Let’s say seven years ago you found an amazingly delicious type of candy, as in it looked and tasted like the best thing on Earth ever. Eating it was like dipping your tongue into liquid concentrate of awesome. However, as the years wore on, the sensation became less special, which isn’t a slight on the treat itself because it definitely wasn’t a bad candy, but it just wasn’t special anymore. That’s kind of how it feels to play Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time.
If you’ve played any other Ratchet & Clank game, then you already know what to expect from A Crack in Time, and you’ll definitely already know if you like that sort of game. Almost nothing has changed except the weapon selection, the graphics, and the story, which can be said about every sequel since Going Commando.
The R&C series has always been known for its off-the-wall weapons, with each game packing in 20 or more new, zany creations for the player to use during their quest for intergalactic justice. Knowing that, it was a really big disappointment to find out that A Crack in Time only has five or so fresh weapons to offer, and even those aren’t all that original. Those five are still definitely fun to use, but half the fun of R&C games is discovering how best to use your ever expanding arsenal. Now that A Crack in Time has largely taken that away from the player, the fun side of things falls to other facets of the game.
The gameplay is pretty much unchanged from previous installments of the series. In fact, once you get Clank back (spoiler alert? Maybe?), series veterans will be pulling off old moves like the long jump sans prompting. Though this sounds like a bad thing, you should consider how well the game handled before and how much fun the core gameplay is on its own. There was really nothing much for Insomniac Games to do except tighten it all up, and tightened it up they definitely did.
After playing the other six non-handheld iterations, it’s clear that A Crack in Time is the best handling one of the bunch. The differences are minute, but just know that experienced or not in the series, you’ll definitely notice how fun it is to simply move about in the world. Shooting, jumping, and wrenching all feel excellently refined and streamlined for faster action, especially the tweaked wrench throw and the hoverboots.
In addition to feeling the best, A Crack in Time also looks the best. Tools of Destruction blew people away back in 2007, and somehow this game looks even better. At certain points during the cutscenes, it’s hard not to think that Pixar had a hand in this. Clank looks especially impressive with his brushed metal texturing and lack of discernable aliasing.
The cutscenes may look great but don’t convey much story-wise. No R&C game’s story has thus far held up to the one from Going Commando, but A Crack in Time‘s somehow seems especially lackluster. The ending is cheesy and predictable, overused action tropes are strewn about like literary sprinkles, and the impetus for Ratchet’s side of the game just feels so bland, despite how much it really means to him. You’ve gone so long being the only Lombax in the universe and felt fine, and now you’re expected to flip everything and believe that getting your parents back is paramount to everything else? No dice. Finding Clank, though, really made going through the entire story worthwhile and ties up Tools of Destruction quite nicely. It’s also pretty fun to watch the story unfold through the game’s dialogue, despite the extremely hit-or-miss nature of the humor.
The game’s style also feels a little stagnant, like week old bagels left out on the counter. The game is about as linear as it gets, the difficulty is definitely on the easy side even on Hard mode, and smashing boxes for ammo and health just feels so uninspired. In an admirable attempt to remedy the linearity, though, the game turns space into an open world where you can land on various planets to find Zoni, gold bolts, and weapon mods. There are only six or seven of these little planets per sector, which is disappointing since they also offer the only platforming and combat sequences that even approach becoming a challenge. However, since the game is constantly rewarding you with experience, bolts, and upgrades for going out of your way to gather these collectibles, it becomes rather addicting trying to fetch all of these goodies and actually gives reason to use your ship.
Flying through space, unfortunately, is a somewhat sad affair. Space travel is limited to a flat plane, which makes dog fights and exploration much more manageable but also a lot less fun. It ultimately leaves an extremely strong desire to play some Star Fox.
If the space fighting mechanics had been more fleshed out, they could have easily been turned into a nice little online multiplayer distraction. In fact, after Up Your Arsenal‘s fantastic multiplayer component, it’s always been disappointing to find out the PS3 R&C iterations never include some sort of competitive or cooperative mode.
However, some unexpectedly awesome fun can be had as Clank in the Great Clock. During these segments, Clank must solve puzzles that involve cloning himself through time pads to press the corresponding buttons needed to open a door. This mechanic (best described as single player co-op) is nothing new for Flash game addicts (Google “Cursor* 10” or “Chronotron”), but it’s fun nonetheless. Unfortunately, as with the rest of the game, there just needs to be more of it, preferably with some increased difficulty as even later puzzles can be solved on your first attempt.
A Crack in Time is definitely a good game. It handles well, looks absolutely stunning, and can offer up plenty of fun. If you’re looking for some new legs on the R&C horse, then you’re out of luck because this is just more of the same. If you’re looking for about 12 hours (more if you’re into maxing out your gear) of high quality Insomniac design, then you’ve come to the right place.