Well, its over, the slump is over for our endearing heroes and Ratchet & Clank are ready to reclaim their rightful place as a prominent Playstation series. After the good but not great All 4 One and the head scratchingly subpar Full Frontal Assault, Insomnica games has gone back to the basics and crafted a fine finale for the Future series that was started way back in 2007. While it is certainly not of the same quality of 2009’s A Crack in Time–arguably the best game in the series–it is the best Ratchet & Clank game since and is well worth both your time and money.
The game begins with our heroes escorting the villainous Vendra Prog to prison, though I’m sure you’ve guess by now that things don’t quite work out so nicely. Her twin brother Neftin and his Thugs-4-Less attack their ship and liberate Vendra, leaving them for dead. After surviving the crash, the two pursue Vendra and her brother to prevent them from opening a gate to the Nether using the Dimensionator. While the plot isn’t particularly strong, it touches on much of what made the Future series so successful. Ratchet is continually reminded of his failures to find the Lombaxes, and his heroec are questioned by Prog who calls him a coward for giving up on his search. Meanwhile, Prog is simply trying to do what Ratchet never could, reunite with her people. She as a villain is much like the plot, not very strong, but its easy to empathize with her. Clank plays a much smaller role in the story compared to A Crack in Time, but his chemistry with Ratchet is still very strong and leads to a few touching moments toward the end of the game. Other characters like Captain Qwark, the plumber, and a few others make brief appearances but don’t play a part in the overall story. It is important to note, however, how well these characters are played. This far into the series, the characters sound just like you’d expect, and that is a very good thing. It’s like watching a long running cartoon, you come to have certain expectations, and sometimes people get so used to quality acting that you ignore it. Well, once again the cast delivers a strong, often very funny, sometimes emotional performance.
The game isn’t quite as long as other entries, longer than Quest for Booty but much shorter than Tools of Destruction and A Crack in Time. The 5-7 hour experience comes with a favorable price tag of $29.99 and when you include collectables, upgrades, and challenge mode, you can easily invest a dozen more hours into the game after the first playthrough. This budget friendly design proved to suit the series well with there being enough content to feel like I was getting my money’s worth, but was still short enough that I felt like I was making a lot of meaningful progress even in shorter sessions. No fluff, no nonsense…well, none of the bad kind.
Of course, being a Ratchet and Clank game, expectations are set particularly high for weapons. Into the Nexus doesn’t have as much on offer as previous titles but it is still a satisfying selection, if not a bit tame. You have your classics like the bomb glove, the ripper, and my personal favorite, Mr. Zurkon. These weapons can be purchased for bolts, leveled up with use, and upgraded with Raritanium. Just as I thought I was happy with just one Zurkon, each level brought a new member of the family, Zurkon Jr. and Mrs. Zurkon respectively, each with their own hilarious one liners. a few of the weapons feel very been there, done that, while others that would normally look fun are boring to use, like the Nightmare Box.
Clank gets another dedicated puzzle mini-game in which he enters Nether portals. You navigate these zones by changing Clank’s perspective to the world, allowing him to change gravity to walk on walls and ceilings, as well as forcing the movement of objects in the environment. At the end of each zone is a Nether monster, and of course you get to punch it. Your goal is to force the monster to follow you through the portal from which you entered. These mini-games are placed along your path to break up combat segments and other puzzles. This is about as noteworthy as the puzzles in Into the Nexus get since the others are your everyday environment navigation puzzles.
The Ratchet & Clank series has never been one to push the boundaries of what the Playstation 3 is capable of, but Into the Nexus is still a very pretty game. Colors pop and you can make out the fur on Ratchet, even when a game like Madden needs next gen hardware to make individual blades of grass. The worlds are each unique and well styled making them fun to explore and return to so you can claim the gold bolts and such hiding within. It can’t hold a candle to heavy hitters like Beyond and The Last of Us, but none of those games can hold a candle to the styling of Into the Nexus.
It is good to finally see a good Ratchet and Clank game again. The last two releases brought on a lot of questions about both the future of the franchise and Insomniac’s potential involvement. Nothing thrills me more than seeing that Insomniac is still committed to bringing out quality Ratchet & Clank games, even while they are developing and exclusive for Xbox One. I know that developers don’t hold the childish loyalties to platforms like many of us do, but it’s still a relief. Here’s hoping Ratchet & Clank make a jump to next gen that’s at least as good as this entry.