A crack in time header

Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time was a game that passed me by at time of release. It came only two years after the release of its pre­de­ces­sor, Tools of Destruction, and I’m ashamed I didn’t man­age to pick this up at the time. I only got around to play­ing it a few months ago when the idea of this ret­ro­spec­tive first occurred, and it is — quite frankly — an excel­lent game.

Right from the open­ing it’s clear we’re see­ing a more expan­sive approach. The game uses a mix of in-engine and CGI cut sce­nes, and unlike many games the­se gel togeth­er quite well. It’s obvi­ous the engine, and PS3 hard­ware, couldn’t give them the close-up detail and ani­ma­tion qual­i­ty they want­ed, but there isn’t too much of an unfea­si­ble jump in qual­i­ty or a miss-match of tone when mov­ing from CGI to real-time ren­der­ing. This helps with the more fleshed out and con­tin­u­ous sto­ry lead­ing on direct­ly from the events of the oth­er Future series games Tools of Destruction and Quest for Booty.

It’s an odd kind of Ratchet & Clank game, because whilst it does fea­ture both char­ac­ters with rel­a­tive­ly equal weight, they spend most of the game sep­a­rat­ed from each oth­er. It’s like play­ing a Ratchet game and a Clank game, but the fact that they don’t feel dis­joint­ed is a tes­ta­ment to the strength of the sto­ry and the uni­verse build­ing. Both inter­wo­ven sto­ries fea­ture promi­nent and well writ­ten new char­ac­ters in the form of Zoni sci­en­tist Orvus and Alister Azimuth; both of which are father fig­ures to each of the respec­tive heroes. This give the plot an extra lay­er of depth as this game deals heav­i­ly with themes of friend­ship, belong­ing, and in deal­ing with respon­si­bil­i­ty and your place in the uni­verse.

a crack in time insert 1
Th Great Clock

The tight­ness of the both the mechan­ics, and the char­ac­ters and sto­ry in this game reminds me most of Up Your Arsenal, due in no small part to the well imple­ment­ed return of Dr. Nefarious as the main antag­o­nist. Everyone is scram­bling for con­trol of “The Great Clock,” a giant struc­ture that is meant to sta­bi­lize time, but can also manip­u­late it. Azimuth, Nefarious, and Ratchet all want to find the clock for their own ends, but Clank is intrin­si­cal­ly tied up in its fate as its new care­tak­er.

The Ratchet sec­tions of the game play much like any oth­er Ratchet & Clank game, but the Clank sec­tions deal with var­i­ous puz­zles and mini-games relat­ed to the oper­a­tion, as well as nav­i­ga­tion of the Great Clock. The tem­po­ral record­ing based puz­zles are very visu­al­ly and mechan­i­cal­ly enjoy­able (a rare thing for video game puz­zles), and they do a great job of cre­at­ing com­pelling mechan­ics out of time manip­u­la­tion.

The game is infused with this the­me of time; from the clock-like appear­ance of the gears and sprock­ets that act as the col­lec­table bolts, to the time anom­alies Ratchet and Clank both encoun­ter, to even the design of he Great Clock itself. The game is very well designed and graph­i­cal­ly very pleas­ing to look at. It hasn’t been over­done with effects, so its fram­er­ate doesn’t bust, but the look of the game has enhanced from pre­vi­ous iter­a­tions still.

The game has strong visu­al themes, and the­se are matched by an equal­ly strong musi­cal score. Composed this time by the tal­ent­ed Boris Salchow, it fits the more emo­tive and epic scope of the sto­ry and uni­verse. The main the­me of the game re-appears and threads in and out of all kinds of places, and comes in giv­ing cru­cial moments a well need­ed musi­cal sting. All in all, it feels like a well-made and quite clev­er fam­i­ly movie in terms of its sto­ry, score, and cut-scenes.

This time around the Gadgets and mechan­ics have a lot of good stuff on show; Clank’s Chronoscepter allows him to throw time-bombs that cre­ate a bub­ble of slowed down time. This can be done to aid with com­bat, or solve puz­zles. The main addi­tion for Ratchet this time are the Hoverboots which allow Ratchet to tra­verse small cours­es with­in lev­els, as well as give a small amount of glide to aid plat­form­ing. They are a halfway-house between a vehi­cle and a Gadget, and provide much need­ed vari­ety with­in lev­els. New as well is the OmniSoaker, a gad­get used to move liq­uids some­what like the Hydrodisplacer in the orig­i­nal game. The OmniSoaker can spray liq­uids on use­ful loca­tions to grow plants and form plat­forms.

a crack in time insert 3
Dr. Nefarious and Lawrence

A Crack in Time has a more stream­lined weapon sys­tem in this install­ment, and it does away with the devices sys­tem. But it does keep the best of them as weapons — like the Groovitron Glove and Mr. Zurkon. This time they includ­ed lit­tle ani­mat­ed expla­na­tion videos for each weapon that are both use­ful and charm­ing. They just ooze per­son­al­i­ty.

Once again Insomniac puts cre­ative and fun weapons cen­tre stage. For instance, when you hold down fire with the RYNO V, it plays the finale of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture — a ref­er­ence to the can­non fire fea­tured in the piece. You wouldn’t get weapons like the Sonic Eruptor, a weapon made of a giant belch­ing frog/slug crea­ture which is more pow­er­ful when its cheeks are puffed up, in any oth­er game.

