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Jason Picker
17 Nov, 2009

Ratchet and Clank: A Crack In Time Review

PS3 Review | This game is anything but ratchet.
The Ratchet and Clank series harks back to a time where many platforming games successfully appealed to both kids and adults alike. It was a time before every second lead character had to be a brooding and complicated chap taking themselves far too seriously. A sub-genre of the platformer was the 'buddy' platformer - where two likable and very different cartoon characters would be put together and then sent through a series of pun-filled platforming levels against all manner of wacky enemies. Good times would inevitably follow.

With the release of the latest - and perhaps last - Ratchet and Clank adventure for the PlayStation 3, we are reminded about how few of these games there are now, with its peers either changing tact away from their platforming roots (Banoo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts), or being relegated to handheld spin-offs (Daxter, Jak and Daxter The Lost Frontier). Yet the Ratchet and Clank series has retained its appeal and presence on the current generation of consoles despite the 'maturing' of the game industry. The series has now given birth to eight titles since 2002 (eight and a half if you count the four-hour episode, Quest for Booty). However, the latest instalment, A Crack in Time could also be the last for the series, so it was with both excitement and sadness that we loaded up the disc.

For the uninitiated A Crack in Time is the third and final game in what is known overseas as the “Future” trilogy. The story has the two main characters out on their own, with Ratchet continuing his search for Clank and discovering the truth about his parents, while facing off against his nemesis - the hilariously overzealous Doctor Nefarious. After being 'kidnapped' by the Zoni, Clank needs to escape from the evil doctor and find out what he was built for. Ratchet’s levels are more or less what we’ve come to expect from a Ratchet and Clank game since its debut – high action, a mix of open internal areas to explore, and the odd puzzle thrown in for good measure. As in other games in the series, these levels take place on different planets in the universe, each one taking our furry hero closer to the truth. Playing as Ratchet is where the game really shines as you move seamlessly from grinding on a rail, to shooting a horde of enemies, to hurtling over a gap in your hoverboots.

They made a mistake by burying Cujo in the Pet Semetary.

They made a mistake by burying Cujo in the Pet Semetary.
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Ah yes, the hoverboots – quite possibly the best addition to the series since... well, ever. The hoverboots are multi-functional – not only can they get you around the levels quickly, but they are also instrumental in a range of areas where you need to get to otherwise unreachable parts of a level. From great heights, the hoverboots also allow you to glide to safety. While you can’t use the boots and a weapon at the same time (which would have added the potential for dollops of awesome), the boots are a terrific way to get around and they generally feel fast and balanced to use.

Ratchet again has an eclectic range of multi-purpose weaponry at his disposal, all of which will upgrade as you use them. With around 16 weapons to use, we’re not sure where he puts them all, but the weapons remain as weird and wonderfully destructive as ever. Do you want to use a mutated creature-gun that belches damaging sonic waves? You got it. How about a weapon which throws out a large ball of energy you can roll at your enemies with a tilt of the controller? Sure! How about a disco-ball that is thrown in the air to make your enemies dance in uncontrollably hilarious ways. Here it is then! While not all the weapons are particularly useful or fun to use, the upgrading system ensures that you’ll experiment with most of them to get them up to their maximum potential in preparation for the boss battles that require a lot of ammo from a lot of different weapons. Even the three stock weapons in the game – the bomb glove, the pistol and the shotgun, can also be modified based on upgrades you can find hidden around. It’s not a Borderlands level of modification, but it’s a nice addition none-the-less. A special mention must also go out to Mr Zurkon, a mini-robot weapon who floats along with you and kills your enemies while trash talking them (“Mr Zurkon does NOT come in peace”, “Mr Zurkon lives on fear”.). Should you die in combat with Mr Zurkon equipped, he will also trash talk you (“Mr Zurkon is so ashamed…”). Humour is definitely A Crack in Time’s strong point, and this is only enhanced with large roles for series' favourites, the bumbling Captain Quark and the evil Doctor Nefarious.

Ratchet never again questioned how he could carry 16 weapons at once after "Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal".

Ratchet never again questioned how he could carry 16 weapons at once after "Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal".
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In many of the previous games, the weak point was often the Clank-specific levels which tended to rely heavily on jumping puzzles. Thankfully, the little metal man is treated to more interesting scenarios thanks to the new time abilities. All of Clank’s levels take place in an area called the Great Clock, a device which stabalises the time continuum of the universe… or something. While there are still jumping sections where Clank uses his heli-jump to reach high platforms and 'time bombs' to slow certain platforms and spinning wheels, it's the room-based time puzzles that are the main attraction. Each of these rooms has up to four 'time pods' to help open the exit from the room. The time pods allow you to 'record' various versions of Clank to press switches that open up the way to other switches, raise columns and basically get you out. So, for example, if you want to open a door but need someone on the switch that operates it, you would record a version of Clank to stand on that button while present Clank walks through it. It probably sounds a little more confusing here than it actually is when you play it, but be assured that the puzzles are quite intuitive and add a layer of challenge and interest that was lacking for Clank in the past.

Not only are there separate levels for the main characters, but this time around there are also large areas areas between the planets that Ratchet can access in his spaceship. In these areas, you can battle Doctor Nefarious’s minions, do side missions for various people, or you can explore various moons to find and collect Zoni (which upgrade your ship), gold bolts (which are more valuable versions of the bolt currency used in the game) and weapon upgrades. However, you can ignore these space areas altogether if you so wish and travel directly to the next planet. While exploring these areas is fun, the space sections as a whole feel like filler to extend the length of the game, and it seems a bit of a sloppy attempt to give the game more of a trendy open world feel. These sections are also a tad jarring. Not only do you swap between the Clank and Ratchet levels, now you also have space-based areas. While variety might be the spice of life, the space combat and moon exploration doesn't quite work.

