Back in 2002, Insomniac Games was still a fledgling studio. With only four games developed – three of which were Spyro titles – the company was hard at work creating a game for the recently released PlayStation 2. After a little over a year, Ratchet & Clank hit store shelves and became an instant classic, reviewing well with critics and players alike. This success would lead to three direct sequels released over the next three years, all of which earned “Greatest Hits” prominence and recognition as one of Sony’s most beloved franchises. Now, just in time for their tenth anniversary, the duo’s first trilogy of adventures are available in another ever-popular HD collection.
An unlikely partnership.
The story of the first Ratchet & Clank chronicles the two’s fateful meeting and their ensuing mission to stop the evil Chairman Drek, a Blargian creating an amalgamation of destroyed planets in order to build a new homeworld for his people. Clank persuades Ratchet to help him find Captain Quark, an inept, yet somehow famous, superhero. When it turns out Quark is working for Drek, Ratchet suffers a deep betrayal and takes both Quark and Drek down.
After succeeding, Ratchet and Clank enjoy their fleeting fame beginning in Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando. Just when the depression of the galaxy no longer needing them sets in, the two are contacted by Abercrombie Fizzwidget to retrieve an experiment that has recently been stolen. After chasing the thief across multiple planets, Ratchet returns the experiment, known as the Protopet, to Fizzwidget, who turns out to be Quark in disguise using the dangerous animal to restore his reputation.
Finally, Dr. Nefarious, the longtime villain of the series, makes his debut in Up Your Arsenal. Ratchet gets reports that his home world is under attack by a race known as the Tyhrranoids led by the mad scientist robot. Under the advice of the Galactic President, Ratchet seeks out Captain Quark for assistance, as he is the only person to have ever defeated Nefarious. This leads to the creation of the Q-Force, an elite group of soldiers assembled by Quark. It's up to them to stop Nefarious from destroying all organic life in the universe.
Uprezzed graphics in 1080p suit these aging titles well.
In can be argued that many developers add half-baked gameplay mechanics into their franchise's sequels to seem innovative and fresh, but in reality these additions are often the most glaring problems. While the Ratchet series has seen tweaks to gameplay, none feel forced and, more importantly, each consecutive title feels like Insomniac has made the effort to fix and improve their existing elements before developing new ones. At its core, Ratchet & Clank is an action platformer filled with wacky weapons and goofy gadgets, and over ten years, the same can be said about the myriad of sequels.
While the original trilogy may have looked good in 2002, the last decade has seen gigantic leaps and bounds in graphical fidelity, putting most sixth generation titles to shame. HD overhauls have usually payed off, but none have quite reached the level of the Ratchet & Clank HD Collection. The series' cartoony design combined with improved visuals make the collected games more crisp and give off the look of early PS3 graphics rather than early PS2.
One of the strong suits of the series has always been its style. The environments are well drawn and have a massive scope, making the missions feel less linear. Weapons are comically oversized, often being larger than Ratchet himself, and many are more of a joke than a useful tool, such as the Morph-O-Ray and the Suck Cannon. All the characters are some sort of anthropomorphic being, which contributes to the dialogue's humor. The music, while a bit understated, often matches the world that it accompanies well, bringing the hustle and bustle of metropolitan planets to life and leaving dark, empty areas feeling even more vacant.
Talk about upper body strength.
These games are also an embodiment of Pixar films: simple enough for children to grasp yet complex enough to be enjoyed by adults. There are rare, short moments of slow down in large group encounters during the first game, but this is a problem carried over from the original rather than a problem with the remaster. That aside, the original trilogy delivers a long-lasting, enjoyable experience and, for the price tag, an excellent deal. Ratchet: Deadlocked may have missed the ship, but fans will get the chance to download that HD remake on PSN at a later date. If by chance someone has missed out on the Ratchet & Clank series over these ten years, this HD collection offers the perfect time to correct that mistake.
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developers: Insomniac Games, Idol Minds
Release Date: August 28, 2012
Number of Players: 1 (Campaign), 2-12 (Multiplayer)
Platforms: PlayStation 3 (Reviewed)