Every once in a while a game comes out that is as charming and funny as it is amusing and easy to play. For Insomniac Games, that ‘every once in a while’ seems to happen every couple of years, with the latest incarnation arriving in the form of Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack In Time – and the good news is, it’s the best yet. Following on from Quest for Booty, A Crack in Time is culmination of the critically acclaimed ‘Future’ saga, offering closure on one of the greatest modern platformers to have graced Sony’s black behemoth. If you were a fan of past R&C games, or just have a penchant for cutesy characters, hilarious dialogue, and richly diverse gameplay, you will, without a doubt, love A Crack in Time. Having said that, this latest installment has sparked our curiosity as to when Insomniac will apply some substantial changes to the series that offers a fresh gameplay experience, as opposed to the relatively incremental upgrades witnessed thus far.
The latest entry picks up where the previous titles left off. The major plot points are all revealed during a humorous movie clip that is presented during the game’s installation. A Crack In Time essentially starts where Quest for Booty left off, itself of which followed Tools of Destruction. Fortunately for newcomers, however, the intro cut scene arrives in the shape of a mock interview with Captain Qwark, who divulges all the background information you need regarding previous iterations in the franchise. This cut scene provides one of the better openings we’ve seen in a long time, and sets the game off on a positive and intriguing pace that doesn’t let up.
The first level is played as Clank, who was abducted by those pesky Zoni creatures. Clank’s adventure is set in a brilliant environment, and without giving too much plot away, you’ll soon learn that he has inherited some powerful new abilities related to time – hence the game’s subtitle. For the most part, however, you’ll oversee the majority of the action as Ratchet as he embarks on a personal quest to find and rescue his friend.
Beyond the story, fans of the series know the best part of R&C games are the weapons and gadgets. A Crack in Time offers a bevy of new tools for your gameplay enjoyment plus plenty of old favorites. One of our favorite news weapons is the Sonic Erupter, which forces a swarm of enemies to perform their mating call, wiping them out in the process. You can pretty much upgrade and modify all of your equipment, but this system is not overly complex or deep. We weren’t expecting the Constructo modifications to offer all that much, and since we didn’t get all that much from it, we weren’t all that disappointed.
Ratchet’s new hover boots are the best addition to the game, and make for some refreshingly unique action. These boots are primarily used in the platforming aspects of the game, and while we found some areas that created more frustration than it seemed worth, the boots make for a welcome addition to the series. You’ll even get a cool obstacle course to learn how to use these new boots.
All the same, there are some platforming sections that are an exercise in pure frustration. This brings us back to the point that if you are not into such titles, it’s likely A Crack In Time won’t seem an overly appealing purchase. All the inherent frustrations of the genre come in to play here, such as making meticulously planned jumps to a platform suspended high above the ground, which must be repeated over and over again should you happen to fail and subsequently plummet to your death. We can’t really take points off for this, since it’s the nature of the game, but at the same time, doing the same set of tasks over and over again inevitably gets monotonous. Still, those of you who enjoy a good platform romp should be instantly familiar with these fundamental gameplay elements, and therefore likely won’t find it to be much of an issue.
Ratchet doesn’t just traverse random alien planets; he also zooms through the galaxy in his spaceship. There are plenty of advantages to flying, including stopping off at random mini-planets that offer, you guessed it, mini-missions. You’ll also have to gun down alien spacecraft and avoid asteroids, though the flight mechanics themselves aren’t particularly engaging since you can only travel on a 2D plane (no up and down, just left to right). Despite this, the flying segments are still enjoyable enough, and don’t hog up significant portion of the gameplay.
Insomniac has repeatedly touted the new time aspects of the game. During some levels, Clank has the ability to make duplicates of himself to perform various functions (like lowering a platform, standing on a switch, or throwing a bomb to slow time). These segments are completely original and offer a fresh take on puzzle solving, but it does occasionally feel cumbersome and boring. Controlling time should make you feel invincible, but after a while it feels more work than it’s worth. Still, we enjoyed the concept, but frequently found ourselves frustrated with time travel mechanics. Luckily (we suppose), you can skip these time travel puzzles if you wish, but we advise trying to solve them on your own.
Ultimately, A Crack In Time proves such a compelling affair due to the simple fact it’s a blast to play. The game is packed to the rafters with so much to see and do that you rarely have a chance to get bored. In terms of combat, the gunplay elements are also fun and not overly complex. There’s actually quite a variety in your approaches to fighting, which helps you feel in charge of the action, though we must admit the puzzles – while enjoyable enough – did descend in to dullsville on occasion. At it’s best though, A Crack In Time is hilarious, engaging, quirky and utterly adorable. Adults will have fun playing through A Crack in Time as much, if not more than children, as the humor has something of a mature edge to it, while the action and puzzle elements are deep enough to keep parents entertained while playing with their kids.
In closure, if you are a fan of the Ratchet & Clank series this will probably be one of your favorite entries in the series to date. If you like platforming, puzzle solving, quirky characters, hilarious dialogue, and fast-paced gun battles, A Crack In Time offers the complete package. However, if you were hoping for some more than mere incremental upgrades to the formula to see the saga out, you may end up disappointed, as there’s really not that much new here. Indeed, while we were hoping to have seen a bigger leap forward for the series with this latest installment, A Crack In Time is still a beautifully crafted, visually stunning and ultimately hilarious platform romp that’s an absolute blast to play.