If you owned a PlayStation 2, you probably played or at least heard about Ratchet & Clank; one of three major Sony 3D platforming franchises, alongside Jak & Daxter and Sly Cooper. Ratchet & Clank has spawned numerous sequels and spinoffs across PS2, PSP and PS3 but Ratchet & Clank Trilogy HD takes the series back to its roots by giving the first three Ratchet & Clank games the HD remake treatment, courtesy of Idol Minds.
Across the three games included – Ratchet & Clank, Going Command and Up Your Arsenal – you’ll play as the eponymous Ratchet, an anthropomorphic cat-like mechanic and his robotic sidekick Clank. The series features a sci-fi setting which sees players travelling between alien planets on spacecraft and taking on the various indigenous species of each planet. I won’t focus too much on the story, since the major appeal of this HD collection is for pre-existing fans of the series, but I will say that all the characters, cutscenes and different alien planets are crafted with all the whimsy and humour of a good Saturday morning cartoon.
As per usual with 3D platformers, you can expect to take part in a lot of jumping and melee combat (here with Ratchet’s giant wrench), some minor puzzle solving and travelling between different levels to unlock alternative routes and missions in others, as well as plenty of items to collect in the form of nuts ‘n’ bolts and ammo. It’s the kind of stuff you’d expect from the genre, and it’s all done very well; jumping and travelling through levels is fun and presents very few frustrating moments of missed jumps or cheap enemy placements. There are some mildly annoying minigame puzzles which involve redirecting lasers to specific points but they don’t present too much of a challenge.
What separates Ratchet & Clank from other 3D platformers has always the vast array of weaponry and gadgets utilised by Ratchet. Developer Insomniac Games have more recently been known for their unique weapons offered in the Resistance series, but re-visiting these earlier titles shows they’ve always had a flare for awesome weaponry and gizmos.
On offer across all three games are weapons that range from a basic laser blaster to a glove that fires bombs to a gun with the ability to turn enemies into sheep. Gadgets can come in the form of grind boots, which left Ratchet grind along rails, the swingshot which lets Ratchet swing between platforms ala Spider-Man and the Heli-Pack, which turns a double jump into the ability to fly for short distances at a time. Some of these weapons are earned through story progression or through completing certain objectives, while offers have to be purchased with the games’ collectibles which also act as currency. Using every gadget and weapon is fun and the progression of earning (or buying) new gizmos makes sticking with the game(s) rewarding.
Ratchet & Clank’s gameplay remains enjoyable despite it having aged ten years by now, but things still aren’t exactly perfect at times. There’s one problem that seems to crop up with all 3D platformers: the camera. This is still an issue even more recently made 3D platformers suffer from, and in Ratchet & Clank I couldn’t help but feel the camera was sometimes just not quite doing what I wanted it to; it moves somewhat inaccurately and occasionally gets stuck on scenery or in an unhelpful angle. Tapping L1 recenters the camera behind Ratchet, but it also brings him to a stop, meaning it’s not so great when you’re being pursued by an enemy.
Surprisingly, Up Your Arsenal’s multiplayer is left intact for this release. Up to eight players are separated into teams and can use Ratchet’s unique array of weaponry and some vehicles to combat each other. Sadly, this multiplayer feels old and sometimes clumsy by today’s standards. The camera complaints I had earlier are more prominent here, too; making it sometimes difficult to actually hit your target. Still, it’s doubtful anyone actually expected online multiplayer to make the cut in this HD collection, so it’s kind of nice Idol Minds included it at all.
So how do these old PS2 games hold up after receiving the HD remake treatment? Graphically you’ll be seeing all three games presented in glorious full 1080p, and everything looks colourful and vibrant. As far as HD remakes go – thanks to the Ratchet’s graphics never being over-complicated – this package is one of the better ones, and these old PS2 games do still hold up pretty well today, as long as you don’t expect them to look as good as the more recent Ratchet & Clank entries on PS3. Although these are clearly PS2 games, they’re very good looking PS2 games. Sound-wise, there’s all the catchy tunes and explosions you could want, and with all the robots you’ll be blasting there’ll be plenty of explosions.
It’s a shame, given how good these games still look, that pre-rendered cutscenes didn’t receive the same treatment and are still presented in a standard def 480p format. Outside of the three games, sadly, there’s nothing else offered here but trophy support – no online leaderboards, no special feature ‘behind-the-scenes’ or anything other than just the games themselves. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it would have been nice.
If you’re already a Ratchet & Clank fan looking to relive the series’ early days, then Ratchet & Clank Trilogy HD is a no-brainer; you’re getting the first three games in the series in full HD with trophy support for each game, and while there may not be any special extras for returning fans, at least the whole package is offered at an attractive price and the nostalgia will likely set in during the opening hours of the first game.
If you’re not already a fan of the series, then this HD collection is still worth a look; especially if you’re into 3D platformers. Again, the price definitely helps, as if you’re looking to get into the series then you’ll nab the first three games for under thirty bucks. Luckily, also, being a fan is not required as the games included in Ratchet & Clank Trilogy HD are some of the best examples of 3D platformers in history – a sci-fi Saturday morning cartoon adventure that’s never been just for kids.