We now stand at the threshold of a new console generation, and it is time to say goodbye to the twosome on the PS3.
Ratchet & Clank: Nexus serves as an epilogue of sorts to the so called Future-trilogy, which is comprised of Tools of Destruction, Quest for Booty and A Crack in Time. It is also a return to 'traditional values' after the experimentation we saw in All 4 One and Q Force. Co-op shenanigans and tower defense have been discarded in favor of classic platforming, puzzling, as well as peculiar weaponry and comedy.
The theme this time around is light horror, which is carried throughout the entire game in one form or another. The villains are 'space witch' Vendra Prog and her musclebound brother Neftin. I find it a bit peculiar that the studio did not pick any of the old villains for this swan song. They have lost enough of them in time and space, after all. Throughout the game the Prog-siblings are treated like we have seen them before, which left me with the feeling that I had started the game somewhere in the middle of the story, and missed the prologue in its entirety.
I soon forgot about this though since the game does not waste any time in getting busy. Nexus reminds us of how far the franchise has developed from its roots, as movement feels much more free and dynamic. Gravity is toyed with from the very beginning, and Ratchet can jump around with his magnet boots without always having to aim for that one specific landing pad.
This sense of freedom is later enhanced when Ratchet gets a jetpack and is able to fly around freely in some of the larger maps. Of course flying is disabled in some areas, because the platforming would become a little pointless if flight was the easy option.
Ratchet & Clank obviously benefits from the flying no longer being tied to annoying time trials. Of course there is still a little of that to be had as well, but this new emphasis on free flight is a very welcome addition, even if the controls aren't always perfect.
The maps are pleasantly varied, and the horror theme I mentioned earlier can be seen in some Tim Burtonesque sights and setups. There is also the token gladiator arena where you can grind for bolts and raritanium, which in turn are used to buy better weapons and upgrade them. The weapons can be improved via a modular system, which is fairly fun, but the end results do not really diverge too much from each other, giving the impression of a half-baked innovation.
Nexus deserves a special mention for the fact that the Clank-minigames in it are actually quite entertaining. They remind me strongly of modern indie-games, and I would have bought something like this as its own separate title.
At its core the Nexus consists of familiar platforming and fighting, and these work just like they have for the past few titles. The weapon effects tend to pile up on the screen though, somewhat muddling what is going on at times. Also, you can get through most of the fights by repeating a specific strategy over and over again, and the difficulty level feels to be easier than before.
Nexus flows well though, and it benefits from its more open maps and the increased freedom. This is not a full length Ratchet & Clank experience though, and Nexus is more of a small epilogue for the Future-trilogy, and an opportunity to look back at the long history of the franchise. There is even a museum within the game, which invites the player to stop for a while and reflect on the past.
The game is over and done with in under four hours. The pro types will no doubt manage it in less than three, but I did detour for some bonuses and extra cash along the way. Being used to the lengthier adventures of the duo, I felt like I had only been given the second act and final battle from a much longer game. I am not entirely convinced that the slighter cheaper price point (£19.99) is justified for a quick dash like this one. Of course, if you are inclined to hunt for skill points or play Nexus again in the harder challenge mode, you'll get more hours out of it.
Despite being such a short game, Ratchet & Clank: Nexus is still offers a lot of fun and action as Ratchet gets in touch with some of the issues that have been on his mind for a while now. You could ask what room does this leave for future character development, but personally I consider this as more of an opportunity than a problem. I will be interested to see how the adventures of these all-stars continue on the PS4.
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