Ratchet and Clank: Reviewed

When was the last time you played a video game and felt pure joy?  I’ve already said this many times in conversation.  Take a picture of my face while playing Ratchet and Clank and you will know what pure joy looks like.I’ve never played a game in this series.  While I consider myself a passionate gamer, I make a confession to the Internet.  I skipped the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 era.  Blasphemy!!!  Yes, it’s true.  During the dominance of these two consoles I was playing the N64 and GameCube (Zelda, Metroid and Mario at Christmas Time).  I don’t apologize for it.  Indeed, had I fully embraced that era of gaming I might still be in college.The fact that I went into this blind puts me in a unique place for a game review.  I get to be truly objective (Yeah, yeah…reviews are subjective but you know what I mean).  I have no context or nostalgia for the series.  And it has been a true delight to discover this game for the first time.  It is one of the most delightful surprises that I’ve come across in awhile.One of the most difficult things to accomplish in game development is the creation and fleshing out of great characters.  Developer Insomniac makes this look easy.  Every character has a charm that you don’t often find in a video game.  Ratchet and Clank make quite a wonderful pair.  Sweetening the deal even further, every supporting character is a delight to watch on screen.  They took great care in making sure every character design and personality was unique.The world of Ratchet and Clank is like the best of Pixar in the palm of your hand.  And, while cartoon style graphics could be considered less difficult than motion capture or other forms of design, there is no denying that Developer Insomniac took the extra time to make the characters and the world around it absolutely breathtaking.  It is one of the most beautiful games I’ve seen in 2016.  There is not a world or level in the game that doesn’t hold its own unique design and feel.Granted, a beautiful world and great characters would be vapid without a great story.  In that regard, Insomniac delivers the goods with a lighthearted and exciting tale that so many already know and love.  It is the idea of looking up at the stars (ahem wars) and dreaming of adventure beyond the galaxy.  The story keeps you hooked with surprising twists and turns and the writing has an amazing rhythm that flows very well.  Indeed, I can’t even begin to count how many times I laughed out loud playing this game.  When I came across a character named Skid McMarx I had to leave the room.  Hilarious!  And that’s just the beginning.  As a story, it just doesn’t take itself seriously.  It laughs at itself, breaks the 4th wall and gives you winks and nods along the way to keep you truly invested.Most importantly, the gameplay is intuitive and fun.  I was amazed at how much action, movement, and explosions were happening on screen at any given moment while finding myself completely unshaken.  The action and the gameplay work seamlessly together.  With the combination of platforming and shooter mechanics, it was surprising how approachable it was.  It was challenging but it was fair.Aside from the platforming, the game gives you other gameplay styles.  A favorite of mine was the areal combat missions.  It is gameplay reminiscent of the best Star Fox games.  Indeed, some might play those missions wishing that the latest Star Fox Zero had similar mechanics.  I haven’t played that game so I’ll withhold judgment.  The only real gripe with the flying missions is that there are not enough of them.  It’s such an awesome ship that it’s a shame that it couldn’t have been utilized more.  One can only wish that any future DLC would have more missions like these.  Heck, make a whole game like that.In addition to the lack of flying missions are the tools that interact with the world.  You can’t use them freely.  For example, when I acquired my jet back, I thought I could fill it up with fuel and travel to another planet to help me acquire a much-coveted item.  Instead, when I got to that planet the jet pack wouldn’t operate.  The object remained across that unreachable island just mocking me. Early on in the game, it becomes easy to rely on the weapons you’re introduced to right of the bat.  I urge the player to expand their horizons and explore each weapon and decide which one best suits them.  The variety of weapons is unbelievable.  There is a weapon that actually forces your enemies to dance under a disco ball helplessly while Ratchet blasts away.  Adding to the variety of weapons is the games ability to reward your play style.  The more you use a weapon the more you increase the level with XP.  This unlocks new abilities for said weapon making it a devastating force to be reckoned with.One can clearly see the love and care that was put into this game by Insomniac.  While I’ve never played any of its predecessors, I can, happily, say that they have created a new fan of the series.  At a $39 price tag, you owe it to yourself to jump into this amazing game that is approachable to every age.  Here’s hoping that Ratchet and Clank have more tools in their belt for a sequel.  I’ll be waiting in line for the next adventure.Want to hear more from Jon and his gaming buddies as they talk Ratchet and Clank, and other games? Check out the Geek Versus Games podcast below!  

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