During the late ’90s, when I had a ravenous hunger for 3-D platformers, I whetted my appetite with Insomniac’s “Spyro the Dragon" trilogy. Several shoddy entries eventually corrupted the series during its transition to the PlayStation 2 era, and I mourned the loss. Unbeknownst to me, the lighthearted, charming soul of “Spyro" was transplanted into the “Ratchet & Clank" series. I missed these games during their heyday, but playing the high-definition “Ratchet & Clank Collection" felt like reuniting with an old friend.
The furry protagonist Ratchet and his tiny robotic friend, Clank, are tasked with saving the galaxy across all three titles. During the adventures they interact with colorful characters like a narcissistic, cowardly superhero and an evil, robotic Britney Spears lookalike. The goofy tone and characters call to mind Pixar’s films. I found myself chuckling at bits like an intergalactic mercenary offering a pizza party for Ratchet’s capture.
The “Ratchet & Clank" games were gorgeous for their time, and this HD collection updates their beauty. Each level begins with a stunning, lay-of-the-land view of the bustling location you’re about to explore. Ratchet visits crisp, colorful locales like tropical jungles, sprawling desert dunes and even a Hollywood-like film studio planet. The character models and facial animations haven’t aged as well, but the in-engine cinematics are too few to mar the overall look.
The gameplay of each title is a well-portioned mix of platforming, shooting and various minigames. The series is filled with fun acrobatics like swinging across vast chasms, wall jumping, and using gravity boots to walk down the sides of buildings. One of my favorite situations involves exploring a small, “Mario Galaxy"-style planet and arranging laser arrays to power a satellite. The hacking minigames sprinkled throughout the series become repetitive and annoying, but never last too long.
Insomniac’s trademark weaponry is on full display throughout the collection, including crazy guns that blast lava, transform enemies into sheep, and create matter-consuming black holes. The latter two “Ratchet" games include an automatic upgrade system that rewards you with weapon enhancements for simply using them.
Receiving automatic enhancements like increased ammo capacity or a larger explosive radius entices players to experiment with all the weapons.
The third game, “Up Your Arsenal," is the best of the PS2 era thanks to a control scheme that allows for precise moving while shooting. Developer Idol Minds also resurrected the online multiplayer servers, a rarity in these HD collections. In Siege mode, two teams of four compete to destroy the other’s base. Blasting human-controlled enemies isn’t as entertaining as taking on the campaign’s hordes of varied foes, but it’s a fun distraction.
Idol Minds did a wonderful job sprucing up Insomniac’s celebrated action-platforming series. It rarely occurred to me while playing that these are gussied-up versions of last-gen games. Few modern games boast such strong levels of writing, pacing and gameplay. Whether you’re a “Ratchet" enthusiast or a series newcomer, this collection is a ton of fun.
‘Ratchet & Clank Collection’
9.25 (out of 10)
Sony, Idol Minds
ESRB rating: E for Everyone