Reviewed: November 23, 2009
Released: October 27, 2009
I’m a big fan of Ratchet & Clank dating back to their last-gen exploits on the PS2, but things got really interested with our dynamic duo arrived on the PS3 in 2007. With crazy weapons, nonstop combat, clever puzzles, and a cliffhanger ending, Tools of Destruction left everybody wanting more. The following year we got a small taste of what was in store with the Quest for Booty installment, but that game was a Ratchet-exclusive, and while incredibly fun, was terribly short.
Now the final installment in the “trilogy” has arrived and Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time is going to answer all your questions and satisfy your thirst for futuristic combat, amazing weapons, and mind bending puzzles that will have you tearing away at the fabric of time and space. In some ways, this is the best game in the series, especially when it comes to Clanks new time-manipulating puzzles, but there is also a noticeable loss in the “buddy chemistry” since Clank is sequestered away on some space station for most of the game.
Story revelations are piled on faster than a George Lucas sequel as we learn that Ratchet is not the last of his race. He meets an old friend of his father and learns much of his past. The same can be said for Clank who also meets his “father” and learns his true purpose – the reason why he was built – his destiny. A Crack in Time builds on the previous plot points from the earlier games but just in case you haven’t played those yet you are given enough of the backstory during a clever cutscene that plays while the game installs 500MB of cache material on your hard drive.
A Crack in Time is divided into two main sections. The larger of the two is Ratchet’s adventure that takes him on an epic journey through several star systems in his search for Clank. In each, you’ll find a major planetary adventure with all sorts of crazy combat, rail grinds, and fun puzzles to solve, all set in very distinct environments. To flesh out the gameplay you will also explore each system in your trusty ship, engaging in exciting space combat with waves of enemy ships and landing on various moons to search for missing Zoni, weapon upgrades, and countless bits of nuts and bolts.
There are dozens of these moon-sized planetoids spread across the game, and their exploration reminded me greatly of Super Mario Galaxy in that you are walking around a sphere with the curve of the horizon only a few virtual yards ahead of you. Things get really crazy when you start exploring ledges and moving platforms high above the surface of these spheres. Later in the game, some planetoids will have special requirements like hover boots or special armor before you can even leave the landing pad.
Personally, I found Clank’s adventures to be the most unique and rewarding. While Ratchet’s levels will test your dexterity and knowledge of his vastly improved weapons arsenal, Clank is all about using your brain. Sure, there are some jumping sequences and a bit of combat but things get really original when you first enter Clank’s own mind for some beautiful tutorials, but nothing can prepare you for the time puzzles that grow to impossible levels of complication as you near the end of the game.
Not only can Clank manipulate time during the normal gameplay, there are special challenge rooms that require you to use these time pads to record Clank performing specific actions to solve a part of a puzzle. At first you may only need two or three copies of yourself, but near the end you might have five versions of Clank running around a room, stepping on pressure pads to activate lifts or open doors. It’s a very surreal experience to see multiple versions of Clank running around the level. The interface for creating these time loops is brilliantly designed, easy to use, and color-coded so you know which version of Clank is doing what activity. Then it’s just about building and layering on top of those actions until the puzzle is solved.
I hate to admit it, but Mr. Zurkon could be the best addition to any platform game ever. He certainly is a great sidekick and much more useful than Clank when it comes to combat. You summon Mr. Zurkon, a tiny hovering combat droid, who flies into combat unleashing blazing death and hilarious one-liners. His help in combat and his nonstop zingers had me summoning him as a constant companion for most of the game.
This series has always been known for the imaginative selection of clever weapons and A Crack in Time builds on the existing arsenal while adding some new favorites as well as a clever customization menu that allows you to add mods like triggers and ammo and even customize the color scheme to match whatever armor you might be wearing. It’s all about making a fashion statement. As always, the more you use any one weapon, the faster it levels up to new more devastating power, and just like past games, despite the numerous weapons at your disposal, you’ll almost always settle in with a few favorites and leave the other ones untested, or at least under-utilized. Regardless of which weapons you use or forget about, make sure to watch the hilarious tutorial videos for each. These 2D Flash-style animations had me rolling.
A Crack in Time would likely be a 4-5 hour game if it weren’t for all the fluff used to pad it out. Don’t get me wrong – it’s great fluff, but after exploring dozens of planets and engaging in round after round of gladiator combat, the Ratchet part of the game seemed to drag out a bit too long. For those with compulsive personalities, there is the inherent desire to smash everything in existence to suck up those floating nuts and bolts, which can be used as currency to buy new weapons, armor, and ship upgrades. Interestingly enough, any bolts Clank acquires are instantly transferred to Ratchet’s “bank account”.
A Crack in Time is a beautiful game whether you are exploring unique worlds, running around the surface of a small moon, or engaging in exciting space combat in asteroids fields or vaporous nebulae. The character design and animation is excellent, although I would have like a bit more fur texture to Ratchet. The cutscenes are as gorgeous as they are funny and the special effects, especially for all the clever weapon effects, will dazzle you. I had no real camera problems and the framerate was consistently smooth in all aspects of the game.
The audio portion of the game achieves new heights building on a solid cast of voice actors who deliver their lines with perfection and a layer of undeniable humor. The over-the-top villain, the anxious Ratchet, the pompous yet cowardly hero, Qwark, the prim and proper butler accent of Clank, all create an immersive family of characters you want to keep visiting. The soundtrack is equally as perfect and you now get radio stations you can switch around while flying in your ship. These play a range of space techno to classic to my favorite, the pirate radio broadcast with real pirates. Great stuff! The Dolby Digital mix is used with great effect to surround you in the metallic explosions of nuts and bolts or the localized sounds of weapons fire.
A Crack in Time is about a 5 hours game that takes around 10-12 to actually finish thanks to all the supporting quests and side-missions. While not all are mandatory, it makes the game more fun and adds a level of immersion to the story if you don’t try and rush through it. And once you complete the game you’ll unlock some new levels and challenges that will have you diving right back in, and don't forget the quest for Trophies - some of these require some serious dedication and extended gameplay. I could see this game easily offering up 20+ hours of fun for those who aren’t in a hurry to move on to something else.
While Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time doesn’t really evolve the franchise to any significant new level; I did appreciate the clever time puzzles for Clank and the interactive space combat and moon exploration. At times it started to get a bit repetitive, but there is no denying that you are never left with nothing to do, and it all helps build toward the exciting conclusion. Fans of the franchise will love this epic installment and newcomers will certainly be wanting to find Tools of Destruction and Quest for Booty so they can live the adventure from the beginning. A Crack in Time is easily one of the best platformers on the system and certainly the best of the genre in 2009.