Ratchet and Clank 2016 for the Playstation 4 is the first game of the series after the 2013 PS3 release Into the Nexus. Developer Insomnia serves the title as both a reboot of sorts and a direct call back to the duo’s first adventure in 2002 on the PS2. If you’re the type that gets annoyed with remasters and HD remakes, let me allay some of your concern by telling you that though there are certainly shot-for-shot remakes and the core framework remains nearly identical, there are plenty of new things to experience.
Ratchet and Clank PS4 takes the basic mechanics and worlds of the original and refines or expands them from level to level. The game releases just a few weeks ahead of the animated feature-film debut of the titular heroes, providing a glimpse of the fun and quality we can expect in theaters.
This is the classic ‘tail’ of the cat-like Lombax named Ratchet, who meets the escaped “defective” warbot whom he names Clank, and their quest to stop the annihilation of planets by the evil race known as the Drek. These literally cartoony villains are lead by their chairman with help from the sinister Doctor Nefarious, who went on to become the main antagonist for future R&C games.
Along the way Ratchet meets his idol, Captain Qwark, head of the Galactic Rangers. Through circumstance, Ratchet is eventually able to achieve his dreams and join the legendary group. It quickly become apparent that Qwark isn’t the hero everyone believes him to be.
The series is known for its humor and weaponry and both are used to great effect here. Qwark and his sidekicks, along with the enemies, all have fun personalities amplified by clever writing and excellent voice performances. Though the game relies heavily on combat along with its platforming, it’s a family friendly game in both action and character presentation.
Ratchet and Clank PS4 brings back the gadgetry of the 2002 classic but also integrates some of the favorites that have evolved over the long-running series’ life. Mr. Zurkon and the Groovitron are both here along with a host of other weapons, the list of which is so long that there are multiple weapon wheels to house them all. They can all be upgraded through usage and through a selective power-up system paid for by raritanium ore found throughout the numerous levels.
The old framerate “controversy” has reared its ugly head yet again, as Insomniac went for a 30 fps target. The great news is this 30 fps is really solid and handles nearly everything you throw at it flawlessly. Multiple groovitrons (disco balls that cause enemies within range to dance), proton drums (electric pulse drum that electrocutes all enemies nearby), along with homing missiles and other weapons, were deployed nigh simultaneously against groups of enemies, and the game ate them up and spat them out – dishing out pain to the bad guys on a level that only Mr. Zurkon and his Zurkon Jr. companion could appreciate.
Most of these weapons come with beautiful particle effects, and all the enemies have unique dance animations. It’s a pretty game. The worlds are diverse, yet familiar, with consistent art direction throughout the game. It’s fun to look at and fun to play. Ratchet and Clank will probably feel short to series veterans and more hardcore players. This is where Challenge Mode comes into play. Challenge Mode ups the difficulty by increasing enemies and the damage they do to our heroes. It also makes the six possible hoverboard races in the game significantly harder.
The final thing Challenge Mode offers helps to expand on the card collection system the game has in place. In various spots on each level, Ratchet (or Clank) can pick up card packs. Matching three cards in a series provides various boosts – more card drops, bolts, or raritanium. Rhyno cards are 9 unique collectibles that will unlock a weapon for use in-game. In Challenge Mode, completed card series for each weapon unlocks the Omega Version of said weapon. Pushing past the standard game mode level of five, Omega increases the limit to 10, while also unlocking new upgrade selections purchasable through raritanium drops. It’s a nice way to add some extra replayability and, indeed, challenge.
If you’ve never played a Ratchet and Clank game (especially for Microsoft fans new to Playstation systems as the series is a Sony-owned IP), this PS4 version is a perfect place to jump in. It’s a fun, lightly humorous mix that works for both adults and children, much as I expect the film to do. Weapons are fun and often funny and it’s a very good-looking title to boot. I highly recommend Ratchet and Clank for everything I’ve shared above and because you can have the game for just $39.99, a very appropriate price point for a well-done remake and reboot, all in one.
Reviewed from a personal copy.
Publisher: Sony | Developer: Insomniac Games | Platforms: PS4 | ESRB: E | Release Date: Available Now | Controls: Gamepad/Controller
The Great Perhaps Review — Perhaps Not
Warning: The article contains discussion on the subject of suicide. If you or someone you love is struggling, The International Association for Suicide Prevention provides contact information for help across the world.
One common piece of advice for budding comedians is to never ‘punch down’. The target of a joke should be someone of a higher status or privilege than the joke teller, rather than a person within a marginalised group, such as the poor, the disabled, or the mentally ill. While this is not a hard and fast rule to comedy success, with shows like South Park using shocking moments to illuminate larger problems within society, without a deft hand, punching down comes across as cruel or offensive. The Great Perhaps, the first title by developer Caligari Games, makes an off-colour joke about suicide in the first five minutes of the game, setting a confused tone for the rest of its three-hour playtime. While this puzzle platformer shows some potential with solid puzzle design and great art direction, its terrible writing taints the entire experience.
