Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in TimeESRB:
Category: 3rd Person: Action, Platformer
Publisher: Sony Computer Enterainment
500MB req’d for hard drive
I will admit it right now, Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time is the first game in the franchise that I’ve played aside from dabbling with the PSP version for far too short of a time. Having recently acquired a PS3, something that was long overdue, this is one of my first forays with the system and my first PS3 review. A Crack in Time continues the story line from A Quest for Booty in which Ratchet and Clank are separated and battling their arch nemesis Dr. Nefarious. The Ratchet and Clank series has enjoyed largely positive reviews for the two intial PS3 installments, including one written by fellow staffer Kirby Y. Let’s see if A Crack in Time continues this trend.
I think we’ve all seen or read commentary about Ratchet and Clank games on the PS3 looking like Pixar movies. The fact is that is just plain wrong. Don’t get me wrong, A Crack in Time is very good looking, but don’t expect it to look like Bolt, Up, or The Incredibles. Environments are well populated, bright and colourful. The cartoony look of the game perhaps allows for a less detailed set of textures that you would see in a game trying to be more realistic. This is an observation only as it seems to assist in the smoothness of the game. There’s plenty of eye candy though, especially in some of the Clank levels which I particularly was impressed with. Character models may not seem extremely detailed at first glance but take a moment to stop and look closer with the controllable camera. In-game characters are rich with the details that are prominent in the cut scenes. Speaking of cut scenes, they do approach that Pixar level of quality and are a treat to watch. Technically the game clips along extremely smoothly with nary a hint of graphical slowdown. The 60fps graphics and quick controls may make more sensitive players a bit nauseous actually. Overall the graphics are top notch and help make this a game that is easy on the eyes.
In terms of sound, what stood out the most for me in A Crack in Time was the voice acting. Not only do the main characters sound good, all of the surrounding players do as well. I always appreciate extra attention to detail like this. It really does a great job of adding that sense of immersion that I love in a game, not to mention good character development. On the other hand, the surround sound, while displaying good separation, seemed problematic in terms of where sound was coming from. This was particularly evident when characters were speaking to me. It often was coming from the wrong spot. This may have been due to how quickly the controls allow you to move or look around; I just couldn’t quite nail it down. Either way, it was noticeably off. Not all the time but enough to warrant comment. The music didn’t particularly stand out to me either. This could be construed either that it wasn’t very memorable or that it blended too well with the gameplay. I’ll leave that decision up to you. The fact is I just didn’t think too highly or lowly of it.
I’ve seen enough coverage of these games to have a certain level of expectations going in. Being my first time playing this series to this extent (e.g. more than just a minor dabble), I was surprised at how slowly the game started out. At first I chalked this up to the typical tutorial mode that one sees at the start of pretty much every game of this type, but this one seemed to drag on and on to the point where I was losing interest. I kept with it though and I am very glad I did.
A Crack in Time plays out from the viewpoints of both Ratchet and Clank. While both characters share the same core controls and gameplay, they each feature unique abilities and traits that provide a nice blend that makes the multiple switches between characters fun. Ratchet continues his search for his buddy Clank across several planets, each with a different type of environment, typical of what you would expect from a platform game. You can also control Ratchet’s spacecraft to go from planet to planet and revisit past planets if you’re the completionist type of player. There are also several mini-games and side quests available in space. These all hover on the edge of the storyline, but they can be fun to play and add to the overall playability of the title.
As in any Ratchet and Clank game the weapons are paramount. Ratchet has a suite of weapons that are extremely creative. My favourite being a sonic eruptor whose mechanism is “biological”. I hate ruining any sort of surprises so I’ll leave it at that, but it definitely got a laugh out of me. New weapons become available as you progress further into the game and they are acquired via the in-game currency of cogs and bolts. Weapons can also be upgraded for increased powers and abilities at the choice of the player as well as customized right down to the color of each one.
A new addition to the series is the sections where you play Clank that feature time-based puzzles. These puzzles require you to manipulate time in order to solve them. This is done through “time pads” where you can record multiple versions of Clank to perform tasks. This adds an excellent layer of depth to the gameplay but it may be a little too tough for younger gamers, so parents be warned. The game’s cartoony look doesn’t automatically mean it’s great for the younger kids. There are some really clever uses of the time mechanic that tested me on more than a few occasions. I found these sections a great diversion from the rest of the gameplay and very enjoyable.
The story plays out well. Given my inexperience with the game I found the story to be surprisingly deep with lots of neat physics and sci-fi based concepts to keep me quite interested. Fans of the series will surely want to see how the story progresses but Insomniac has also done a good job making it accessible for those, like me, who are not considered a veteran of the series. A Crack in Time recaps the previous games (the PS3 and PSN ones) in a very interesting interview with Capt. Quark and I never had an issue with not knowing what or why something was going on. That’s good design right there, and something that Insomniac should be applauded for.
A Crack in Time continues the Ratchet and Clank series in a fun way. The new time control mechanics are an enjoyable addition to the gameplay. While it doesn’t hit that Pixar bar that many boasted it would, A Crack in Time definitely has the looks to compete with many of the better looking Playstation 3 titles today. It doesn’t sound so bad either with top notch voice acting. If you are a fan of the series, or even a newcomer to it, you should find it an enjoyable game to play.