Insomniac Games will always have a place in my heart; some of my earliest (and fondest) gaming memories were playing Spyro the Dragon to completion over and over again. The studio has been a presence in my evolution as a gamer – I am a product of the PlayStation era and Insomniac have been around for every evolutionary step I’ve made with games to compliment the current console of choice – and even now, they’re still around and giving me more reasons to love them and part ways with my money.
They’ve shelved the Resistance franchise for now – one that helped introduced the PlayStation 3 – and are currently working on a brand new series. Somehow though, they’ve managed to put some time aside to work on remastering a trilogy of games in a series celebrating its ten-year anniversary. Ratchet & Clank started out as a delightfully tongue-in-cheek platforming game before acknowledging the fans’ love for the combat and inventive arsenal by introducing more combat into the core structure; from there the series expanded to accommodate Sony’s portable gizmo and let Clank step into the spotlight more before making a debut on the perceived future of gaming with a Future series on the PlayStation 3.
Insomniac have brought in an array of studios to help with the series expansion so those who may be quick to decry the other games (especially the current ones) as surplus should note that the head honchos behind the well-established franchise have had only creative input there. Fans will always look to the original PlayStation 2 games as the pinnacle of the Ratchet & Clank series – though it wouldn’t be too far out for me to suggest that the Future games have been worth their weight in golden gaming – and Insomniac understand this.
They’ve left pretty much everything gameplay-wise intact as expected but Insomniac have done no less than a superb job in giving all three games in the Ratchet & Clank Trilogy a more next-generation friendly sheen. From an aesthetic viewpoint, the most Future games benefit supremely from the hardware they’ve been developed for and that has put some distance between them and the now somewhat antiquated originals.
This remastering though brings the predecessors almost up to the same standard. Not that the originals look bad on their native last-gen console but the general visual quality is a far cry from what we’ve now come to expect: we expect first and foremost with a high-definition collection for the games to look considerably better but this stab at the collection thing is one of the sharpest yet. 60 frames per second and 3D support for those who can access that extra dimension do their parts in the presentation department too.
The Ratchet & Clank universe is a vibrant, colourful one and the originals have been given a pristine polish in-game. The menus and cutscenes are still a little rough around the edges but that’s common across all of the many HD collections I’ve played to date so I won’t hold that against them.
Trophy support is high on the To-Do list for HD collections along with a graphics boost, and this trilogy gets a whole host of them for all three games. They don’t feel tacked on though; aside from the fittingly witty names for the trophies that fit the tone of these games, there’s a significant challenge presented to those seeking platinums. Ratchet & Clank games on home consoles have a track record for offering challenges to even experienced gamers and this status has been extended to the trophies on offer; straightforward trilogy completion is unlikely to leave you with more than a quarter of them.
The HD upgrade and trophies inclusion were fairly routine for the collection, but what took me by surprise was something that Insomniac did that they really didn’t have to do. When the third Ratchet & Clank was released on the PlayStation 2 it came with a multiplayer component that did have online capabilities. Insomniac have not only restored the multiplayer but configured it so that you can play online with other owners of the collection.
Regardless of how many people will actually be playing this tiny online component in a three-game collection in a few months’ time, the mere fact that it is present is something that fans will no doubt welcome with open arms. The multiplayer in Ratchet & Clank has both online capabilities for up to eight players along with four-player split screen via local co-op, and while the multiplayer itself isn’t fantastic there is some fun to be had.
Over the course of the three Ratchet & Clank games you’ll notice that there is a greater emphasis on the combat side of things. There are still some excellent puzzles and Clank has a bigger part to play as you progress, but those looking for an out-and-out platformer may find themselves somewhat at odds when faced with the prospect of gladiatorial combat sections that aren’t compulsory but help considerably in obtaining bolts and upgrades. More weapons are added to the latter two games along with an important upgrade system that improves the qualities of your arsenal; combat challenges that feature prominently later are very much beneficial to you but detract from both the great stories and rewarding adventure.
You’ll find in these games a platformer that loves to give you the freedom to choose – multiple planets to explore with multiple missions on each accessible at different points in the story lift the Ratchet & Clank series out of problematic linearity – but as more weapons and more difficult enemies to compensate are included you’ll need to make one big choice that affects the ones following. Dilly-dally with challenges first or roam free less prepared but without distractions? Up to you. It could be considered to some a detriment to the game’s emphasis on freedom within confinement to have this cold choice occur so early in the latter two games, but thankfully the challenges while not as good as the main game aren’t too tedious.
Aside from that potential grievance, a lingering camera angle issue that was prevalent in the original games and the minor irksome control remapping for each game in the trilogy, there shouldn’t be anything to make you not feel completely enchanted by this.
What Insomniac have done is remaster three of the best action-platformers around. The first three Ratchet & Clank games paved the way for arguably Sony’s best current franchise, and they’ve been upgraded and bundled together to produce a collection that without question should take pride and place in your own. There are many reasons why I harbour such a deep love for Insomniac Games; this trilogy contains three unequivocally stellar ones.