It is a major tragedy that Ratchet & Clank don’t seem to have a place on the gaming market any more, with us all teetering on the edge of a big step into the next generation and most of the major upcoming titles focusing on either ultra-realism or ultra-violence. But with casual gaming still going strong thanks to the mobile market and an enduring desire to see charming games with personality and engaging gameplay, it is titles exactly like Ratchet & Clank that could and should offer some antidote to the relentlessly serious trends of mainstream modern gaming.
So the return of the odd-couple, world-saving, dynamic duo in HD is definitely a good thing, and though the appearance of so many HD remakes might seem like nothing but a cheap marketing ploy to get us to part with money twice for the same product, the chance to revisit three classic titles from Insomniac Games is the perfect memory that not everything revolves around the next generation.
Let’s be honest, we all know the drill here: you play as Ratchet, a feline-like alien who teams up with a tiny robot ally – Clank – to save the universe, collecting goodies, exploring planets and using some insane, and incredibly inventive weaponry and gadgets to dispatch enemies along the way. And therein lies the games’ biggest charms – though it’s all quite cartoon-like, the violence is still irresistible, and aided by a colourful arsenal that would make James Bond extremely envious.
That armoury, and the progression through unlockable updates adds a whole new level to the combat sequences, which might otherwise have become quite one dimensional over time (especially over three games), but which are definitely given a whole new level of enjoyment as you’re able to unlock new gadgets and get rid of enemies in new and innovative manners. The unlockable element of the game actually makes it far more interesting to collect the game’s currency – bolts – than just progress head-down through the levels, and the environments and art design are both so charming it’s no issue to spend more time treasure hunting.
Each of the games included – Ratchet & Clank, Ratchet & Clank 2: Locked & Loaded and Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal – dial up the action and the arsenal in a very knowing way, trading on the strengths of the property without compromising on gameplay or entertainment. And put together in one package like this that is plainly obvious – there is no dilution across the three games as we can see in high-numbered franchises – and it’s fun to see the progression of the games and its characters across those games all bolted together. Let’s just say the first three Super Mario titles wouldn’t have a hope of holding up so well together.
So, is this HD treatment worth paying for again? Too right it is. These were games from that wonderful period of PS2 potency, and platforming has rarely been this fun or this engaging since (aside perhaps from the more light-weight LEGO games), and the opportunity to play them in HD, when the treatment is more than just a lick of paint and a hopeful grin, is enough to make this one a strong recommendation.
The levels look great, and the games do feel an awful lot more slick in their presentation, but there are still some problems, and the cutscenes stick out like sore thumbs, dropping from 16:9 to the original 4:3 and losing a good deal of definition in the process. That’s enough to cost the collection half a star in this review, but judged purely on the gameplay joys within and the over-riding charisma of the games, the collection would score even higher.
In short, this is a dutiful though not wholly flawless re-release of a trilogy of great games, which harks back to a simpler, more fun time when casual gaming was a lot more substantial. It’s just a shame that people are beginning to feel nostalgic about a series of games that I still remember so vividly playing first time out – but then, gaming is a market of tomorrows, and it’s all part and parcel of the journey. And at least we’re all being invited to jump back into the past to relive joys like Ratchet & Clank.
The Ratchet & Clank Trilogy: Classics HD is available to buy for PS3 now.