Review: Ratchet & Clank Trilogy (PlayStation Vita)

Ratchet & Clank Trilogy: Official GBAtemp Review

PlayStation Vita 3,847 views 1 like 15 comments
Reviewed by Jakub Kowalski, posted Aug 7, 2014
The PlayStation 2 practically flew over my head in its prime. Sure, I've played some notable titles at a friend's house, but I was more of a PC guy at the time and only bought a PS2 of my own a few years back. Naturally this made me quite excited about the plethora of PS2 HD re-releases available on the PSVita and I started off Ratchet & Clank Trilogy with high hopes, but also some reservations after the not so splendid Jak & Daxter ports.
Aug 7, 2014
  • Release Date (NA): July 29, 2014
  • Release Date (EU): July 2, 2014
  • Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
  • Developer: Insomniac Games/Mass Media Inc.
  • Genres: Action/3D Platformer
  • ESRB Rating: Everyone 10 and up
  • PEGI Rating: Seven years and older
  • Also For: PlayStation 3
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
Ratchet & Clank Trilogy (Also known as Ratchet & Clank Collection) is a re-release of the first three games in the series, available for the PlayStation Vita and the PlayStation 3.
Jakub Kowalski

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Introduction - Mascots, mascots everywhere!

Most successful console manufacturers in history seem to have a mascot of some kind -  SEGA was always well-known for their Sonic the Hedgehog, Nintendo has their world-famous Italian plumber Mario, you can't think Microsoft without thinking Master Chief... But Sony? Sony never seemed to stick with one character. There were attempts, of course! The PlayStation 1 was teased with the famous Polygon Man who recently starred in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, but he never really "stuck" to the platform and characters like Sir Daniel Fortesque or Gabe Logan were far more recognizable. Nowadays the PlayStation brand is represented by the famous Sackboy who debuted on the PlayStation 3... however it's the period in-between that was possibly the most prolific for Sony, spawning characters like Jak and Daxter, Sly Cooper, Kratos and perhaps most importantly Ratchet and Clank - two characters born in the minds of developers from Insomniac Games who practically defined the system for many of its users.

If you're not familiar with Ratchet and Clank, it's worth introducing the story quickly. Ratchet was a lombax like any other, native to the planet of Fastoon, but sent and brought up on Veldin where he set up a garage. His life was a rather mundane existence and his only dream was to explore the galaxy and become a hero, just like Captain Qwark, the guardian of the galaxy. One day Ratchet's usual routine was disturbed by a ship crashing not far away from his dwelling - that ship was piloted by XJ-0461, a defective sentry robot from Quartu, whom Ratchet affectionately named "Clank". This faithful meeting would change the lives of both of them and before long the duo would embark on an epic journey to save the galaxy in a "From Zero to Hero" adventure, eventually becoming heroes of the universe themselves.

The game was reviewed very favourably at the time and soon spawned numerous sequels, each better than the last, until a whole trilogy of games was complete and firmly embedded in the minds of the fans. The Ratchet & Clank series continues to live on on the PlayStation 3 and the PSVita with the latest releases being QForce (also known as Full Frontal Assault), Into the Nexus and finally the newest release, Ratchet & Clank Trilogy, which is the subject of this review.

Value - One is a company, two's a crowd, three's a party!

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We're off on an adventure!

Previously released on the PlayStation 3, Ratchet & Clank Trilogy is the collection of the three formative games that shaped the series on the PlayStation 2: Ratchet & Clank, Ratchet & Clank 2: Going Commando (Also known as Locked and Loaded) and Ratchet & Clank 3: Up Your Arsenal, remastered for the PSVita. You get three quality games for the price of one, making this a great deal both for those who are already familiar with the series and wish to revisit it and newcomers who have never heard of the lombax and his robotic friend alike. The series had a rough start on Sony's protable wonder with the critically-panned port of QForce/Full Frontal Assault which was plagued by low framerate and glitches, however this time Insomniac themselves overlooked the porting process and with the help of  Mass Media Inc. they delivered a well-polished product worth your time.

Presentation - Clunky, but Effective

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Our heroes, ladies and gentlemen!

