Reviews// Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time

Posted 22 Oct 2009 19:50 by
It's like the James Bond movies (of old, when they were good) - there was always 007, some gadgets, some girls, a diabolical villain, an even more diabolical plot and secret underwater/subterranean/volcano base. Throw in a car chase and a BIG explosion and you had cinematic gold. It never changed, it never failed to impress. Ratchet and Clank is the same.

Throughout all the Ratchet and Clank games, a number of aspects have stayed the same. Clearly Ratchet and Clank themselves are unchanged, as one would expect. But other characters recur, and Captain Qwark has been around since the very first game. The humour of the characters and their lines is another constant. The way Ratchet, after landing on any planet, poses purposefully beside his ship before getting to business is immutable. Many of the alien creatures pop up time and time again, on planets diverse and distant. Which, given the apparent paucity of life in the universe, is stunning in itself. But it's also useful, because you'll have experience in dealing with them, and know what strategies and weapons work best.

The weapons in A Crack in Time are, by and large, the same ones they'll be familiar with from previous games. The ever-faithful, multi-functional omni-wrench, a blaster, and a selection of bombs. There is also the ever faithful Mr Zurkon drone robot, and the Groovitron Glove which forces opponents to get down on the dancefloor, which distracts their attention while you dispense hot death on them.

The planets in A Crack in Time are all new, but as with previous games, they are all familiar

Everything's Different
The name A Crack in Time is a reference to the story of this game, but also to the gameplay theme that makes it stand out from previous games most noticeably. These fall into two basic categories, one is time manipulation - which it transpires is an ability of Clank. In a twist that we will not go into for fear for spoiling the plot for potential purchasers of the game, Clank's role in this game is far more significant than in any previous game, except for Secret Agent Clank - a side game if ever there was one. The other aspect is time travel, which plays a small but important part in the gameplay and a much larger and equally important part in the storyline.

In his larger role, Clank can now slow down time, and doing so plays a major part in his ability to traverse The Great Clock which he occupies for much of the game. Inside the clock, he comes across time pads which enable him to record his actions and replay them. This activity forms the central activity in a good number of increasingly mind-bending puzzles during the game. At first, it's nice and easy. Record Clank standing on a switch to open a door, and then go through the door while it is open. Soon it becomes a good deal more difficult, and forms some of the most fun this reviewer has had puzzling in an action platformer for some time.

Clank's part in the game is not only much more significant than in previous games, it is also much more involving, and more fun. Before he was always the weak link in the pair, and his sections of the game, while small, were never very engaging. But with his new powers and challenging puzzles, Clank is every bit the match for Ratchet's more action based sections.

One other new aspect of A Crack in Time is the inclusion of Hoverboots. These enable Ratchet to travel quickly over terrain that he would not otherwise be able to traverse. Hoverboots also enable Ratchet to extend the distance he can cover after jumps and while using sprung platforms. Some levels are constructed in a way that requires use of the Hoverboots in order to complete them. In other levels, their use makes things easier, even if they are not required.

A Crack in Time has a new map and transport mechanism. Instead of flying directly to a planet, Ratchet can fly to a solar system. Once there he can fly around in a 2D plane in 3D space. Here he will encounter battles that can be fought (or optionally avoided) and missions that can be taken or not as preferred. There is also a selection of moons in each system that offer a range of puzzles and combat opportunities. Almost every mission offers a rich reward in bolts, but some offer greater prizes too. The space combat missions are more involving and more fun than in previous games, where for me they were always more of a chore than entertainment.

SPOnG Score: 84%
Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack In Time effortlessly delivers another cracking platformer for fans of the genre and the series. True there's not that much that is actually new, and if there was, the score would be higher. But what is new is exciting enough to be worth a look if you were starting to tire of the series. If, like me, you weren't even beginning to tire of the engaging gameplay, stunning visuals, fun puzzling and exciting action, then this one's a no-brainer. Get it now!

*It must be noted that back before Spyro lost his charm, he was developed by Insomniac. Later games were re-imagined by Eurocom and Tantalus.
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