Inside Pulse 12

Review: Ratchet & Clank Future: Quest for Booty (Sony PS3)

Ratchet & Clank Future: Quest for Booty (PS3)
Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Genre: Platformer
Release Date: 08/21/2008


I’ll be honest; the prospect of a new Ratchet & Clank game for the PS3 was really the deciding factor in my choice of which system to purchase. I love Insomniac’s work, and their work ethic. Coming out with an incredible new game every fall like clockwork has simply floored me. So I can’t say I was terribly surprised to learn they’d be doing a new mini-game for R&C, just terribly excited.

Ratchet & Clank Future: Quest for Booty is a miniature (one could say “episodic content”) game that takes place right after the ending of the previous installment. It’s $15 on the PlayStation Network, around 2.3 Gigs (so grab a sandwich), and lasts about 3-4 hours. You’ve probably heard the game structure and length are comparable to a movie, which is pretty much true.

1. Story / Modes

Storytelling is one of the strengths of Insomniac Games. R&C has always featured fantastic tongue-in-cheek dialogue, great pacing, and a nice plot structure. Quest for Booty continues in this fine tradition, even if only for a few hours.

Most impressive is the way they pull off the pirate theme of the game. Pirates are pretty overplayed nowadays, but the game somehow keeps it fresh and interesting.

My only complaint is that gameplay duration is not the only thing that got scaled down. There’s no skill points, no skins, no golden bolts, no skill-tree weapon upgrades, and no bolt-multiplier on replay. I understand needing to trim down the game, but to strip it of so many icons is astounding and unbelievable. I kept playing the game over and over wondering if they were something I could unlock, or failing that, something that could be patched in (HINT-HINT, Insomniac).

Story / Modes Rating: Good

2. Graphics

I don’t know how they did it, but I think they improved the graphics a bit.

It’s been said that Ratchet & Clank: Future was like playing in a Pixar movie. The analogy only gets stronger with this latest installment.

Every level will have you pausing to admire the details of both background and foreground. Rainswept pirate decks, lichen on rocks, underwater coral formations, waterfalls, changing reflections of the setting sun bouncing off metal panels. I probably spent 5 minutes swimming underwater just to enjoy the refraction of sunlight as it hits the ocean floor.

I could honestly write an entire feature on the graphics in this game. It would be jabbering fanboy pablum that no-one in their right mind would want to read, but I could do it. That’s the effect these graphics elicit.

Graphics Rating: Unparalleled

3. Sound

The sound continues to remain well-done. The voice cast returns, the dialogue is campy and fun, and everything shoots or explodes nicely. Music is good, background details enhance the levels, and the directional sound returns for those of us with surround sound.

Nothing too fancy, but I can’t find any fault with it either.

Sound Rating: Very Good

4. Control / Gameplay

Just like the graphics, it seems that Insomniac has buffed the gameplay from what was near-perfect to near-perfect-with-a-shine. Controls seem to be much smoother this time around.

Some new elements have been introduced by way of the OmniWrench. You ubiquitous tool can now manipulate objects at a distance. This allows for new puzzles and obstacles, such as lowering or extending bridges, winding catapults, and adjusting floating platforms. In addition, the OmniWrench can now pick up objects, allowing you to carry light-bearing bugs, flaming rocks or even ghost-pirate skulls.

What makes these additions even more impressive is how well they fit into a game. When a franchise has been around as long as R&C, it’s often changed for the sake of chage. Here it feels more like a natural extension, or even like something that was missing the whole time and has finally come home.

On the flip side, the game does suffer a bit for it’s miniturization. The weapons roster has been drastically reduced, leaving you only 7 guns where once you had a dozen or so. Gadgets have been removed entirely, so no forcing the enemies to dance to disco’s greatest hits. And the game takes on a more linear path. Where once you were able to hop about from level to level, allowing you to explore and re-explore at your own pace, you are now forced into a tightly woven storyline, moving ever forwards.

The linear, movie-style plotting also loses some points for not enough fighting. Levels 2 and 3 are almost entirely bereft of enemies, and you’re equipped only with your wrench. Part of the R&C experience is blasting hordes of enemies with weapons “unfit for this world”, as the ads once said. Now a third of the game is just puzzles and jumping.

All in all, these things aren’t awful, just disappointing. For a franchise that made a name for itself with a plethora of options, it now seems whittled away to almost a demo.

Which is another good point, if you’ve never played a Ratchet & Clank game then this is a great taste. I highly recommend you pick it up to give it a try, it’s worth the $15.

Control / Gameplay Rating: Good

5. Replayability

Replayability suffers from this whittled down feeling as well. Nothing changes on playthrough, so the only option you’re left with is changing the difficulty setting. You can’t even replay with your upgraded weapons.

On the other hand, it’s still Ratchet and Clank so it’s still simply fun. Even after you’ve beaten the game it’ll be a good way to kill a lazy afternoon. The cutscenes and dialogue remain amusing, like a favorite old movie. You won’t be deleting the game when you’re done, but you probably won’t be playing every day either.

Replayability Rating: Decent

6. Balance

The game keeps the difficulty level in exactly the right place, all the way through. You’ve got enough weapons to give you options on how to deal with enemies, and the system kindly upgrades them a bit quicker than before (no doubt to deal with decreased playing time). Ammo and health are plentiful, but not so overabundant that they can be disregarded. Certain levels will feature more swarming than I prefer, but not to any detriment.

Balance Rating: Enjoyable

7. Originality

Ratchet & Clank has always stood out for its originality. Again, this could be an article unto itself. I can’t even begin to go into all the things R&C has brought to gaming, all of which continue to stand out years later. And even in a shrunken format, R&C continues to innovate by adding new and useful functions to the OmniWrench. Never a disappointment in this category.

Originality Rating: Great

8. Addictiveness

It is entirely possible you’ll play the whole game in one sitting. And then go play the other R&C games again (or buy them if you don’t own them). I know Insomniac likes to refer to the series as family fare, but there’s something for the rest of us too. The attitude and fun of Ratchet & Clank is infectious. You can’t help but have a good time.

Play it once and you’re a fan for life.

Addictiveness Rating: Classic

9. Appeal Factor

Have I made it clear yet that I love these games? I’ve tried not to wax overly fanboyish, but it’s hard not to. Quest for Booty blends action, humor, puzzles, shooting and platforming seemlessly into one bundle of fun.

Unless you are some kind of soulless, shriveled old gamer who lacks the ability to dream and must therefore kindnap children off the streets of France to steal their dreams, you will love this game

Appeal Factor Rating: Classic

10. Miscellaneous

It wouldn’t be an Insomniac game without inside jokes and shout-outs.

From the Drake’s Fortune style title screen to the hidden Insomniac Employee Action Figure, the company puts a lot of itself (no pun intended) into its games.

Oh, and bonus Miscellaneous points for the great reveal at the end of the game. We’ve all been waiting for that.

Miscellaneous Factor Rating: Very Good

The Scores

Story / Modes: Good
Graphics: Unparalleled
Sound: Very Good
Control / Gameplay: Good
Replayability: Decent
Balance: Enjoyable
Originality: Great
Addictiveness: Classic
Appeal Factor: Classic
Miscellaneous Factor: Very Good
FINAL SCORE: VERY GOOD

Short Attention Span Summary
A great intro for those unfamiliar with the series, and a fun dose for us fans who can’t wait until fall of next year for the new game. When your only real complaint is that the game isn’t its usual super-happy-awesome-fun, and only awesome-fun, you’ve really got nothing to complain about.