I would lie if I said that the games do not show signs of aging. Despite the remaster treatment the games do have some minor issues in the graphics department. Some sacrifices were made to squeeze the HD remasters onto the PSVita - the textures aren't perfect and the models are a bit jaggy, but overall I have to say that the games holds up surprisingly well. While the aging of graphics is always merciless, the aesthetics are practically timeless, and it's in the aesthetics where the game shines through its graphical imperfections. The worlds you visit are all gorgeous, unique and fun to explore. The game takes you on an adventure through various environments, from desolate small-time planets to huge metropolies, factories and space stations. As far as the locales are concerned, you surely won't be bored - each newly discovered destination keeps the game fresh.

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A few of the many gorgeous locales you'll get to visit.

Ratchet and Clank, as well as the rest of the cast, are highly likable - each character has a unique personality of their own and on top of that they're all well-voiced. This allows you to easily connect with them and immerse yourself in the game, making it all the more enjoyable. Ratchet and Clank are an almost stereotypical duo - one is rash and quick to act, the other is more level-headed, and even once they find themselves in the responsible position of being heroes, both are goofballs that you can't help but like. The two are soon joined by Ratchet's idol, Captain Qwark, the "brave" guardian of the galaxy who... is just special in all sorts of ways.

As far as the sound department is concerned, the game has nothing to be ashamed of. As it was mentioned above, the characters are fully and professionally voiced - the voice acting remains unchanged from the original release and remains top-notch. The in-game music is also quite enjoyable, featuring your typical futuristic vibes with a healthy dose of comedic blips and bloops, which suits the character of the games perfectly.

The gameplay is supplemented with a gratuitous amounts of cutscenes, and here we touch upon the rather touchy subject - the aspect ratio. The original games were designed to run in a 4:3 aspect ratio and as such, all of the pre-rendered cutscenes were in that aspect ratio as well. Be it due to lack of access to the original resources or due to laziness, this remains unchanged in the retail release of Ratchet & Clank Trilogy and to me it's a glaring issue. After resizing the cutscenes to the PSVita's screen they seem more pixelated, much darker than the rest of the game and they don't fill the whole screen as they should, and that's a bit of a disappointment - they should've been re-done, either in-engine or simply re-rendered for the new platform.

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I mean, really - who thought this looks alright?

Overall though, the game looks and sounds very well and gets high notes for it. If I had to nit-pick and look for flaws in the presentation, all I can think of are the textures that could use a re-work, the anti-aliasing which could be kicked up a notch and the cutscenes. I haven't encountered any notable graphical glitches in the game - the only glitch I did find was in the first game when the background music would suddenly stop for no reason, only to return after the next cutscene or upon entering a new segment of the map. Of course that's a pretty minor issue and I hope it will be ironed out in future updates.

Gameplay - The Nuts and Bolts

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Ratchet & Clank gets one thing right - it gives you dozens of ways to blow things up!

If you've ever played a Ratchet & Clank game, you'll feel right at home, if you haven't then imagine Banjo-Kazooie (even down to carrying your friend around like a backpack and using his abilities to your advantage), except with guns - a whole lot of guns. The games are a platforming galore spiced up with all sorts of futuristic gadgets, vehicles and weaponry. The objective is very simple - jump, climb, hover and grapple your way across the levels while blasting everything in sight with your ever-growing arsenal, collect bolts which play the role of currency to buy new items, defeat each game's respective villains and their minions and save the galaxy, one planet at a time - it's a simple premise, but it goes a long way when executed right. The games are humorous, they're cartoony, they look endearing and have a one-of-a-kind charm - what's not to like?

Speaking of your arsenal, the weapons were always one of the highlights of the series. Insomniac was very creative when it comes to that aspect of the series and the trilogy games are no exception - expect to use anything from standard blasters, bombs, flamethrowers, plasma guns and missile launchers to more exotic choices like the the Suck Cannon which does what the name implies or the Morph-O-Ray which turns your enemies into helpless chickens. Much like it was the case in Earthworm Jim, the weapons are crazy, varied and a lot of fun to use - they'll make you want to collect each and every bolt so that you can to afford to buy another one and you'll leave no stone unturned in search of stashed weapons - rightfully so, as some of them are required in order to progress to new areas. If you like crazy armaments like that, Ratchet & Clank Trilogy is where it's at.

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Burn, son! Those bolts are mine!

Most of the time you'll be playing as Ratchet on-foot with Clank only supporting you with his gadgets, but from time to time the game mixes things up by switching to Clank or throwing in a vehicle, like a hoverboard, a jet fighter or a turret which keeps things fresh interesting.

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Spaaaaaaaaaaace-- wait, wrong game...

