Ratchet and Clank: Nexus
Sony PlayStation 3
If you don't know these two then this probably isn't the game for you.
Since being launched in 2002 it’s fair to say that the Ratchet and Clank series has had a huge influence on two generations of PlayStation, as well as the 3D platformer in general. For some time they were not only responsible for people choosing Sony’s system over rivals, but were also about as close as the PlayStation 2 got to having its own mascots. It’s fitting, then, that we get one more title to serve as an epilogue to both a generation of gaming systems, and a beloved series.
The formula of the core Ratchet and Clank games has been refined by Insomniac Games over the years, keeping the elements that work such as the platforming and over-the-top gunplay, and adding a new gameplay mechanic to keep things fresh. The theme of this game’s new element is gravity, with the introduction of a Grav Tether gadget that activates gravity beams, and side-scrolling levels featuring Clank where the player controls the direction of gravity. Unfortunately, while they may feel unique to the series they’re actually mechanics which have been done elsewhere in recent memory; the gravity beams are right out of Portal 2 and the platforming sections are far too reminiscent of VVVVVV. Neither mechanic can be accused of outstaying its welcome, however, in fact quite the opposite is true; after their introductions the side-scrolling levels are distributed sparsely and the Grav Tether gets all but forgotten.
The Arena is back and filled with creatures to run into your bullets.
The developers have taken those basic elements that make a great Ratchet and Clank game and distilled them to almost nothing at all, but those few hours of gameplay are exceptionally entertaining. With such a short run time (roughly six to nine hours depending on how much you want to explore) there’s almost no padding at all with the one lengthy gathering quest (Gargathon horns, naturally) seemingly included for nostalgia more than padding.
The same could actually be said for the whole game, in fact. There’s not a great deal of challenge on offer for anyone even remotely familiar with the series. The platforming sections are undemanding with only one section that seemed to require any real accuracy. The Gravity Beams had potential for some interesting puzzles, as shown by their use in Portal 2, but that potential is never really realised. With only a couple of exceptions they really are just another way of navigating around the map. While this was a little disappointing it is preferable to a mechanic becoming overused simply for the sake of filler. The Clank levels, while all too few, do serve to turn up the tension a fair bit, though, and while you won’t find yourself repeating them a lot they do offer an interesting change of pace.
Every joke about the size of your weapon has already been made at least once in these games.
The gunplay is, as always, the centerpiece of the gaming experience and the mix of new toys and familiar favourites all work together incredibly well, and are always fun to use. Upgrades are numerous and can be unlocked through using a particular weapon and then purchased through Dark Matter found throughout the game. The unlocking method does tend to result in your favourite weapons getting upgraded fastest but chances are you’ll find yourself trying out different weapons as you occasionally run out of ammo. Pick-ups are in no way rare, but it does seem to be balanced in favour of experimentation with new guns. When it comes to the difficulty curve though, the guns increase in power at least as quickly as any enemy you encounter will, so with the exception of the occasional boss battle that curve is more of a gentle slope in the wrong direction. Once again, this is not a game that wants to challenge you, but rather join along with you as it encourages you gently to just enjoy the story.
It is an interesting tale too, with familiar faces returning (if only briefly in some cases) to make proceedings enjoyable. It would have been easy to phone in the plot but the writers have actually put some effort into telling a funny and occasionally touching narrative. For anyone who’s kept with the series there are some wonderful continuity nods that may be missed by others, and a few reminders of the character’s past deeds of galaxy saving heroism. It’s something of an achievement for a game to stand as both a final chapter and interesting story in its own right.
This festive themed gun turns enemies into perfectly postured snowman duplicates and that never stops being fun.
The final ingredient of the Ratchet and Clank recipe has also been refined instead of revolutionised; the series has always been beautiful to look at, but with the exception of a generational leap and the steadily growing number of objects being thrown around things have remained pretty consistent. Nexus doesn’t do anything new with the technology but it does continue the tradition of quirky artwork and beautiful visuals that don’t feel ‘last gen’ at all.
Ratchet and Clank: Nexus is not a full-length gaming experience that will last you months. What it is, however, is a loving goodbye to a pair of gaming heroes. It’s the greatest hits album before a band splits, the last few paragraphs that tell us the characters you’ve come to love are going to be ok. It’s also damn fun. Insomniac Games have been quiet on what the future holds for this franchise on PlayStation 4, though it would be fair to speculate that it would be in the form of a reboot or new pair of characters, but for now it’s nice to have a little closure.
It's not Pixar, but I'd watch this movie.