runs at a steady clip, making this worth a mention but ultimately forgivable.
Aesthetics are half visual and half audio with each holding up the other nicely. The soundtrack here is utterly fantastic, perfectly matching the futuristic, space feel the planet hopping entails. Besides bobbing my head to the beat and humming the music outside of the game, it just feels like a soundtrack that space would have and really sells how alien everything in this universe is.
Playing through Ratchet & Clank HD again (for the tenth time) made me realize that I had never gone back once the sequels had been released. Annualization is partly to blame, but it was also a fear that the newer titles would nullify any impact this game originally had. Tossing this disc back in and obsessing yet again about this game proved that it was not only a good game back then, but a quality title even now in today’s market. It can be easy to forget the humble beginnings of a franchise, but this collection was the perfect tool to recall the roots.
+Visuals have been restored beautifully and remain stunning to this day along with brilliant soundtrack
+Weapons are explosive fun and gadgets spice up the platforming
+Cute, humorous, and well-written story with a great introduction to the characters, each even having a compelling arc
+Replayable game with a myriad of weapons to buy and doodads to collect
-Checkpoints are spread thin
-Framerate dips in a few instances
Final Score: 9/10