Though the Ratchet & Clank series has been around since the early days of the PS2, my first experience with the lovable Lombax and his robotic buddy was with the 2007 release of Tools of Destruction on the PS3. I was immediately drawn into the game, as it possessed just the right amount of platforming and collecting items to make an old(ish) gamer feel nostalgic, with equal parts modern goodness that really rounded it out. A Crack in Time is the third game in the Ratchet & Clank Future series, which inevitably completes the continued story while leaving an opening for yet another sequel. It brings all of the elements that made its predecessors great, and adds a truck load of new weapons and a couple of new gameplay mechanics that make it even better on all fronts.
Before you even make it to the menu screen, a cut-scene rolls which brings you up to speed on the events of the previous two games in the Future series. I played through Tools of Destruction, but only made it part-way into Quest for Booty, so I was glad to have this movie fill the gaps. In short, Clank (the robot) was sort of kidnapped by a mysterious alien race called Zoni at the end of Tools of Destruction. It’s quickly revealed that the Zoni had been tricked into working for an maniacal evil-doer who needs Clank to complete his evil scheme. Meanwhile, Ratchet is off in space trying to find clues as to Clank’s whereabouts. For the majority of the game, you alternate playing between the two characters as they both try and set things right.
Talk About Variety
The gameplay focus shifts frequently, which really keeps things interesting. When you play as Ratchet, you’re traversing different planets and fighting various baddies utilizing a huge arsenal or ridiculous weapons. When I say ridiculous, I mean it! The shotgun class weapon is a large belching fish which bellows it’s mating call when you squeeze the trigger. It’s hugely effective against hordes of enemies and gets even more hilarious as it upgrades with usage. There are a number of new weapons, and some old favourites (like the Groovitron glove) make a return appearance.
In Tools of Destruction, you would return to your ship when a mission was completed and you’d jump to another. There was typically a short cut-scene in between, but there was only a brief time where you actually piloted Ratchet’s ship yourself. In a Crack in Time, space combat has been added, and it’s a lot of fun, albeit fairly simple. Along with Ratchet’s weapons, his ship can also be upgraded, which is accomplished by collecting Zoni who are scattered across the universe. There was only one point in the game where I had to abandon the main quest in order to obtain the required amount of Zoni, but that only set me off course for half an hour or so. I completed the game with 24/40 Zoni, which means there are plenty still out there to be found. From the map screen, you can see which planets are still occupied by Zoni, so you’re not searching blind. There are other side quests to do in space, like escort and straight up combat scenarios.
Clank’s lone missions were surprisingly fun and satisfying. When I heard that time based puzzles were introduced into this game, I instantly thought of Braid, and immediately there after, frustration. But that was not the case here. The time based puzzles in A Crack in Time are all basically the same – Clank enters a room with one exit point. The door that he needs to leave from requires at least one red pressure pad to be pressed, which means you need more than one Clank to get the job done. Anyone else thinking of Portal right about now? There are a series of colour based pads at the start of the room which allow you to record Clank’s movements to be played back in sequence later with the real-time Clank. Puzzles later in the game were quite challenging, but never too much so. I always looked forward to the next puzzle and actually wish there was a challenge mode to simply blow through a bunch of them in a row.
It’s All About Quantity And Quality
The cut-scenes are beautiful and feature film calibre, both in aesthetics and content. The dialog is hilarious and the voice acting perfect for this style of game. Some of the one-liners had me laughing out loud, quite literally! I could definitely see this game trilogy being made into an animated film, and would actually be thrilled if that were to happen.
Though it’s only a single player game, there is a lot to keep you busy in A Crack in Time. I didn’t stray too far form the main quest, and I finished the game in about 10 hours. That could have easily been doubled had I gone back and looked for all of the collectibles. There’s also a combat arena which pits Ratchet against hordes of enemies for some bonus bolts (currency) and weapons. Once the story is completed, you’re given the option to start the game over in challenge mode (harder difficulty), or turn back time to a point just before the villain was defeated and continue collecting.
In all honesty, I enjoyed A Crack in Time far more than I anticipated. I enjoyed Tools of Destruction, but I wasn’t totally hooked on it. While it took a couple hours for me to really feel the grasp, A Crack in Time delivered the goods at every turn and is yet another top notch PS3 exclusive.