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Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time review

Excellent
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AT A GLANCE
  • A script that'll make you laugh
  • Freedom to explore outer space
  • Intelligent, well-made puzzles
  • Trying to solve time puzzles can frustrate
  • Won't convert the uninitiated
  • Doesn't add a whole lot of new weapons

For the first time in their career as saviors of the universe, Ratchet and Clank have been separated. But the time apart has done them good. This is Insomniac’s most confident game to date, bursting with flair and imagination. By dividing the duo they’ve been able to create two boldly different games in one – a free-roaming space adventure and a brilliantly designed time-bending puzzler. But at the same time, they’ve kept intact the elements that made the series so popular in the first place; namely the humor, the platforming and the outlandish weaponry. Tools of Destruction was near-identical to its PS2 predecessors in terms of structure and gameplay, but A Crack in Time feels like a new experience.

For a quick story recap, check out our video:

 

Central to the new game is the Great Clock, a device built in the exact centre of the universe, designed to control the space time continuum. We learn that Clank’s late father originally built it, so he ends up becoming its caretaker. Not only has Clank been liberated from Ratchet’s back as his sidekick, but his role in the story has become much greater. Guided by friendly robot Sigmund (the junior caretaker), Clank’s sections see you traversing the giant whirring gears of the Great Clock and learning how it works. And this is where A Crack in Time’s puzzle elements come in.

By activating ‘time pads’ you can record yourself for up to a minute. This copy can then be played back independently of itself while you do something else. The simplest example of this is opening a door that’s unlocked by standing on a pressure sensitive switch. You record yourself wandering over to the switch and standing on it, then play it back while your actual self runs through the door. All controls are accessed on the time pad. This brings up a circular menu with options to record, delete a recording, or even skip the puzzle entirely at a cost of several thousand bolts. There are also, mercifully, hints for each one too.

Now, imagine this but with the multi-level complexity of a Portal puzzle. Later levels have you orchestrating four or five copies of yourself, all of which have to be perfectly synchronised. And the satisfaction of completing one is compounded by the shower of bolts you receive – Ratchet & Clank’s ever-present currency, which is spent on buying new armour and weapons, and upgrades.

Clank, however, only has one weapon: the Time Scepter. With this he can kill small enemies, but more importantly fire a ‘time bubble’ that slows down anything that falls inside it. For example, if a platform is spinning rapidly and you can’t jump on it, slow it down and leap across before the time bubble bursts. When it’s about to disintegrate you hear an alarm ringing. You can also repair things on the Great Clock with the scepter, like cracked screens or burst pipes. All you have to do is whack them.

Clank’s final job as caretaker is repairing time anomalies that have started appearing on planets across the universe. This comes in the form of a shoot-‘em-up minigame that sees you blasting the anomalies on a 3D spinning globe with a laser while fending off enemies that are trying to repair them at the same time. It’s a fun distraction, but also serves a greater purpose – it lets Ratchet access things he previously couldn’t while on his space travels.

Here’s a sampling of some of the gameplay we’ve been talking about:

 

Which leads us nicely on to the other half of the game: Ratchet and Captain Qwark’s continuing search for Clank in the depths of space. Unlike previous games that saw you selecting levels from a menu, A Crack in Time lets you explore the cosmos in real-time in Ratchet’s ship, Aphelion. Aside from the main story, each star system is absolutely packed with things to do. You can ‘hail’ other pilots, some of whom offer side-missions, like protecting them from space pirates, and there are special moons dotted around which offer the most interesting challenge.

Fly over to a moon and land on it. There isn’t any loading pause or transition; Ratchet lands in real-time and exits Aphelion, beginning the level instantly. Each moon offers a different platforming challenge, some of which are brilliantly challenging, and reward you with Zoni, creatures you can use to upgrade your ship. This is all entirely optional, although sometimes you’re forced to upgrade – for instance, unlocking an afterburner so you can boost your way past barriers preventing you from landing on planets essential to story progression.

When you land on a planet, the game becomes a lot more familiar. The incredible vistas that define the series are more glorious than ever, and the linear platforming and action is tightly-designed as always. An early level sees you entering a vast, beautiful city populated by robots. Here you repair some broken machinery for the ‘bots to gain access to Krell Canyon, where you meet the game’s newest hero, Azimuth. He’s the mysterious older Lombax you saw in the trailers and is an old friend of Clank’s father, and you both team up to hunt down Clank and the Great Clock to prevent villain, Dr Nefarious, from taking advantage of its immense power.

