There are several reasons why my eyes light up every time the first news of a new Ratchet & Clank adventure surface. One reason is that the game has become something of a Christmas tradition for me, dating back to the early Playstation 2 chapters of the series. Another reason is that it carries on the tradition of character driven platforming games that defined the 16 bit era and that has almost become extinct today.
The most important reason for my feelings towards Ratchet & Clank is that it offers something that has become a rare commodity in today's library of games. Where it seems that everyone is leaning towards realism, shades of grey and cynical storylines it provides us with something simple, fun and with naive humour of the highest calibre.
Doctor Nefarious was reintroduced as the main villain in Ratchet & Clank: Quest for Booty. This weird, screaming, scheming, and certifiable dictator and robot, is together with the dynamic duo of Ratchet and Clank the funniest character Insomniac have created. His extreme hatred towards all organic life and co-operation with the butler Lawrence gives the developers plenty of opportunities to deliver the sharp wit and the insane duo could very well star in their own game.
Even though A Crack in Time is the final chapter in the Future trilogy you don't have to have played either Tools of Destruction of Quest for Booty in order to enjoy this game. The Zoni have taken Clank to a base at the centre of the universe that looks like a giant watch that keeps the passage of time in check throughout the galaxy.
Manipulating time is therefore the big new ingredient and as always Clank is left to take care of the alternative missions in the adventure. This time Insomniac have take inspiration from Braid and you will meet up with contacts who can make temporary clones of Clank so he can be in more than one place. This will also be used to unlocked doors, and solve puzzles, and these missions are some of the trickiest side missions the series has offered, without being too punishing.
With Ratchet everything remains as you would expect it. He is still trying to find Clank, but the fate of his Lombax race is also mixed into the story. He meets General Alistar Azimuth, one of the other few surviving members of the Lombax race, and he has a plan to change the destiny of the Lombax.
Ratchet & Clank is still mostly about reducing your enemies to atoms with a sizable arsenal of weapons. There are more returning weapons than usual, but on the upside they have become more balanced and more enjoyable. One example is the Sniper Rifle that highlights enemy weak points, while the shotgun is now only useful at very close range.
The weapons upgrade system mixes two principles where simple guns only get better with use, while others are upgraded with secret parts that often changes things up quite a bit.
You are once again in control on the trips between the various planets and there are plenty of enemies to take care during the transports. However the real lure of the trips are the many smaller planetary bodies spread out all over the galaxy. Every one of these is a bonus mission that gives you weapons upgrades, cash or a Zoni to upgrade your rocket ship. These missions also provide the game with more platform jumping than what has previously been the case in the series.
When a developer makes this many sequels in a series reviewers often have distinctly negative connotation when the word recycling is put to use, but A Crack in Time is a definite exception to the rule. The developer has gone through all the previous titles and borrowed some of the best ideas and stuffed in a colourful and lovely worlds that begs you to peak around the next corner.
There are tough "Gladiator Challenges", Zoni hunts with rocket powered roller skates and a slightly harder difficulty level that will force even the most experienced players will have to replay some sections a few times. As if this wasn't enough it is also the longest and most action packed Ratchet & Clank game to this date, especially if you suffer from a compulsion to collect items and want every trophy.
If you were hoping for a brand new direction for the Ratchet & Clank series you will no doubt be disappointed. But if you longed for a game that returned to some of its previous strength and brings lots of comedy, action and hours of challenges you are in for a great time.