The initial foot-in-the-mouth moment happens in the game’s animated prologue. Kosmos is an astronaut in a space station orbiting the earth. During a typical day, his communications with Earth are suddenly cut off, and he sees black smoke spreading across the globe. The station automatically puts him into cryogenic sleep, with instructions to wake him when returning to the surface is safe. Upon awakening, he discovers that over 100 years have passed. Kosmos is in despair, realising that everyone he ever knew or loved is dead, including his wife and children. He asks the ship’s A.I., L9, to vent all the oxygen in the ship, ending his life. She refuses, saying that the task is illogical. He asks again. She tells him to ‘nut up’ and to go explore the Earth. Kosmos reacts in astonishment, not at her cruel words, but at the fact she has developed a sense of humour. Magically cured of his suicidal ideation by her sassy insults, the pair decide to go explore the Earth and see if anyone survived the apocalypse.
Those whose lives have not been touched by suicide may find difficulty understanding why this moment is so offensive. This ‘nut up’ attitude stems from this belief that those suffering are not trying hard enough to get better—that one can just think themselves happy. Men especially suffer due to social pressure on them to not express their feelings, resulting in a suicide rate three times higher than women. Telling a suicidal person to ‘nut up’ would make them more likely to go through with their plans, not laugh. Real treatment takes a lot of hard work with support from both loved ones and mental health professionals.
This monumental lack of understanding permeates the game, although thankfully not as egregiously as the initial example. The flat intonation of Kosmos’s narration initially seems inspired, a man who has stepped back from the precipice of self harm but is still deeply troubled. However, the content of the writing actually shows that he is really cured, despite the monotony of his voice. About half an hour into the journey, he and L9 encounter a man about to jump off a roof, upset that no one likes his writing. He invites Kosmos to jump with him, but Kosmos proclaims he has ‘better things to do’. A callous attitude for a man who, within the last day or so, was in the same position. He manages to help the man by showing that his book will be successful in the future, handily sidestepping any real understanding of how to defuse such a situation. One does not need to be an expert on mental illness to write about the subject, but a modicum of research, understanding, or respect would have gone a long way. The Great Perhaps seems uncertain if it wants to be mysterious or funny. One moment, Kosmos will be lamenting the downfall of humanity; the next, he is riding an ostrich. L9 switches between making jokes and acting like a cold machine. The game is disjointed and lacks the emotional weight to support the story it is trying to tell.
The gameplay of The Great Perhaps fares better than the writing. A two-dimensional sidescroller with light puzzling, akin to Inside or Limbo, the game’s unique hook is the lantern Kosmos finds that lets him briefly travel back in time. The lantern button can be pressed for a glimpse of the past world, then held down to travel into the past for 20 seconds. For the most part, this mechanic works well, using the lantern to get around locked doors, bring objects between the past and the present, travel down a metro tunnel without getting hit by a train, or eaten by mutant rats. However, in some instances, the mechanic can be fiddly. The transition between worlds is fairly slow, so for sections where one has to swap to avoid a danger, the sluggish transition is frustrating. L9 will warn the player of a danger, but she usually warns too late for the player to perform the switch and save themselves. If this shifting function was on a toggle, rather than button press to turn the lantern on then press and hold down the button again to switch worlds, a lot of frustration could be mitigated. The time in the past would also benefit from being a bit longer. Throughout the campaign, several pipe dream-type puzzles appear in the past world, with the player needing to rotate tiles to form a continuous line from point A to point B. Getting kicked out of the puzzle every 20 seconds because of the time change was annoying.
Kosmos has some finicky movement, which is not a problem during the standard object puzzles, but is an issue in the handful of chase sequences dotted through the game. One section is set in a tight apartment building that requires him to push a cart, climb on it, jump to a ladder, jump across the gap, throw rocks to knock down the next ladder, scramble up, and run up two sets of stairs before reaching freedom. An already tricky sequence is made worse by Kosmos constantly getting stuck on objects. The enemy is close behind him for the whole sequence, so the sequence has little room for error. A bit more space between Kosmos and the monster would allow for collision-based delays.
Along with an autosave, The Great Perhaps has a chapter-based system as well. This system can be helpful if the player finds themselves in a soft-lock situation, which happened once during the review playthrough. In one section of the game, Kosmos needs to prevent a bank robbery in the past. A vital object—a large stick of dynamite—managed to phase through the floor and out of existence, making progress impossible. The autosave occurred after the dynamite escaped the confines of the world, so the only option was to load from a chapter. Thankfully, this chapter system was in place, otherwise the whole game would have needed to be started over. Perhaps a ‘reset screen’ option in the pause menu could be a helpful addition to prevent this problem in the future.
The world of The Great Perhaps has a pretty, cartoon aesthetic, with the transition between the past and the present showing a stark difference in how the place has aged. Lots of menacing creatures have emerged since the fall of mankind, with two-headed rats, giant mole-like beasts, an enormous octopus, and a creepy shadowy humanoid all doing their best to bring Kosmos down. Music is similarly well crafted, with a particular highlight being the escape sequence in a collapsing underground city. Kosmos has to assemble a giant robot to escape, and with each piece he completes, the music increases in tempo and adds more instruments to the mix. On the planet’s surface, the music invokes a sad, lonely atmosphere, trying to insert the emotion this game sorely needs.
So much potential is wasted in The Great Perhaps. Puzzle design is solid throughout, but hampered with finicky controls. Art direction is outstanding, but the story that the game is trying to support flounders between ‘funny’ and serious, and is full of clichés. Offensive content notwithstanding, The Great Perhaps is a very run-of-the-mill time travel story delivered in a monotonous tone. Many adjectives could be used to describe this game, but ‘Great’ is certainly not among them.
Reviewed on PC. Also available on Linux and macOS.
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