Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus
Having been essentially marched out to die on the same day of the PlayStation 4 launch — and a mere seven days before last Friday’s Xbox One launch — Insomniac’s “Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus” is probably going to be met with a wave of indifference.
A screenshot from “Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus.” — Submitted image
I picked it up as a consolation prize last week after I cancelled my PS4 preorder in favour of a set of winter tires for my new (used) car — and that was only after discovering that very day that it even existed in the first place.
And I must admit that at the tail end of a generation that has been utterly dominated with grim war scenarios and multiplayer shooters (many of which I thoroughly enjoyed), there is something incredibly welcoming about a charismatic and lighthearted platformer/shooter steeped in Saturday morning cartoon esthetic, priced at a very accessible $30.
Movies you can play
I hadn’t spent any quantity of time with Ratchet and Clank in the past few years. I got maybe halfway through the debut of their PS3 Future label, “Tools of Destruction,” and maybe an hour or so into the followup “A Crack in Time.”
Luckily, “Into the Nexus” wastes no time getting players reacquainted with the last of the Lombaxes, and his sardonic Robotic BFF. It takes roughly five minutes before players will be scrambling around in zero gravity, leaping about in a pair of magnetic boots in a level that takes them through the insides AND outsides of a spaceship as it is torn to pieces by laser fire, asteroids and fluctuating gravity.
Insomniac has gone to great lengths to prove deserving of that claim that they make “Pixar movies you can actually play.”
There’s a refreshing lack of tutorials, as the game is the antithesis of complex. There’s a button to use Ratchet’s Omniwrench (he is, after all, a mechanic at heart), a button to jump and engage Clank’s heli-pack, a button to open his tech wheels to select weapons and tools, and of course the shoulder buttons to aim and shoot his menagerie of staggeringly comedic and impressive weapons. The controls are sharp as a tack, and unfold without having to pause the game and go into any menus.
And those weapons! Stars and garters!
A gun that plays a hollow and tinny version of Jingle Bells while it flash freezes enemies into snowman bodies, the return of Zurkon the Destroyer, plus his entire family; the indescribable giddy joy from tossing a Nightmare Box.
There are loads of keen bonuses as weapons are levelled up, allowing dual fisting of pistols, extra splash damage and explosive ammo. A weapon can be altered right down to its fundamentals through steady use, and applying “raritanium” pickups to its tech tree.
It’s simple enough for younger gamers to grasp, and the game features enough weapons and hidden secrets to entice even old codgers like me into coming back for another play through. Every item screams with creativity, combined with the brilliant world design, it seems Insomniac hasn’t lost a step since “Fuse” sadly misfired with gamers earlier this year.
Another big addition to the game play comes in the form of new gravity-based puzzles and platforms. Ratchet has access to a weapon called the Grav Tether, which allows him to create teleportation streams to carry him across levels. Certain areas require multiple streams, all set up and traversed within a time limit. It adds a fresh wrinkle to the series’ upper tier platforming.
With targeting as simple as holding the L1 button, it soon becomes second nature to leap into the void and twist through the air to land somewhere on a ceiling or wall on the other side of a stage. Even Clank gets in on the fun, with some 2D sections that require him to warp gravity around to traverse mazes and escape pursuing beasts. These remind me of the Indie game “VVVV” that was a big hit a couple of years ago.
Of course, it is a fleeting experience, with the entire game taking just five hours to reach the end, which is markedly shorter than previous games in this once famous franchise.
There are a handful of additional goals to strive for, such as rare Golden Bolts, or even rarer Omega Class weapons to unlock.
As it stands, “Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus” is a fine celebration of a series that was a huge hit for the PS2, and added some much needed exclusive muscle for the PS3 during those dark days after its initial launch.
I just wish it had more time for us to enjoy before vanishing in the wake of a brand new console. Young gamers could certainly do a lot worse than pulling the trigger on Ratchet and Clank’s latest adventure.
Platform: PlayStation 3
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: Nov. 15, 2013
Rated: E10+ for Everyone 10 and up.
Walking through the wastes of the digital frontier, Jon Mercer fights a lonely war against the nefarious agents of boredom and mediocrity. If you seek his help, or wish to join his cause, send a communiqué via firstname.lastname@example.org.