Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2009-11-14 PS3 Platform E10 (Everyone 10+) Insomniac / SCE

Regardless of your experience with the Ratchet & Clank franchise, A Crack in Time is something to behold, and makes some noteworthy improvements to the expected format that keep the series as fresh as if it were just beginning.

Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time picks up where Tools of Destruction left off, with our dynamic duo separated by the mystical Zoni, who are revealed to have been doing the bidding of long-time series villain Dr. Nefarious. Ratchet is placed in the company of Captain Qwark to rescue his mechanical side-kick, and meanwhile, the kidnapped Clank has been taken to the Great Clock, a massive structure situated in the center of the universe that keeps time flowing as it should.

The game is split into two distinct gameplay varieties. As Ratchet, you race to save Clank and stop Dr. Nefarious once and for all by taking part in the series' well established (and incredibly solid) platforming gameplay, while as Clank, you investigate the Great Clock in the hopes of repairing the damage left in Dr. Nefarious' wake.

Both sides of the story are deep, incredibly entertaining, and focused on real emotions as, through their separate journeys, both Ratchet and Clank learn more about their origins, and where their true places are in the universe.

In terms of overall content, the game is split more in favor of Ratchet than Clank, with you controlling the Lombax much longer than you will Clank. The series' fantastic gameplay has seen a few upgrades, in the way of new weapons and the like, but is not far removed from the template we've all come to know and love.

Levels are still planetary in nature, with Ratchet traveling across deep space to uniquely themed environments in search of answers as to Clank's whereabouts and how to rescue him; there are still a wide assortment of weapons to choose from - some fan favorites like the Groovitron are back in Ratchet's arsenal, along with new options like the Spiral of Death, which can be thought of as a horizontal yo-yo, only with a saw blade.

One of the best things about the weapons system here is the customization offered through Constructo Mods, which (in addition to the natural leveling up a weapon undergoes with use) allow you to instantly change the effects of certain weapons in some very satisfying ways. As examples, bombs that once specialized in ground attacks can be upgraded to target airborne enemies, holding down the trigger can charge a stronger shot, ammo can be upgraded to expel shrapnel when fired, and so on.

Luckily, these modifications can be changed at will; you're not stuck with an upgrade once you install it, allowing for a great deal of strategy especially in the arena battles, which have been long appreciated in the series as a great way to level up weapons and earn extra bolts.

Aside from the main story, there are loads of sidequests available to tackle both on and around moons in each sector offering tons of collectibles in the form of weapon upgrades, Zoni, and gold bolts. You can hail ships and offer your assistance in fetching items or towing them to a space depot, and you can eliminate space mines or ships that may attack, in addition to landing on said moons and entering into short platforming challenges to find Zoni, or missions requiring that you eliminate a set number of enemies.

These side-missions, while numerous in quantity, can be a bit monotonous if you plan on doing all of them at once; that is, without breaking up the grinding to advance the plot. However, the bolts and gadgets received for finishing them are plentiful, and the vast majority of the quests are lacking in the way of substantial challenge (read: can be completed quickly), so they are worth doing simply to upgrade Ratchet's weaponry or ship (the collected Zoni will periodically make improvements to your ship in the way of shields, advanced missiles and so on).

While Ratchet's level-based portion of the game is mostly unchanged from previous installments, Clank's side is entirely new and fresh.

Without doubt, the game's greatest challenge comes when playing as Clank, as his side of the story is divided into small sections of general platforming, and larger puzzle / mini-game sessions. Through a series of events, Clank is placed in charge of repairing time on damaged planets where anomalies have begun to occur. Before Clank can repair time on a planet, he must make his way through the corridors of the Great Clock, manipulating time to press switches and open doors.

These puzzles slow the pace of the game considerably, and ask you to think two or even three steps ahead of your next move. Numerous recording pads are placed in the front of each puzzle that allow you to duplicate your movements by recording a certain sequence of actions, like pressing a switch to open a door, or lowering or raising a platform, and then allow your "cloned" Clank to perform the same actions as you record on another pad.

It's a complex system that is difficult to explain in words, but in practice becomes much more understandable. As a particular example, some puzzles will require you to activate two buttons in tandem to unlock a door. To solve the puzzle, you would first record yourself pressing one button, and then use another time pad to record yourself pushing the second button.

As the beginning of each new recording figuratively presses "play" on all others, you'll frequently have multiple Clanks running around the field at once, making the timing of your actions crucial, as, for instance, you wouldn't want one Clank to press a button to raise a platform until another Clank had been given enough time to stand on the platform in the first place.

After solving a few of these puzzles, you'll find yourself repairing time on planets via a timed mini-game that has you aiming your crosshair at floating representations of each planet, and sealing moving rifts on the surface. Power-ups allow you to seal a rift faster, or impact a wider area, while other entities try to undo your progress. Afterwards, you interact with more time pad puzzles as you further explore the Clock and learn of Clank's past.

Technically speaking, the game is absolutely stunning. Even on an SD television, I was blown away by the graphics, with the only slight problem coming when using some jump pads, as lag enters the equation, but leaves just as quickly. The voice acting continues to be spot on, and the humor, which has been such an integral part of the franchise, is back again, creating truly laugh out loud moments surrounding Dr. Nefarious and his forever loyal, yet incredibly sarcastic servant Lawrence, and witty banter between Qwark and Ratchet.

When taken as a whole experience, Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time is simply fantastic, combining the addictive platforming gameplay we've all come to expect from the series and updating it with new weapons, gadgets and a storyline that is a joy to experience. This is, by far, the best PS3 game I've played to date.

Special thanks to Alyssa Casella and Sony for providing a copy of this title.