The more basic weapons also have a twist this time; gone is the pas­sive upgrade grid of the pre­vi­ous game, and in its place we have three Constructo weapons. As the game pro­gress­es, you can pick up Constructo parts to aug­ment and alter each of the weapons to your taste. For exam­ple the Constructo Shotgun has a series of dif­fer­ent chokes that can be used to alter spread, and the Constructo Pistol has burst-fire and dif­fer­ent bul­let types. These weapons can also be given cus­tom colour schemes to suit your pref­er­ence.

Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time also com­plete­ly revamps the way space is used in the game. The space sec­tions func­tion less as com­bat zones and more as an over world between mis­sions and side quests. You move from sys­tem to sys­tem, and plan­et to plan­et, in a log­i­cal and sat­is­fy­ing way, and it real­ly helps increase the sense of galac­tic adven­ture at play with­out reduc­ing your ship-time to fran­tic com­bat sec­tions that nev­er real­ly worked in the pre­vi­ous games in the first place.

The option­al plan­ets them­selves vary from plat­form­ing, to hover-boot cours­es, “kill all the things” mis­sions or “locate the thing” mis­sions, all with a healthy sup­ply of Zoni and gold Bolts to col­lect. The Zoni allow you to upgrade your ship, and includes upgrades like the ship teth­er and enhanced thrusters that are required for you to reach cer­tain main sto­ry plan­ets. As Zoni appear on most reg­u­lar plan­ets exces­sive grind­ing isn’t required in this title either. The option­al mis­sions are not as slick as the main game, but they are still enjoy­able. As is the bat­tle are­na for this game, “The Argonian Battleplex.” This is the type of are­na com­bat we are used to by now in the series, but with a nice lit­tle bit of sto­ry arc involv­ing Quark.

a crack in time insert 2
Alister Azimuth

Also return­ing in A Crack in Time, for the first time since Up Your Arsenal, is the Insomniac Museum in its most expan­sive iter­a­tion to date. To access the muse­um you need to com­plete the game, includ­ing an extra boss, and have col­lect­ed all 40 Zoni. This unlocks the Insomniac Moon that you can access at any time. The muse­um even fea­tures a very well-produced and charm­ing behind the sce­nes video from the devel­op­ers, as well as the usu­al crop of con­cept art and assets that were cut from the game. There is a lot to explore here, includ­ing an unused time puz­zle, a cut hov­er­boot rac­ing mode, and a pro­to­type pro­ce­du­ral­ly gen­er­at­ed plat­form­ing puz­zle.

Above all, A Crack in Time retained the Ratchet & Clank series’ com­mit­ment to free skins, col­lec­tables, and an effort to not only cre­ate a great and com­plete game, but for the devel­op­ers to share their love of gam­ing and some of their design process to boot. This com­mit­ment goes above and beyond most oth­er devel­op­ers, and makes the game shine.

You can hard­ly get a free alter­nate skin out of devel­op­ers and pub­lish­ers the­se days in mod­ern HD releas­es, so Sony and Insomniac not giv­ing into the nick­le and dime temp­ta­tion here makes the game shine all the brighter. Picking this up today you will still get as com­plete of an expe­ri­ence as buy­ing it new on Day One. This is what will make the game con­tin­ue to age well, as many of its con­tem­po­raries already feel incom­plete and out­dat­ed. We’ve lived in the era of online pass­es, mul­ti­play­er server shut­downs, micro­trans­ac­tions, and moun­tains of DLC for far too long. A Crack in Time is only five years old, but it feels like it dates from anoth­er era — a bet­ter era — of gam­ing.

As a fan of the Ratchet & Clank series, A Crack in Time was an absolute joy and rep­re­sents the pin­na­cle of the series to me. We can argue all day about what the best game was for its time, but the fact remains that Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time man­ages to both retain all the strong points of the series whilst being a thor­ough­ly mod­ern and expan­sive video game. Everything came togeth­er well for this one, and gave us a glimpse of a big­ger uni­verse in which the Ratchet & Clank series exists, and one I still hope will get a fit­ting sequel. But as we will see next week, things didn’t exact­ly con­tin­ue on this upward tra­jec­to­ry forever.

Favourite Gadget: The Hoverboots

Favourite Weapon: I can final­ly say the Groovitron Glove

Next time we ven­ture Into the Nexus!

https://supernerdland.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/A-crack-in-time-header.jpghttps://supernerdland.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/A-crack-in-time-header-150x150.jpgJohn SweeneyConsoleConsole RetrospectiveConsole Retrospective,Ratchet & ClankRatchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time was a game that passed me by at time of release. It came only two years after the release of its pre­de­ces­sor, Tools of Destruction, and I’m ashamed I didn’t man­age to pick this up at the time. I only got around to play­ing…
The fol­low­ing two tabs change con­tent below.
John Sweeney
John Sweeney is a ter­ri­bly British man with a back­ground in engi­neer­ing. He writes long-form edi­to­ri­al con­tent with analy­sis of gam­ing, games media and inter­net cul­ture. He also does the occa­sion­al video game ret­ro­spec­tive with a week­ly column about Magic the Gathering thrown in for good mea­sure. He also does most of our inter­views for some rea­son, we have no idea why. A staunch sup­port­er of free speech and con­sumer rights; skep­ti­cal of agen­da dri­ven media and sus­pi­cious of unac­cou­table author­i­ty but always hope­ful for change.