The game starts in familiar territory. Deep in space, Ratchet and his trusty sidekick, are stuck once again with President Quark. As normal Quark is bored, and needs something to shoot or hit until it cries 'Uncle!'
Now you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure what happens next. Quark finds trouble (It never finds him, he seems to have a homing in instinct like that of a bloodhound for this kind of thing) and soon our intrepid heroes are up to their neck in trouble.
Once more they are being shot at generally picked on, but this time there's a twist to the tale. Quark gives Ratchet the task of defending a base. It's imperative that the generator isn't knocked out or the base defences will collapse and the enemy will swarm all over it and take it over.
Soon our hero is ensued with the task of managing resources and scavenging bolts as per normal, but added to that is the extra pressure of ensuring the defences are up to scratch.
So Ratchet has to mix exploration of the planet, scavenging bolts from defeated enemies and destroyed crates, and defending the base.
Now Ratchet can wander away once he has placed the first turrets and laid mines in an attempt to stop the swarming hordes, but be warned if the klaxon rings and the computer warns him that the base is under assault, it's a case of dropping whatever it is you were doing and racing back to the base to manage the defence.
And you do have to explore, because there are enemy power nodes that will need to be disabled as well as emplacements to be destroyed. Yes this is going to keep Ratchet very very busy indeed!
Outside of the base the usual shooting action and indeed so does the traditional platform style gaming that you have come to expect from the series. It's frantic and colourful and sprinkled with the by now trademark humour. Yes the quips and puns fly almost as fast as the bullets!
Quark is in the background unless you choose him to aid you. As the game progresses you'll unlock more aides. Obviously Clank is there as well as Quark, and the others include...no I'll let you find that out for yourselves.
You are going to have to engage your tactical side for this game though. it's not the usual outing for Ratchet, no not at all.
Like the it's more recent predecessors, it can be played by yourself or with the cooperation of an on-line buddy or someone else using control pad 2. Controls are responsive, and the usual actions are keyed to the same buttons as used in All Four One, so controlling the heroes is not going to be an issue.
No, the problem is going to be that you will soon wish you could be in more than one place at the same time if playing in solo mode. Running around trying to do one thing when the system warns of you of an incoming landing craft, or the base is under attack when you could be up to your pointy little ears in bad guys. This and dodging lasers and missiles can make you think, 'Gimme a break guys!'
The game for some reason does not give you an A.I. controlled sidekick in single player. This would make life somewhat easier if it did. In two player mode, both characters can interact smoothly, dealing with bad guys, collecting precious bolts and salvage that act (as usual) as currency so you can both purchase upgrades for the base and unlock new devices and weapons to defend yourself with and despatch enemy soldiers with bolts of fiery doom!
Indeed your sidekick is invaluable when it comes to watching your back. In single player mode the enemies range from weak to pretty darned strong so you may find yourself hard pressed and backed into a corner from time to time. If this happens you have two choices, fight back or just wait until you get zapped and re spawn back at base. Sometimes this is not a bad thing, especially if turrets or your generator is under attack, and if the generator goes then your base goes kaput and all that hard work is undone in a heart beat.
The Graphics are bright and as colourful as expected. This is not a criticism! It has a cartoon style charm all of it's own and it isn't a radical departure from the series and if it was, would it have the same charm? Frankly no. There's no need to overhaul things in this department, so thankfully they haven't tinkered with the graphic engine at all. Lighting effects are of a good standard, and explosions, fire, etc. are all pleasing to the eye.
The physics of the game are more than adequate for this game. You don't need Gears of War type physics for this one. it's a kid friendly (sort of) game so they are not going to be fussed as to how well fragments of rock bounce after an explosion. You shouldn't either.
Music and sound effects are pretty darned good and the vocal performances is as good as always. Quark especially is on top form, with his 'death spank' like voice giving advice, insulting enemies and the like.
Ratchet is as well voiced as always, but Clank seems to have less to say for himself in this title than in others. Maybe the voice actor was double booked, or maybe they thought that he should for some reason be a little quieter than normal. This is a shame because Clank's wry observations and subtle digs at his boss usually make me chuckle. They are there but in smaller doses.
Lip synching only comes into effect in the animated cut scenes, but it's darned good. The whole things presentational aspects cannot be faulted. However this does not mean it's perfect, far from it.
I have got to be honest about this, despite all the above praise I cannot help but feel that this title does not quite hit the mark. I have to risk repeating myself here when I say solo game play is tricky. Even on the easiest game mode, you'll find yourself having so many balls to juggle in the air as it were, that the enjoyment factor gets tinged with frustration.
Without a sidekick, you are going to be hard pressed to do all the exploration, platform jumping and shooting you need to do. No sooner than you have got down into the nitty gritty of one task, along comes a distraction and you have to run back as fast as a very fast thing indeed. But even with a sidekick it means you are BOTH going to have to leg it as fast as you can.
Simply put the single player mode is not only challenging but taxing and the usual platforming action soon switches into base management and back again so quickly, it can make your head spin. I agree that a game should try and keep you on your toes but this tries to do that a little too hard and as a result, it suffers for it.
Castle defence and platform action, with a dash of third person shooting and exploration is not an easy mix. Younger players are going to find this such a radical departure from the normal that I feel that it is actually going to miss it's target audience by some degree.
And can older, more mature players actually get excited over another Ratchet and Clank game? Maybe, (and I know I might get flack for this) it's time to ease up on releasing any more in the series for a while. We have had a few in recent times, All For One and the All Stars game to name but two. (OK Ratchet wasn't the main star in the latter one but I think you know what I mean)
If they do release another, or there's one in the pipeline, I hope they remember that R&C was aimed at a younger audience and although I am not saying it should not be a challenge, it sure should not be as darned tricky as it is in single player. Even co-op can and will test the patience.
I think it's time that the R&C developers go back to the drawing board before they do the next one and try and balance it more. I honestly feel that this game will alienate the younger player and maybe not appeal so much to the older player after a while.
I have enjoyed R&C many times in the past, and there are elements of this that ARE fun, but the juggling of too many balls and the uneasy mix of genres does not work as well as they might have expected.
On paper this may seem to have been a brilliant idea, alas the reality shows that it may have needed more thought before releasing it. Pleasing to the eye yes, and funny and humorous yes, but it's not the usual recipe for success. This despite all the targeting upgrades that you can get in the game, misses the mark and sadly by some margin.