New gadgets on offer include a pair of hover boots that let Ratchet speed around the level and float for short periods of time. Weaponry-wise, the Constructo Glove and Constructo Shotgun are the newest additions to Ratchet’s arsenal. To begin with they function as a basic blaster and bomb launcher, but additional bits can be tacked on to improve their functionality, like rapid fire or timed explosives. More ‘traditional’ weapons include the Chimp-o-Matic (which turns enemies into, er, chimps) and the Plasma Striker, the ammo for which automatically homes in on an enemy’s weak spot when fired.

But, surprisingly, the weapons aren’t A Crack in Time’s biggest draw, despite it being the focus of every other game in the series. This is the most varied Ratchet & Clank game to date, and none of it feels half-baked or tacked-on. Even the optional side-missions that you pick up in space are well-designed. But Clank is the real star of the show. The time-recording feature is exceptionally polished, and much more entertaining and unique to tackle than any of Ratchet’s absurd new weapons.

Insomniac have elevated the series to a new high; the script has never been funnier, the level design is at its most challenging and entertaining and the sheer variety of stuff to do and see is overwhelming. With characters you actually care about, a fantastic story to lose yourself in and a vast and unfathomable galaxy to explore, filled with secrets and mystery, there’s no reason you shouldn’t play A Crack in Time. But if you never liked the series before, this won’t change your mind – despite the structural changes, it’s still a Ratchet & Clank game at heart. Which, for the rest of us, is exactly what we hoped it would be. Roll on Ratchet 10.

Oct 27, 2009

More Info

Release date: Oct 27 2009 - PS3 (US)
Oct 30 2009 - PS3 (UK)
Available Platforms: PS3
Genre: Action
Published by: SCEA
Developed by: Insomniac
Franchise: Ratchet and Clank
ESRB Rating:
Everyone 10+: Animated Blood, Comic Mischief, Fantasy Violence
PEGI Rating:
7+

We Recommend

11 comments

  • byakyugan - November 8, 2009 6:10 p.m.

    I loved this game. It felt a little too short, but it was still amazing. By the way, Azimuth was an old friend of Ratchet's dad, not Clank's.
  • CAPST3R - October 30, 2009 10:50 p.m.

    i've always liked this series (R&C was my 1st game) but ToD really wasn't that good. it was just felt wrong. i won't buy this, which is a shame, but if it's missing what ToD was, it won't be a bad choice. and this isn't the 1st time they have been split up, there's small parts in every R&C game, plus ratchet gladiator.
  • pac10duckman - October 30, 2009 1:56 p.m.

    I hope this one has the crude humor that the first ones had. made the game better.
  • crumbdunky - October 28, 2009 2:22 p.m.

    R&C games are a must to pre order for me and have been dince the very first one. The most consistent series in gaming by a mile and vastly underrated. Hated on by the ignorant for being "kiddy" when they're just genious family entertainment that woprks on a million levels-like, say, the Simpsons does. Great artstyle, gfx, acting, script, comendy, platforming, shooting, amazing weapons and some of the best rounded chars in gaming. What's not to love about Insomniac's wee gem of a series? I know this is mooted as the last game, and if so I'll be very damn sad about that, but even if it's so they've iven us a shedload of quality with very few lowpoints and some of the best ads ever back in the day. I REALLY can't praise these games enough and don't get why more people arenm't like a five year old on Xmas eve the day before release! Good review too GR-lately you really have started to be one of the more reliable sites(as I've played this great game already and a 9 or 9.3 is a fair score)-fans won't be disappointed and newcomers should hive it a chance
  • hardcore_gamer1990 - October 28, 2009 11:55 a.m.

    OMG OMG OMG! R&C 4ever :)
  • Conman93 - October 28, 2009 1:39 a.m.

    Been waiting for this review for ages. This is the only game I want at christmas ( this and spirit tracks) Great review. Cant wait!!
  • GAYMER - October 27, 2009 10:01 p.m.

    I bought this game a little over a week ago at Bestbuy. Did they have some kind of exclusive deal with Sony to get the game early? Or did the employs put it out early by acident?
  • garnsr - October 27, 2009 8:02 p.m.

    I've loved every one of these games, and have been anxiously awaiting this one. The only knock I've heard against this is that it doesn't so a whole not new or different, but it's always done a great job of platforming and shooting, which you can't really find much anywhere else. The PS3 continues to be the place to get the awesome this holiday season. Can't wait till my copy arrives.
  • Cyberninja - October 27, 2009 8:01 p.m.

    this should be a super review with a 10
  • CreeplyTuna - October 27, 2009 7:39 p.m.

    will get this...if i get a ps3
  • Frexerik - October 27, 2009 6:34 p.m.

    Great review, im gonna have to get this game at some point!

Showing 1-11 of 11 comments

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