Skynet soon realised their Terminator prototype would need some work.

Skynet soon realised their Terminator prototype would need some work.
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The battle arena – a feature of some of the previous games in the series – makes a welcome return in A Crack in Time. These battles are purely for fun and prizes; during them you will need to survive all manner of enemies and win conditions in a true test of your skill. For example, you might have to kill all the enemies while a toxic gas slowly drains your life, or to defeat every enemy without being hit once. It’s a great way to earn some extra bolts and upgrade your weapons at the same time. For our money, we wanted more arena championships and less space exploration.

Another minor complaint we have that has been present since the first game is the camera, which sometimes focuses on the wrong thing or isn’t particularly responsive. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it’s certainly a bit of a nuisance and something the series has had ample time to get right. The level of environmental interaction could also have been improved. While the environments are rather pretty and colourful, they are also largely static besides the odd breakable light-pole or plant. This becomes particularly obvious when one type of plant can be destroyed for additional bolts, but a similar one cannot (and let's not go into why there are bolts inside of plants in the first place). Our final quibble is with bolts themselves. In A Crack in Time, there wasn't a single point in the game where we didn't have far too many bolts to buy every new weapon and upgraded armour available. At the end of the game, we had 200,000 bolts too many and had purchased everything. In past Ratchet and Clank games, you never seemed to have quite enough money which drove your desire to take part in the battle arena or to go exploring for gold bolts. That need is greatly reduced here, and it takes away some of the challenge of the game as a whole.

All-in-all, A Crack in Time is a ridiculously cute and likable game with a load of energy and fun gameplay, despite the odd frustration that is intrinsic in the platforming genre, such as falling to your death every ten minutes. At the same time, there is a also pretty deep and evolving story, some frenetic action, challenging puzzles, and some RPG elements to keep things interesting. But truth be told, we are actually hoping that this will be the last game in the series. After all, nine games over seven years is quite a lot, and the gameplay is starting to feel a tad repetitive despite the odd new addition to the gameplay. If this is indeed the last Ratchet and Clank game, we salute you Insomnia on a great series. Thanks for the good times and for reminding us that a great game that adults can enjoy doesn't necessarily have to star a gruff and bloodthirsty lead character out for revenge.
The Score
With a few good additions to the solid gameplay, and ignoring the one not-so-good space combat addition, A Crack in Time is a great conclusion to a great trilogy - and possibly the series. So saddle up folks for another pun-filled adventure with everyone’s favourite furball and his pint-sized companion and leave your cynicism at the door. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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7 Comments
Great review, but I disagree re the space sections: I thought they were great. The various smaller planets added extra platforming elements which is always good. The shooting elements in space were nothing to write home about really, but the planets were great. Not challenging in any way, however. The space sections in ToD were very hit and miss, so I'm personally glad they bulked it up. Yeah, it artificially gives you the sense that the game is bigger than it really is, but I don't really see the harm in that.
4 years ago
I'll probably pick this up at some point. I've still got Tools of Destruction sitting here unplayed.
4 years ago
Ego - it really was a minor complaint though. The space sections mainly stand out because the rest of the game is so polished. These sections also hurt the pacing of the game and at the end of the day, they don't really add much to the experience. The moon exploration is decent, but a tad repetitive. But yeah, it's really a minor issue.
4 years ago
Great review.

Got to say, I'm enjoying this R&C game a little more than I did ToD and QfB. I thought ToD and QfB were both very good and very polished, but the combat was a little too easy. QfB took me more than 4 hours though, and like all R&C games I ended up playing through it twice (to upgrade all the weapons to max).

I'm about 12 hours into it and just got the vortex 5000. Got to say, it's my favorite weapon yet. I'm not even sure if it's upgradable. I hope it is though, as 3 shots aren't enough (especially with normal ammo crates not dropping ammo for it).

The space combat is a little slow, but it's still miles ahead of what was in previous games (as are the Clank sections).
4 years ago
I was slightly disappointed in this game, I won't lie. It is a great game in itself, with excellent polish but for me it doesn't even approach the PS2 games.

It has all the features of previous games (there isn't one thing in this title that hasn't be implemented in one way or another before in the series) while removing some of the fantastic level design. It was really the design of the levels that got to me because they just left me disappointed.

Yes, this game is great and deserves the scores it has been receiving over the range of sites but for me it disappointed on nearly all levels. Strangely, I seem to stand alone with my opinion.
Jason Picker wrote
Ego - it really was a minor complaint though. The space sections mainly stand out because the rest of the game is so polished. These sections also hurt the pacing of the game and at the end of the day, they don't really add much to the experience. The moon exploration is decent, but a tad repetitive. But yeah, it's really a minor issue.
Yeah, I guess it you look at it in terms of pacing, it did break away from the main action a bit much. I find this to be the same with a lot of sidequests and what have you. Thankfully the planets weren't too time consuming. Upon reflection, I think some of the planets could've done with a bit more variety, but I still find them all enjoyable enough to finish.

The shooting sections were vastly improved over the original, but they didn't have a great deal of variety. It was still 'trigger', shoot guys, take out satellite (or whatever it was). The planets were definitely the stronger part of the space section.
3 years ago
Skynet soon realised their Terminator prototype would need some work.

LMFAO thats a pearler mate
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  4/11/2009 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $109.95 AU
Publisher:
  Sony Computer Entertainment
Genre:
  Action Adventure
Year Made:
  2009
Players:
  1

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