When 3D gaming – as in the polygon type, not the glasses type – emerged properly in the days of the N64, platformers exploded left right and centre, a trend that didn’t stop when the next-generation of consoles was ushered in. Hidden amongst Blinx the Timesweeper, Jak & Daxter, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro and a list of other colourful characters, was Insomniac Games’ Ratchet & Clank. This unlikely paring of an endangered alien species and a robot that didn’t pass quality control provided the PS2 with one of the finest platformers around, and now the first three games have come back to celebrate the ten years since they were unleashed into the world.
As time has gone by the platformer has died a somewhat quiet death. Only a few of those bubbly characters remain and Ratchet & Clank seems to carry on at the same breakneck pace continually providing you with innovation and the glee of exploration. After playing through the Ratchet & Clank titles on PS3 (known as the Future series in North America) it’s safe to say that Insomniac never dropped the ball with the duo, however upon visiting their past for the first time it cant help but leave you feeling somewhat empty.
Thats right, I’ve never played the original Ratchet & Clank games; however thanks to the HD upgrade by Idol Minds I can now dive right in and see exactly what I missed out on. These aren’t bad games by any means, in-fact they are rather fantastic, but they have suffered from being trapped in the last generation of game development. Up Your Arsenal, the third entry in the series, is by far the funnest in the collection, with many similarities to the PS3 titles in terms of controls and the sheer gleeful inspiration in all the weapons you have at your disposal. Conversely Ratchet & Clank, the series first entry, is rather bland and clunky in gameplay and execution – it’s only redeeming feature being the humour that pervades the title and makes it fun to play.
Once you put controls aside they all offer fun and interesting gameplay. Of course there’s the standard affair of jumping from platform to platform, but you’ll be busting out crazy weapons and frantically grabbing nuts and bolts – the games currency – so you can buy bigger and better weapons to cause more chaos with. When you make the move onto Locked and Loaded - the series second entry – the introduction of weapons that upgrade with use, and health that improves from killing enemies, makes gameplay even more enjoyable. And as mentioned before, the third entry is an absolute hoot! This coupled with mini-games, inventive world design, arena battles and car races, they are really far from dull games to play.
Visually this title is a real treat. Understandably Ratchet & Clank Trilogy doesn’t boast the rich visuals and worlds found in the PS3 titles, but thanks to the colour palette used by Insomniac everything looks sublime, with only the original title feeling a little flat in the looks department - Up Your Arsenal looks as if it could have been an early PS3 game now it’s been given the HD treatment. Worlds are detailed and really quite vast, which makes you realise just how accomplished these titles were in their day.
It must be said that for a game released to celebrate the 10th anniversary of a popular series, Ratchet & Clank Trilogy seems rather lacking. The game menu is a cold and lifeless slab of a rolling menu that shows a rather low quality vignette video of the title, and you can’t ever quit back to it to choose another game; you have to quit entirely and reload the game. Online multiplayer may be included for UpYour Arsenal but other than that there isn’t a whiff of any developer videos, extra content or really anything indicating they spent any time caring for what the fans wanted.
In the end though this release gives long standing fans of the series a burst of nostalgia in a package that’ll provide you with hours of enjoyment. If you’ve never played a Ratchet & Clank game then it’s definitely worth starting here and working through the staggering eleven other games in the series – twelve when Q-Force (Full Frontal Assault in the States) releases. If however you’ve played the PS3 titles and are curious to see how it all began, some things are really best left buried.
Audio/Visual: 4/5 – It really benefits from the HD upgrade and it also runs in 3D if you have one of those fancy TVs. The latter two titles show it off the best, but when it comes to audio Insomniac have crafted three games with superb soundrracks and ambient sounds.
Gameplay: 4/5 – Superbly fun games with a nice mixture of mini-games and activites throughout. Controls however haven’t aged too well and really make some sections frustrating and clunky. You have been warned.
Innovation: 2/5 – There is nothing new here, unless you’ve never played any of them before. Online functionality is nice though, more HD collections need to have their multiplayer functions intact.
Value: 4/5 – For what you pay you’re getting your hands on three rather lengthy and enjoyable games, it’s just a shame you aren’t getting anything extra to commemorate the series’ milestone.
Final Score: 4/5