I remember playing the first Ratchet & Clank back in the PS2 era. After beating the Spyro the Dragon trilogy, I needed a replacement platformer and Insomniac’s (at that time) latest title sounded like a great choice.
And it was. The game controlled like a dream, with great level design and the right balance of fun and challenge so desperately needed for this genre. Not only that, Ratchet and his variety of unique weapons set this game apart from their previous trilogy’s use of more organic powers, while the studio maintained their style of excellent humor and characters.
Of course, the studio lost sight of the franchise’s roots for a while and each sequel brought it closer to being a generic shooter until they finally wised up and returned to triumphant form in Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction. After that game, I only dabbled in later installments until now.
The biggest question I had going into Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus is whether it, like Tools of Destruction, would be able to revitalize not just my interest but my passion in the series once again?
Let’s start with the positives. Controlling Ratchet is simple and mostly worry-free as he does exactly what you need him to do at the right moments, barring a strange glitch in which he freezes up when you try to move him directly past a turret by jumping.
Platforming itself runs like a dream, with many of the jumps and environment puzzles requiring copious amounts of skill and creativity while staying clear of the dreaded cheap deaths that mediocre platformers tend to thrive on.
One section that particularly stood out to me was the segment in the beginning that forced players to make split-second decisions while maneuvering Ratchet through asteroids, debris, waves and waves of enemies and even spaceship attacks.
Frame rate and graphics are solid, which further adds to the ease of platforming and navigating levels. Each character’s voice acting is well done as well and really conveys a sense of believability to the story.
Gravity is the newest gaming mechanic and many of the puzzles and stages center around the usage of gravity. Ratchet even gets a nifty gravity gun that lets him make temporary transportation lines to get from one area to another. Clank also gets his own 2D platforming stages that have him manipulate gravity in unique ways to traverse the area. These Netherverse levels add more variation to the game and are a great way to break up the action.
Like in any game from the series, there’s still a wide variety of weapons to choose; from the standard melee wrench to pistols to a giant plant that screams damage on enemies. Each weapon also has a skill tree that allows players to evolve them into superior versions of themselves by using the weapon, gaining experience and upgrading that tool using a material called Raritanium. The currency of bolts is rather plentiful which lets you purchase weapons much easier.
The plot, tying in the Future sub-series of the franchise, is the usual fare made far more interesting by main villain Vendra Prog, who keeps the game on track with fresh and snappy dialogue. It’s also a bit darker than previous Ratchet & Clank games, especially with the inclusion of Nether enemies–unique and formidable Cosmic Horrors that provide an excellent challenge.
Now for the negatives. The first relates to the game’s emphasis on shooting and especially on sniping. There are often an unmanageable amount of foes gunning for Ratchet’s life at any given moment, which means that one of the best ways to minimize the initial wave is by sniping them from afar.
Having to constantly rely on this tactic really screws up the pacing and when you just try to run and gun it, enemy numbers simply overwhelm you. Coupled with the main gun’s strangely stiff aiming and battles get real frustrating real fast. Sometimes it feels like the game plays more like a shooter than a platformer, which is a shame because the latter is far superior.
Another issue is the lack of truly great humor in the game. One of the hallmarks of Ratchet & Clank is that it never takes itself too seriously, with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. In Into the Nexus, however, it feels like Insomniac forgot about this feature almost completely. While there are a few chuckles here and there, things are generally much darker and way more serious than before.
This installment almost felt like the developers were trying to be as gritty as possible, with characters saying “die” and “kill” far too often to have any real impact. I’m glad the game is short because I couldn’t take much more of this “darker and edgier” attitude.
Into the Nexus is a short yet solid entry into the series. However, if you recall, I asked earlier if this game was capable of making me interested or passionate in the series again. My answer is yes to the first and no to the second. I thoroughly enjoyed my foray into Ratchet & Clank again. It was nice playing a quality platformer, especially one I hadn’t played in such a long time.
But unlike those past titles, this one lacks that creative magic, that special something to turn me from interested to passionate. And that makes all the difference.