Everybody’s favorite Lombax is back to finish off what began two years ago when Insomniac Games brought their critically acclaimed Ratchet & Clank series to the PS3. While Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction might have been a huge success, it left players wanting more, thanks to an open ended finale, which found its heroes separated for the first time.
While Insomniac promised the story would continue, the direct-to-PSN sequel, Quest for Booty, disappointed fans with its short duration that did little to answer any of the questions left by the first game. Well, another year has passed and the hilarious series is back for its third installment to hopefully reunite our beloved heroes once and for all. Can Ratchet save Clank in time to purge the galaxy of evil, or will Captain Quark have to somehow save the day?
One of the strengths of the Ratchet & Clank series is its serial narrative, which tells one continuous and cohesive story. While A Crack in Time can be enjoyed on its own, fans who have played through the first two games will appreciate the story more. Unfortunately, the game does little to catch up players new to the series, so let me provide a quick recap.
Tools of Destruction found our two heroes trying to thwart the evil plans of Emperor Tachyon, a devious mastermind who wants to rid the universe of the last Lombax in existence: Ratchet. While their adventures take them all over the universe, the duo eventually manages to defeat Tachyon and save the day. The game ends on a down note though, as Clank is kidnapped by a mysterious race of beings known as the Zoni. Ratchet immediately sets out to find his best friend, and in the second game discovers that the Zoni are somehow connected to his arch-nemesis Dr. Nefarious.
A Crack in Time begins right where Quest for Booty left off, with Ratchet racing across the galaxy to rescue his best friend. If our furry hero can find the evil doctor, he should hopefully be able to save Clank, and possibly the entire universe in the process. Along the way he’ll team up with his old friend Captain Quark for some hilarious moments, and discover that he’s not actually the last Lombax left in the galaxy.
Another strength of the series is its large assortment of over-the-top weapons, which can be used to demolish the tons of enemies thrown at the player. In that department, the game does not disappoint. While Clank always has his classic Omni-Wrench handy, the real fun comes in wielding crazy weapons with names like “The Negotiator”, “The Spiral of Death”, and the “Sonic Eruptor”.
This game is not for players who enjoy utilizing just a few guns. A new weapon is introduced every 20 or so minutes, and there are around 19 to choose from total, each of which can be leveled up multiple times. Additional upgrades can also be found and equipped, giving players an extra level of customization. No two weapons are alike, yet each packs one hell of a punch, and all are extremely fun to use.
A new feature that A Crack in Time brings to the series is the ability to fly freely around the galaxy in Ratchet’s ship, Aphelion, creating a sort of hub world. With a push of a button, players can pull up the galactic map made up of multiple sectors, each containing an assortment of planets, moons, space stations, and spaceships to explore. This is where the game deviates from its usual linear fashion, providing plenty of optional side quests to undertake. While none of these have to be completed, they do yield lots of bonus items, which help make Ratchet that much stronger.
Ratchet is not the only playable character, as players get to step into the smaller shoes of Clank many times. It’s these sections of the game that are actually more fun in my opinion, as they introduce the new “time puzzle” aspect of the game, which is similar to puzzles found in Braid. I don’t want to say any more though, except that Insomniac has come up with some ingenious ways to make playing Ratchet’s metallic companion more enjoyable than ever.
One thing that has stayed consistent throughout the series is the impressive cartoon-like graphical style, and A Crack in Time continues the trend, delivering a high level of visuals that are second only to Pixar. The devs at Insomniac definitely know how to use the entire color palette, and they do it here to create everything from ice moons to swamp infested planets to galactic metropolises. The character animation is also top notch, bringing the entire cast to life with a wide array of movements and emotions.
Completing the package is an excellent assortment of audio effects and music. It’s amazing how every single weapon manages to sound completely different, yet extremely destructive at the same time. What’s even better is the wonderful sounds enemies make as they explode and turn into hundreds of bolts that can be picked up and used as the game’s currency. It’s a sound that never gets tiring.
When all is said and done, the main story of A Crack in Time will probably take players between eight and ten hours to complete on Normal Mode. Add in an extra two to four hours to find every item, the ability to replay the game in Challenge Mode, or any of the other numerous difficulty settings, and you have a ton of gameplay to enjoy.
My only complaint is that Normal Mode was a bit too easy if the time is taken to level up the weapons all the way. I only died two or three times during the whole game and never during a boss battle. For series veterans like myself, it’s best to start on a more difficult setting.
After the lackluster Quest for Booty, Insomniac returns with a vengeance to finish off the Ratchet and Clank Future story arc with a bang. A Crack in Time is easily the best of the series so far, and any R&C veterans or serious fans of the platformer genre owe it to themselves to give this game a try. It does almost everything right and leaves practically nothing to be desired, making it another “must have” addition to the PS3 exclusive library, which gets bigger and bigger every month.
Players will have a hard time telling if they are playing a game or watching a Pixar movie thanks to the high quality visuals.
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While the typical Ratchet and Clank run-and-gun platforming returns, the addition of time puzzles and the ability to fly around the galaxy elevates the gameplay to a whole new level.
Every single weapon sounds completely different, yet packs a punch that will rumble the foundations of any house with a good sound system. Make sure to tune into the galactic radio, as you never know what will be on.
The first play through will take most players around 11 to 15 hours to complete the story and find every item in the game, but series veterans will want to keep coming back for harder difficulty settings and the challenge mode.
A Crack in Time is easily the best addition to the Ratchet and Clank series so far, doing everything the previous games did right, as well as adding another layer of high quality gameplay features.