The controls of the game remain practically unchanged and are very easy to master - the only issue I had with them was strafing, which is pretty hit and miss due to the use of the touchpad rather than the L2/R2 shoulder buttons. I can't blame the game for the shortcomings of the system, my problem is with the implementation of strafing. Instead of going with the logical "press left side of the touchpad to strafe left, press the right side to strafe right", the developers went with the original game's setup - using it as a modifier. Holding your finger in the upper right-hand corner of the touchpad enables strafing whereas letting go of it disables it. Now, this would manageable... if it worked correctly - in my case it didn't more often than not.  R&C3 includes an additional control layout which fixes this problem by locking strafing and allowing you to turn using the camera, but this option is missing in the other games. Why? I do not know, but it most certainly should've been there. This slight control issue is a minor complaint though and I quickly got used to the game's controls.

Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, some sacrifices were made when squeezing this title onto the PSVita - one such omission was the Multiplayer mode in R&C 3: Up Your Arsenal. It's understandable, since it was based on split-screen action, but none the less a shame - it would've been great if it was replaced with AdHoc or Online Multiplayer for some fun, fast-paced and explosive bouts.

Aside from a few minor hiccups, the game plays very well though, especially framerate-wise. Unlike the Jak & Daxter ports or QForce/Full Frontal Assault, R&C Trilogy performs great on the PSVita. There's almost no slow-down whatsoever - the screen could be filled with explosions, bits and pieces of your enemies or crates, bolts and complex level geometry and the game still runs as fluid as ever, which is really important for a 3D platformer. The porting process clearly went well under Insomniac's direction and I can only applaud them for the results - the games are a joy to play and as smooth as it gets.

Conclusion - Jump in, it's worth it!

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You should jump into this one! Geronimo!

In my opinion, this trilogy is well-worth your time. All three games perform admirably on Sony's portable wonder and despite being ports from a much older system they still look and play just right. You can't argue with the price either - three games for the price of one are a great value, especially if you haven't played them yourself yet. The humorous character of the games, likable protagonists, unique weapons, well-designed environments and great sound direction are all are huge selling points. Regardless of whether you've played the game or not, it's well-worth the investment and its minor imperfections can be overlooked when you're busy collecting bolt after bolt after bolt, saving up for the next, great gun to blast your foes with.

Verdict
Pros
+ A zany cast of likable characters
+ Huge arsenal of weapons and gadgets
+ Three games for one low price is a lot of bang for the buck
+ Great framerate that's easily on-par with the PS3 release
+ PS3 Cross-buy (in Europe only)
Cons
- Occasional music and sound glitches
- The FMV cutscenes are in the original 4:3 aspect and show signs of aging - the game would really benefit from either keeping them in-engine or re-rendering them in the correct aspect ratio
- The game is a Cross-buy (in Europe only), and yet it lacks the capacity to transfer save files between the PS3 and the PSVita version, nullifying the whole point
- Lack of multiplayer in R&C3
7 Presentation
All three games show some signs of aging - the textures are pixelated at times, the models are slightly jagged, the cutscenes are in unaltered 4:3 aspect ratio and you can tell that it's a remastered collection of PS2 games, however overall they still hold up pretty well. If only the game had re-rendered cutscenes, I would have no complaints whatsoever, but as it is, the FMV's seem lazily thrown in, which is a shame.
9 Gameplay
The gameplay is practically unaffected by the sands of time or the porting process and remains splendid - there are good reasons why this series became such a staple of the PS2 era platforming. The combat is fast-paced, the platforming is excellent and overall the game is definitely worth picking up. Now, if only the PSVita would be equipped with L2/R2 buttons instead of having to rely on the touchpad when strafing, the game would both feel and play identical to its home console counterpart, but you can't flaw the game for the shortcomings of the system it's on.
9 Lasting Appeal
The Ratchet & Clank trilogy is by many considered to be the best platforming experience on the PS2, and now these great games are available on-the-go on the PSVita. It's hard not to like the fluffy lombax and his robotic friend and regardless of whether you're a long-term fan of the series or a complete newcomer, you'll get your money's worth out of this release.
8.5
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
You're getting three great games for the price of one and they're buckets of fun. There's a couple of hiccups here and there, but overall the games are most definitely worth your time. If you've never played Ratchet & Clank before, you should definitely try the series out, and this is a great starting point as it contains the first three games in the series - games that secured its place in video game history.
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