Ratchet and Clank Trilogy Review
Ratchet & Clank is one of this industry’s most positive franchises. I use the word “positive” because it’s almost impossible to say anything against it; no anti-game activists will freak out over excessive violence, fans typically get what they want, and just about anyone can have fun with a colorful, comical R&C adventure. Playing through one of these titles is always a wholesome experience that will inevitably put a smile on your face. Hence, “positive” is the perhaps the best description possible.
In this trilogy, the games shine with that great high-definition overhaul we’ve come to expect and respect during the course of this generation. A great many PlayStation classics have been touched up to become sharper and clearer, as you may have noticed. The only game that doesn’t look so fantastic is the original R&C title; hey, it’s the oldest, ya know? You also have to dial back the resolution if you want to play these games in the available 3D but personally, I’d rather have the higher resolution. It really puts the beautiful artistry and high creativity in the driver’s seat.
So we’ve got new 1080p visuals, 3D capability, Trophies, and a silky smooth 60 frames per second, but the audio sounds just about the same. I wouldn’t call this a black spot on the presentation, though, as all these games have been known for great voice performances, fantastic audio effects, and really solid soundtracks. All of that has returned for this compilation and although some of it may pale in comparison to what we have now, none of it can be considered subpar. Nope, not even by today’s standards. The audio has always been a highlight of the series and I don’t think that’ll ever change. The two heroes will always have amusing patter!
If you don’t already know, this trilogy features the first three games in the series: Ratchet & Clank, Ratchet and Clank 2: Going Commando, and Ratchet & Clank 3: Up Your Arsenal. This is a franchise that definitely benefits from a high-definition upgrade because as I mentioned above, it really brings out that signature artistic style for which this franchise is so well known. Such unbelievably well designed worlds and levels, amazing character design and animation, and a large amount of longevity are the hallmarks of these quests, and all of it gets a little better in this collection.
We’re looking at two of the most likeable characters in gaming, we really are. Ratchet’s breezy confidence is always hilariously offset by his metal buddy’s uber-dry humor and witty one-liners. It’s the perfect duo to take on the evil denizens of the world (all of whom still seem attractive or charming in some way), and when you toss in the aforementioned nicely designed worlds, you’re looking at almost endless fun. Besides, I should also add that these adventures can be highly addictive, in that you always want to gather more bolts, and you always want to check out the new weaponry.
If you seek boundless creativity, you don’t have to look any farther than a typical Ratchet & Clank arsenal. There’s no chance I can remember them all, but I do remember trying out 90% of them and going, “Oh damn, that’s just cool.” And again, it’s “cool” in a happy, positive, colorful sort of way, and you know immediately that the developers put a lot of thought into the design and style of each weapon and gadget. It’s true that the balancing of the weapons isn’t always perfect (some are obviously better than others), but the diversity is beyond reproach.
As is often the case with such collections, you’re sometimes reminded of just how far even the most successful and acclaimed franchises have come. The original R&C was a definite smash hit with both critics and gamers, but the advancements and improvements seen in the next two efforts are obvious. That makes the first game a little less appealing and likely won’t be much of a draw, unless you’ve got some serious nostalgia pangs. The bottom line is that just about everything, from the control to the story to the level creation, progressed after the first title. And we shouldn’t complain.
However, that being said, the games don’t just get tighter and more technically sound with time, they also get deeper. The second title introduced weapon upgrades, for instance, and by the third game, the entire production was just a lot bigger overall. Up Your Arsenal certainly seems the best of the bunch, as it presents us with a polished and refined control mechanic (Ratchet feels completely fluid and reliable), the best weapon balancing, the most variety in general, and a more focused emphasis on ceaseless action. But the puzzles and platforming are always there.
Some will call these games third-person shooters, or say the franchise pioneered the “action/platforming” category along with Jak & Daxter. The truth is that with the puzzle solving, storytelling, exploration, upgrading, and combat, R&C has always defied written-in-stone labeling. One minute you’re grinding a rail with a super special pair of boots, the next minute you’re attempting to solve a surprisingly intricate puzzle. And in between it all is the drive for more bolts for more gadgets, weapons and upgrades. The difficulty is just about right, too, as the challenge won’t dissuade most gamers but can still tax players toward the end of an adventure. Above all else, Insomniac puts a premium on fun factor, and that’s clear as day in these games.
The Ratchet & Clank Trilogy is a must for anyone who loves the series. Yes, that includes those of you who already own all three games in question. The high-definition upgrade needs to be experienced and besides, don’t you want the absolute best versions of some of your favorite PS2 titles? The variety, style, humor, and ceaseless entertainment are almost unparalleled. The first title pales in comparison to the other two, I always thought Going Commando wasn’t quite as good as it could’ve been, and the camera isn’t always perfect. But you know what?
This is Ratchet & Clank, plain and simple. And that alone is a great thing.
The Good: High-def upgrade highlights fantastic style and design. Fun to see the progression of quality. Patented R&C flair and charm is timeless. Variety of gameplay mechanics remains refreshing. Great value at $30.
The Bad: First game feels a little old. Camera and basic control aren’t always perfect. Not a ton of bonus frills.
The Ugly: “Ugly? This is Ratchet and Clank. ‘Ugly’ is absolutely nowhere to be found.”
9/6/2012 Ben Dutka