Clocked

‘Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart’ is the first family-friendly next-gen masterpiece

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart brings all the series’ hallmarks – silly humour, addictive platforming, bombastic combat, and surprisingly charming characters – firmly into the next gen. Quite simply, it shouldn’t be missed.

I wasn’t exactly looking forward to playing Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. From what I had seen in the trailers and gameplay reveals it looked like a competently made platformer with a bunch of characters I have no connection to.

I remember watching my younger brother play through some of an earlier instalment of the acclaimed series, but dismissed it as childish and puerile. The bright colours, cartoonish characters and juvenile jokes didn’t appeal to my teenage sensibilities of angst and seriousness. Basically, I was kind of a dick – and most definitely too busy to play that kind of game.

So as I was saying, I wasn’t thrilled to have been assigned Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart – but boy am I glad that I was.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart starts with a bang, picks up the pace to sprint, and then never really lets up. The story starts with our heroic duo getting ready to attend a celebratory parade, being held in their honour, only for it to be interrupted by recurring villain Dr. Nefarious. After quickly being shown the ropes (you know, how to aim and double jump) and dealing with some comedic goons, things take a turn for the worse.

A thank you present designed by Clank for Ratchet is stolen and rudely abused, resulting in tears between a bunch of alternate realities. As you may have guessed, many of the series’ iconic characters end up getting sucked into the inter-dimensional portals, giving the game a solid narrative conceit to ground its story and diverse level design.

dr. nefarious
Screenshot: Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart / Insomniac Games

What to expect from Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart

Speaking of which, the level design, as well as the overall look of the game, is fantastic. Your journey will take you from alien planets populated with memorable creatures and characters to futuristic cities full of neon, espionage, and skyscrapers. The varied nature of the levels, and associated gameplay, means that Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart never feels stale. It’s a feast for all the senses.

The combat system starts of very simple, allowing new players to gently come to terms with the relevant mechanics. Early on I found myself chaotically running around whacking enemies with my melee weapon, only occasionally deciding to blast things with my pistol. However, by the first boss it was apparent the most fun way to play the game is to embrace the rapidly expanding arsenal at your disposal.

Pretty much every kind of gun you can think of makes an appearance in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart; from shotguns to laser beams, grenades, or summonable helpers of all sorts. At first the scope of my options was somewhat daunting, but the vendor that you purchase these weapons from includes a demonstration video that does a genuinely hilarious job of explaining how they work.

In no time at all I was zipping around the screen feeling like an adorable tornado of destruction – it’s like roleplaying a Looney Tune.

ratchet & clank glitch
Screenshot: Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart / Insomniac Games

Mini-games and puzzles that don’t distract

Even the puzzles and platforming sections of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart seem to have been designed to offer some gameplay variation – without ever slowing down the tempo of the game too much. Which isn’t to say they aren’t memorable.

Mini-games and puzzles are often be a double-edged sword in video games. Unless they are fun in their own right, they can end up being frustrating distractions that only serve to pad out a game’s playtime. I am glad to report that, despite my alarm bells ringing once or twice, this isn’t the case in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.

There is a little hacking mini-game where you control a ridiculously cute robot spider named Glitch, that demonstrates exactly what a mini-game should aim for. It is brief, introduces new gameplay mechanics, and ultimately doesn’t break the illusion of the main game.

In this case, it also doesn’t hurt that you can free-crawl up walls and landscapes in a way that reminds me of that classic PlayStation version of Ghost in the Shell.

A gaming experience that is difficult to fault

So despite my initial reservations, I ended up having an absolute ball with Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. The graphics and visuals are polished and a real joy to behold, while the gameplay is basically a tutorial in fun game mechanics. The end product is something Insomniac Games can be immensely proud of; further strengthening their reputation as one of the premier developers of action/platformer titles.

However, the thing that surprised me most about Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart was its humour and heart. I was expecting a well-executed game that, despite not being to my taste, would be enjoyable to other people. The fact that within an hour of turning the game on I was unironically giggling is a testament to its unique charm.

My only regret is that I spent my youth looking down my nose at the series, because make no mistake, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is the next-gen’s first undeniably brilliant game that’s appropriate for children and adults alike.

 

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is out June 11th exclusively on PS5.