PS VITA – Ratchet & Clank is one of the most successful Sony franchises ever, and also one of the rare mascots which are still popular. The first game was out on the PS2 twelve years ago, so it might be possible, that kids born around the time of the first game are actually playing now Ratchet & Clank since it’s became available as a trilogy on the PS Vita. The real question however remains that whether revisiting those titles provides the same kind of fun which they have provided years ago, or are they became too old school to endure the test of time?
There are actually two kind of “remakes” we can expect from Sony and other gaming companies nowadays. There are simpler, cheaper upscaled versions, where the graphics are essentially the same, so while they still look kind of nice, they are clearly getting old, and not as pretty as modern games.
The HD remakes are complete graphical revamps of the original game, with new, richer textures, more polygons, visual effects and more. Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection, and Final Fantasy XII-XII-2, and of course The Last of Us: Remastered, which is just out on the PS4 are using the latter technology, while God of War, Jak and Daxter and Ratchet & Clank Trilogy is using the former. Of course we do love every Sony game and we are nostalgic about them, but it would have nice if most of those classic games would have its proper, own remastered version.
That said Ratchet & Clank Trilogy still looks rather nice – mainly because of its cartoonish graphics, with bright, vibrant colors an impressive draw distance to boot. The visual world of the Ratchet & Clank games is also impressive with cities and seas stretched to the horizon in locations like Fort Kronos and the Gorda City Ruins.
However, the very low fidelity cut scenes are a big contrast to the generally nice looking graphics of the main game and it takes away some from the magic of Ratchet & Clank. Low resolution cut scenes were somehow less distracting in the God of War Collection, maybe because in Kratos’s journey they were usually shorter and a bit less important than in Ratchet & Clank.
To sum up the whole graphics situation, Ratchet & Clank Trilogy still looks rather nice, thanks to its cartoonish world, but the 12 years past weren’t kind to the game, and the graphics are especially crude in the cut scenes. Muffled, low fidelity sound effects don’t help either in those cut scenes, however it has to be mentioned that the music is still groovy and builds up the ambiance of the game.
Jack of all trades
Of course gameplay is more important factor in Ratchet & Clank Trilogy which was a novelty at the time of its release. One part arcade shooter and one part Metroidvania, Ratchet & Clank effectively disguises its network of linear corridors and encounter rooms with open-air spaces, occasional side-quests, and grand cartoon landscapes.
Combat is also surprisingly more refined than in most third person shooters and generally makes you to use your brain rather than shooting everything instantly. Enemies have all different kind of attacks, different weaknesses and patterns so studying and adapting to most one of them is crucial, so you won’t have your furry lombax’s ass handed back to you. It’s kind of refreshing from most of the generic third person action games of today.
In the sequels the improvements are not that important, it’s rather about how the weapons are used. There are also interesting weapons like Up Your Arsenal’s Plasma Whip. Very simple role playing elements were also added in the game with guns leveling up with use and even small changes that can alter you playing style significantly.
Control-wise there was one decision which was rather dumb from the team who made the port: putting the strafe button on the rear touch was a dreadful idea. Game designers for the PS Vita should go easy on the rear touchpad since it isn’t always as much handy as they might think.
Platforming ups and downs
3D platformer games in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s had some difficulties to successfully implement precision platforming, and the Ratchet & Clank games were no different. The airduct parts are a typical example: they are thin and sometimes ridden with some annoying environmental challenges.
It doesn’t help either that the analogue controls aren’t always the best and the camera, which has difficulties to follow the action, can be even worse. And let’s not forget the checkpoint system either, which at the beginning of the millennium was a real pain in the ass in video games. Backtracking a lot because of dumb mistakes doesn’t really put you in a good mood. But that’s how early 2000 was, you have to accept it or leave Ratchet & Clank Trilogy alone.
Saturday morning cartoons
The stories of the games are rather a hit or a miss too. On the whole there’s not much to talk about, character development is almost non-existing, and the sarcastic humor of the game is sometimes funny, sometimes cringe-worthy. Of course the low fidelity of the cut scenes doesn’t help you to put in the mood either.
Still, Ratcher and Clank are both funky characters and there are also some scenes and conversations which are genuinely funny.
It’s still good
Getting 3 games for the price of one is still very nice and the Ratchet & Clank games were the platforming games par excellence back in the early PlayStation 2 era. If you never played them, you have to decide whether slightly dated graphics or some archaic gameplay experiences (like the checkpoint system) bothers you at all, or not. Playing Ratchet & Clank on the go of course is a big plus and the PlayStation Vita is missing a bit those kind of “mascot” games.
However some design decisions doesn’t translate well to the Vita and of course Ratchet & Clank Trilogy doesn’t really exploit the Vita’s special features at all. It’s no Tearaway at all nor even the Vita version of Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time which were both excellent modern platforming games. Still it’s a lot better than the disaster Jak and Dexter on the Vita was and if you are a real PlayStation fan, Ratchet & Clank might be a nice occasion to get you into a nostalgic mood.
+ Ratchet & Clank games are still pretty good
+ Platforming basics are well done
+ The arcade-like design is clever
– Camera and control issues
– Some dated checkpoint and precision platforming elements
– Putting the strafing on the rear touchpad was a bad idea
Genres: 3D, Platformer, Action,
Publication: 2014 June