So, I never grew up with Ratchet and Clank, but only experienced some of the more well known titles in the series. My love for Insomniac came to be because of the Spyro-trilogy, which I still love to this day. However, unlike the dragon who got sent to other developers after the third installment, Ratchet and Clank was always Insomniac’s property, despite other developers being allowed to have a hand in certain titles and remakes. When I got the PS3, a bunch of titles from the series were on sale, and I decided it was time to check out this highly praised series. Now that the time has finally come to give it a retrospective, I can give it a proper goodbye for now.
From a dragon and his dragonfly, to a cat-thing and a toaster
After Insomniac was done with the Spyro-trilogy, they first had a new idea for Sony’s next console. The game was codenamed I5, referencing it as Insomniac’s fifth game and it took inspiration from both The Legend of Zelda-games and Tomb Raider. It would feature a woman in a fantasy-world, with only a stick to defend herself. Unfortunately, they felt it lacked any enjoyment after a year in development and it got canceled. Then Insomniac developers went the totally opposite way: Going from a stick and a fantasy-world, to crazy guns and alien-like locations. This was even seen in the development of Ratchet himself, as he went from a reptilian creature to a cat-alien.
Eventually: the first Ratchet and Clank-game was created. It set the standard for the series as a platforming shooter with tons of bizarre weaponry to level up, creative locations, and strange aliens. Like many platformers from its time, it started out fairly simple in its plot, but the series became known for its focus on humorous characters, with even some entries having dirty innuendos as subtitles in America. The first installment got a platinum-release in the Pal-regions and was the only game that got a bundle with the PS2 in Japan. The first success would lead to a trilogy on the original PS2 that is highly praised to this day, a new series on the PS3, a bunch of side games for all Playstation consoles, remakes, and even a complete reimagination of the original game. There are plenty of games in the series and they can vary highly in both quality and genre, so let’s go over the series’s strengths and weaknesses. I made reviews for each and everyone of them, so give them a look for more in depth thoughts.
Creative weapons and humor
One clear element that always shined throughout the series, was the creative weapons that could cause major carnage. While the traditional ones, such as the bomb-glove, gave satisfying explosions, the freeze canon, buzz blade ,and groovatron were all fantastic and fun due to how imaginative they were. They could have different uses and be eye catching, making each a treat to try out. The concept of leveling up weapons and seeing how they would change, was also a great driving force. While the platforming played second to the massacre, they were a great addition to exploring the levels and thanks to Ratchet’s acrobatics-skills, it became a part of the combat such as dodging out of harm’s way.
The humor it could provide was also something to enjoy and whenever Captain Qwark was on the screen, I knew I would have a jolly good time. While not always hitting the right marks, most could give at least a chuckle. The presentation created unique worlds full of alien creatures and locations, making the world alive and unlike anything you had seen before. This is brilliant as just like fantasy, sci-fi can create a bizarre and imaginative universe and become memorable through this.
The danger of variety
While the platforming and shooting were usually a good time, it was the variety that always dragged the experience down. There are plenty of different gameplay-changes to mention, but the one that I always dreaded, was Clank’s. While it at times had cool ideas with puzzles and strategy, these segments often became too straightforward to be enjoyable or engaging. It was very off to break up the hectic and fun shooting and jumping, with turret-sections, poorly made puzzles, or context-sensitive moments. Even worse were the side-games, as they were usually underdeveloped and hard to recommend.
With Tools of Destructions, the series also became too serious and Ratchet went through some mood-swings throughout the many games in general, which simply became childish. After the first PS3-installment, it really seemed like the developers had no idea on what made Ratchet and Clank fun, as the main-titles became poor, or at best average, until Nexus showed they had at least something to provide. Ending with the fantastic remake for now, was definitely a great surprise, but there were quite some hurdles.
Aim higher or land the plane?
So at this point, we often talk about the series’ future, but it seems like Ratchet and Clank is here to stay for some time yet and possibly even in a new reboot-series. But do we need this? I had the most insane roller coaster with this series, as I loved some installments and despised others. If they try to remove some of the lesser parts, mainly the variety and the attempt at a serious story, I would not mind seeing more titles in the series. But to be honest, the trend seems to go on and because of this, I think it would be nice to let the series die with this great remake and maybe see if Insomniac can’t create a new IP. I’d rather see the series go out on top and let it die, than become another Spyro: the purple pug.
When it comes to which installment to start out with, it is not an easy answer. On one hand, it is important to have an idea on how the other games will play out, but since they all vary in quality from great to terrible, a better question would be which one should you own if you had to pick one. For my part, Going Commando has the best overall quality, with plenty of fun weapons to use, great controls, fun areas to explore and humor that still gets a chuckle out of me to this day. There are certainly others to check out, but if you look through my reviews of the series you’ll quickly see which are worth recommending.