Ratchet & Clank: A Crack In Time review
“Remember, the universe has a wonderful sense of humour. The trick is, learning how to take a joke.”
Although Tools of Destruction was a very good game, there was a feeling that Insomniac had somewhat struggled to get to grips with the PS3, the story was quite weak and it felt well… a little rushed I guess and couldn’t match the heights to which the original trilogy had scaled. However A Crack In Time, the next offering in the series completely makes it for it, an absolutely stunning game and whisper it just maybe *the best one yet*.
Picking up right where it left off, Clank has been taken away from his old pal Ratchet by the Zoni, little mystical robots made up entirely of energy, unbeknownst to them they’ve led him straight into the hands of returning villain Dr. Nefarious who seeks to use Clank to control time throughout the universe. Ratchet meanwhile not only has the task of rescuing Clank but also discovering the secrets of the lost Lombax and his family. As already mentioned, the biggest misstep of TOD was how plain the story was, Insomniac have got their act together this around though with a wonderfully written tale that re-captures the original essence of R&C. This is in no small measure down to the return of the brilliantly wacky return of Nefarious, possibly one of my favourite gaming villains; he completely galvanises the whole thing with his rambling speeches (what is the status of Unnecessarily Evil Initiative Omega-9?), constant arguments with his snarky butler and his somewhat *ahem* disturbing recurring malfunction. Of course, he’s not the only one that’s present, Qwark is present as usual and he seems back to his incompetent best with loads of hilarious lines throughout the game’s duration, hand-drawn plans and all! Another big character is revealed which I won’t spoil but it provides a welcome emphasis on Ratchet’s origins to give a nice grounded balance to Clank’s role as time-keeper of the universe.
Overall, A Crack In Time is superbly written, it’s infectiously silly, charming and surprisingly touching; it’s also possibly the most consistent game in the series to date with the jokes and one-liners. A huge improvement.
Gameplay. It’s Ratchet & Clank and it ain’t the first one either, so you’ll know by now if you’ll like it or you don’t. I’ll just leave it there shall I?
Well no actually I won’t because there’s a bit more stuff going on this time, Ratchet and Clank are separated for the majority of the game so things have had to be adjusted accordingly. Controlling Ratchet is just the same as always, shoot, strafe and jump as usual but you also get some fancy new hover boots to use at your leisure so you can whizz about the battlefield which avoids the frustration of back-tracking if not completely making up for the lack of a pint-sized metal companion tucked on his back…
Clank’s gameplay sections meanwhile are extremely interesting, taking place exclusively within his own mind and at the setting of ‘The Great Clock’ which controls all time at the center of the universe, give or take 50 feet… But in these areas you progress by completing time-manipulation puzzles which are truly excellent. It’s quite difficult to put into words exactly what they are but essentially Clank clones himself multiple times and you then ‘record’ a path in the puzzle for the clone to do, for instance clone 1 may go straight forward and stay on the button while Clone 2 goes through the door that’s been opened etc. The puzzles get significantly more complex later on with precision timing required, when playing through these sections, I couldn’t help but think of Portal, where you get that great satisfaction after finally unlocking the solution to a fiendishly difficult stage, the puzzles in A Crack In Time aren’t on the same level but the satisfaction remains.
A Crack In Time is also free-roam to an extent on a 2D plane, throughout the game you’ll be exploring various ‘sectors’ of the universe and in these sectors you will be able to explore the moons, get missions and shoot down enemy ships. It’s worth exploring because you get the upgrades required to get through the tougher parts of the game later on and to get to certain planets, not to mention these little moons are crafted in the Mario Galaxy mould with bite-size platforming making it all very enjoyable. The battle arena also makes a return enabling you to do challenges for all sorts of cool stuff, oh and your ship also has radio stations! Can you believe that? It’s not anything like GTA level but still.
Strangely there’s a sort of bereft of weapon options, there’s nothing really outlandish apart from the one where it opens a rift in time and an alien starts attacking the enemies but apart from THAT one they’re all very conventional. Mr Zurkon makes a very welcome return but the rest are your standard bomb gloves, rifles, snipers and rocket launchers. Weapon mods are introduced but it doesn’t seem to have that much of an effect, devices have been abandoned altogether which is for the best as it made things unnecessarily muddled in TOD.
It’s certainly more of a looker as well, the art style is really impressive with a vibrancy that really shines this time around, levels look suitably more expansive and flashy, Axiom City being a good example. The cut-scenes are gorgeous with a near-Pixar level of visual splendour and the unique GrummelNet animated introductions for each weapon are adorable, these all add up to account for a very visually-appealing game.
A Crack In Time is a triumph for Insomniac, the script has recaptured the past glories of the series, the characters are all so wonderfully realised and the game itself, despite the wealth of content has never felt so seamless or as focused. It’s still Ratchet and Clank through and through, thus for those who never got into the series I doubt this will change your view; but it’s everything fans of the series could hope for.
+ Wonderful story
+ Ton of content
+ Clank puzzle sequences
+ Best gameplay in the series so far
– A strange lack of weapons