Reviews// Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time

Posted 22 Oct 2009 19:50 by
Insomniac Games is riding astride a speeding behemoth. That behemoth is Ratchet & Clank. This seemingly innocuous 3D platformer has beaten down all competition. Does anyone even remember Jak and Daxter? Spyro tried to grow up with his audience, and lost his charm*. Pandemonium made only one feeble attempt at being a real "Franchise". But these games were all serious contenders to the 3D platformer crown back in the heady days of the PlayStation 1 and 2. But when R&C arrived in 2002, it brushed aside all comers so casually it was almost disdainful.

Since then Insomniac has cranked (or should that be clanked) out a new game every year. Five on the PS2, and now three on PS3. Maybe living up to its name enables it to maintain such a prodigious output. Although sleep deprivation is known to cause impairment of ability, and little about the R&C series of games indicates any kind of impairment at all. Each game in the series has surpassed the previous and taken the series forward, without actually changing too much. To get all metaphorical on your ass, the furniture has been re-arranged occasionally, maybe a new pouffé or vase added, but this is still basically the same stuff we had when we moved in here.

OK, lets put that metaphor down and move swiftly on.

As you can imagine, riding this bestriding behemoth must be very exciting for Insomniac. Having one hit game is hard enough, having seven in a row is almost impossible. But like all truly exciting things, it must also be quite frightening. Firstly, a there's a lot of inertia! No one is going to be turning this thing around to go in any different directions? at least not quickly. Of course, there's the fact that no one particularly wants this thing to turn, and certainly no-one wants it to stop on a dime. And there's always the chance that if you try and turn it at all, it might crash. And if it does, it will be very messy. OK? let's put that metaphor down and move swiftly on.

So, here we are, at the eve of the release of the eighth Ratchet and Clank game and like the others in the series, in many senses, A Crack In Time is an incremental advance. Many aspects of the game are retained wholesale from previous games. Many characters re-appear, the story itself is an extension of events in previous games. The structure of the game, an inter-planetary odyssey of exploration and adventure interspersed with space shooter action, is unchanged. This in itself can be something of a problem. There is in economics a law that states that each additional unit of the variable input yields smaller increases in productivity. But that doesn't apply in this case, so let's put that aside and move swiftly on. What does apply is that, by continually selling effectively the same game to the same audience, one would expect sales figures to fall over time. But R&C games buck this expected curve, and continue to sell as well, if not better than their predecessors.

A Crack in Time, though, bucks tradition and instead of advancing the R&C franchise imperceptibley, takes a bold stride. OK? not a BOLD stride, but a fairly sizeable step forwards. Oh, go on then. Half a step. Everything is the same as usual, but some things have changed. If you are familiar wth the R&C universe, you'll immediately feel warm and comfortable playing A Crack In Time.
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