Back in 2016, Ratchet and Clank made their triumphant debut on PS4. Scratching the platforming itch of long-time fans and scooping up heaps of new players, the latest in the long line of the loveable Lombax’s adventures went on to become the studio’s bestseller.
However, it’s no secret that as of late, sneaky Spidey has snatched that very same crown and left Insomniac Games with a severe case of tunnel vision in the process. With the company’s latest masterpiece, Spider-Man PS4, web-zipping its way to groundbreaking success, it comes as no real surprise that the iconic space duo has taken a backseat.
It’s a shame things have been so quiet on the Ratchet & Clank front. So, let’s get to exploring exactly why two of PS2’s most esteemed stars are worthy of another opportunity to shine on PS4…
Deja Vu All Over Again
Ratchet & Clank (2016) was a soft reboot of sorts, a retread of the original 2002 game that was well-received. It reinvigorated the traditional Ratchet & Clank formula of over the top weaponry and ingenious platforming, bringing the series up to speed with the more modern spin on platforming.
The remastered medley of planets from the Solana Galaxy was brought to life with an eccentric vibrancy that cut the game well above its forebears. Pokitaru felt like a tropical getaway from the comfort of your own home, so breathtaking it insisted you stop and admire your surroundings with a contented sigh. Reworked and polished controls also stopped frustrating clumsiness from setting in. Everything from traversing the series’ trademark platforming puzzles to pouring an endless stream of menacing rockets from your newly attained R.Y.N.O felt fluid, joyously smooth, and generally very enjoyable. It managed to amount to far more than a simple, spruced up version of the PS2 classic.
A refreshing sense of nuance befell a familiar tale as the original storyboard was altered to reconcile the spanning eras of Ratchet & Clank, both existing and newfound. The final product was a touching celebratory title that offered a warm welcome to newcomers while leaving returning fans with more than just a nostalgic lump in their throats. This was mostly down to the simultaneous (somewhat underwhelming) movie release that did way more than just tamper with the original story arc.
Beautiful cinematic cutscenes drawn straight from the movie were a colorful, mouth-watering treat for the eyes that swiftly diminished any desire for skipping. Ratchet and his metal compadre were practically teeming with charm and personality. Sadly, in-game cutscenes didn’t mirror the same charisma, in most cases leaving our heroes disappointingly static and emotionless in contrast. Yes, despite its many merits, the reboot wasn’t without its flaws and its movie tie-ins may have stolen the core Ratchet & Clank essence that’s fueled the series for years.
It’s abundantly clear that the reboot wanted to appeal to considerably younger audiences, which makes perfect sense – to a degree. Its easy-going nature, cutesy art style, and colorful allure are enough to turn the head of any youngster. However, the beauty of the older games was their ability to appeal to a broader age range.
Take Ratchet & Clank 3, for instance. Its overall lightheartedness was shrewdly interlaced with tasteful adult humor and witty innuendos that ensured a kid could have their kicks but a more mature mind could be left hollering (Going Commando, Up Your Arsenal…need we continue?). Narrative standards also took a staggering hit in the reboot: prior plots centered around world domination, vengeance, and capitalism were replaced with all the cliche tropes of a box-standard “hero’s journey,” which did little more than disappoint.
The ache to secure a more youthful audience was also painstakingly obvious in how overly hand-holdy the game felt from start to finish. It completely overshadowed the unique approach to storytelling in which notorious nimrod Quark’s narration only grated on you as he incessantly reminded you of your need to surface for air when swimming way beyond the halfway point in the game, by which time it was textbook even to the most inexperienced of players.
In most respects, Ratchet & Clank (2016) was the ambitious PS4 installment PlayStation fans had longed for. A poignant journey back to the series’ roots that bid a fond farewell to the multiplayer nonsense that preceded it. It certainly showcased Ratchet & Clank as a true timeless classic but also came across as a precursor to what could have been a million times more remarkable. Despite the game’s flaws, there’s no denying Insomniac’s commendable efforts in bringing such a well-loved classic to current gen.
Clanking It Up a Notch
What direction could a new Ratchet & Clank PS4 sequel take? Fortunately, Insomniac appears to have taken heed of the multiplayer limbo it found itself in between 2011-2013. Like an experimental teen, the studio juggled tower defense and co-op centric approaches that, although upheld its own sense of charm, strayed a little too far from the traditional Ratchet & Clank experience that’s widely held in such high regard.
This is predominately why players rejoiced when the first PS4 installment emerged with the quintessential elements of the franchise. Deft platforming puzzles, cheeky humor, gratifying collectathons, and an extravagant and innovative arsenal of weaponry at your disposal. The reboot showed that attempting to recuperate the heart and soul of the franchise to be a Clank-propelled leap in the right direction and any upcoming addition to the series would do well to follow suit.
The iconic double act has sent us coursing through numerous galaxies across a generous thirteen games. From the Bogon Galaxy to the far reaches of Polaris, Ratchet and Clank’s ventures have steered us through many a planet, each with its own history and characters with heartfelt stories to tell. Even so, there still appears to be so much uncharted territory and loose ends left untied.
A report when flying in A Crack in Time mentions former antagonist Angela Cross (Unknown Thief from Ratchet & Clank 2). A throwaway comment that notes her disappearance of three years does leave us wondering what actually became of Ratchet’s Lombax companion from his Bogon endeavors and whether it’d be a story worth delving into. Strong female leads have become a powerful trend in modern gaming and it’s fair to say that sassy Angela has all the makings of one. What became of the banished Lombaxes of Fastoon? With Emperor Tachyon (primary antagonist of the Future series) out of the picture, who’s to say Ratchet can’t use his mechanical finesse to invent a gadget similar to the Dimensionator and reunite with his own kind?
A particular stand out feature of Ratchet & Clank (2016) was its stellar visuals and how they enabled us to enjoy paramount locations of interest from the Ratchet & Clank universe in a whole new and dazzling light.
Even if Insomniac isn’t willing to concoct a whole new intergalactic crusade, would offering one of the other existing Ratchet & Clank installments the 2016-style remake treatment be so bad? Deep in the Bogon galaxy (Ratchet & Clank 2) reside some beguiling locations that would be a delight to revisit. Imagine mining crystals in the golden sands of the Tabora desert in stunning refurbished graphics, Plasma Coil by your side, tranquil remastered soundtrack chiming away in the background. One word: bliss.
If the recent resurgence of old-school platformers has taught us anything it’s that the demand for the genre is still going strong. Spectacular open-worlds and powerful linear, story-driven titles may currently dominate the market but it’s apparent that there’s still a burning desire to reminisce about the classics that serve as the roots for many players’ ongoing passion for gaming. If the bonkers bandicoot and brazen purple dragon are deserving of some spotlight, why can’t one of PS2’s staple twosomes return for some screen time?
While we wait in hope that a new Ratchet & Clank game will be announced, please do feel free to leave your own wishlist for the franchise in the comments below…