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RATCHET AND CLANK: A Crack In Time (Game Review)

February 20, 2010 | | 3 Comments Share thison Facebook RATCHET AND CLANK: A Crack In Time (Game Review)on Twitter

Few series have been as consistently good with as loyal a fan base as the Ratchet and Clank series.  Apart from the solid gameplay and extremely polished presentation, Ratchet and Clank features a sense of style, charm, and humor mostly thanks to its colorful cast.

A Crack In Time is the third installment in this particular trilogy in the Ratchet and Clank universe.  Picking up shortly after the events of Quest for Booty, a PlayStation Network downloadable title (the second in the series), A Crack In Time finds Ratchet, a “lombax,” still searching desperately for his robotic companion, Clank.

So, how does this the final chapter in the trilogy pan out?  Is it more of the same?  Better? (GULP) Worse?!  Click the jump for more…!

In short, to say that A Crack In Time is an upgrade over its previous outings is a massive understatement.

The previous installment, Quest for Booty, was essentially more of the same of PlayStation 3’s first Ratchet and Clank game, Future Tools of Destruction.  Unfortunately, a lot of the more annoying aspects of the first game (inconvenient/oddly placed checkpoints, for instance) were not refined in the second installment.

At a casual glance, the upgrades to the gameplay may seem incremental.  The graphics are only slightly refined and the game initially feels like more of the same.  This isn’t a bad thing in and of itself as – like I said – the series is quite popular and fans of the loveable duo will be thrilled with this game.  For more casual fans of the series (like myself), this proposition is less exciting.  However, the more I played the more I realized that the upgrades are incredibly significant.

One particular element that was frustrating in the first and second installments and is improved here is the use of the wrench – which fans of the series will attest is a major part of the gameplay.  Previously, to get the wrench to pull down platforms from afar was most difficult to do without swinging the wrench first.  This became a problem on very tight platforming challenges because swinging the wrench meant lunging a bit too far forward, sometimes resulting in plummeting to a watery grave.  Couple this with a shoddy checkpoint system and you are in for a wildly frustrating ride.  Thankfully, this has been greatly reduced in the third installment by creating graphical indicators as to when to use the skill as well as being more consistent and reliable – no longer is “aiming” where to use the wrench nearly an issue like it was previously.  Checkpoints also seem to come more frequently and at more opportune locations.  This change, though seemingly a minor adjustment, adds up very quickly to a far more enjoyable experience, particular in a platformer where jumps and timing are so critical.

The space travel sequences have also improved immensely.  Replacing the all-over-the-place space battles with a more on-rails shooter kind of approach, A Crack In Time made traveling more appropriate to the kind of series Ratchet and Clank is.  Visiting several planets takes much less time and there are great incentives to explore them.  Also, weapons and health are upgraded at a very consistent and agreeable pace.  My favorite new weapon is essentially a belching alien at the end of a gun that shoots time-based sonic booms.  Never gets old and a fun mini game to boot!

Though some of the humor is a little forced, there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments consistent and shining with all the great moments of the series.  The enemies are over-the-top, loveable, scary, and stupid all at once adding to the charm of the leading characters.

But, we know why you’re here….. The music!

The previous trilogy installments’ music and themes were both composed by David Bergeaud and were quite good.  The main theme was an homage to all things pirate.  It had a Pirates of the Caribbean-like zest and theme and was varied masterfully throughout.  This time, Resistance 2 composer Boris Salchow has taken the reins and changed the feel of the series dramatically.  Instead of a swashbuckling and rope swinging-like adventure, Salchow opted for a much heavier dose of science fiction and space travel.  Replacing the heavier percussion and brass-like sounds with more winds and slightly lighter orchestration, A Crack In Time’s soundtrack is one that grew on me more and more the longer I played.  It is extremely competent and, as fans will attest, the games are all bathed in music so this is quite important.  I look forward to more of Salchow’s contributions to the video game annals.

THE VERDICT

Ratchet and Clank: A Crack In Time is an excellent game.  Fans of the series will be thrilled.  Newcomers may feel a slightly higher entry barrier in that this is the third part of a trilogy.  Though there aren’t a plethora of inside jokes and the story isn’t exactly a Hideo Kojima/Tom Clancy story in terms of complexity or history, players may want to brush up on the relationship between the Lombax and Robot.  Those who have a passing interest in the series but found some of the previous installments either frustrating or lacking pizzazz should certainly give this latest chapter a look as the improvements to the gameplay are enough to change one’s mind on the series.

SCORE: 9/10

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