Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time

Ratchet and Clank must both fulfill their roles in stopping time itself from falling into the wrong hands.
Michael Caleb - Staff Reviewer

Content at a glance:

Violence: Destruction of property; able to hit, but not kill, innocents; many different methods of killing and being killed, but all deaths are cartoony; greenish ooze left by insectoid enemies; disembodied head is destroyed, but no gore; shrapnel can be added to bomb.

Spirituality: "Praise Orvus," and "Praise Nefarious," both spoken; time travel; unexplained staffs that shoot blue energy; Great Clock is called "marvel of science and sorcery"; spirit walks, yoga, and meditation briefly mentioned.

Language: Insults to intelligence such as "moron" are used; "fackoff" appears as a nickname in the credits.

Adult Content: Quark cross-dresses and requests that enemies, "take it easy on the goods"; a joke about infidelity; double entendres.

Miscellaneous: Crude humor; effeminate salesman; Ratchet breaks the law; evolution is mentioned.

Positive: Difficult decisions are weighed, with characters willing to respect the choices of others; friendship and wanting your children to be happy are exalted.

“Ratchet and Clank” reviews:
Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters (2007)
Ratchet and Clank Future: Quest for Booty (2008)
Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time (2010)
Ratchet and Clank (2016—film)

Story

Clank is missing, Dr. Nefarious is at large, and Ratchet’s only lead on either of them is the coordinates of the Breegus System. Teaming up with old enemy and ally Captain Quark and General Alister Azimuth, the only other living Lombax in the known universe, Ratchet embarks on a quest to reunite with his mechanical friend. Elsewhere, Clank awakens to find himself in the Great Clock, and with the help of its junior caretaker, Sigmund, will learn many secrets about the universe and his place in it.

Even though A Crack in Time is the ninth game of the series and a direct continuation of both “Tools of Destruction” and “Quest for Booty,” there is enough backstory provided to allow new players to have a broad understanding of the story, although there may be minor details that are brushed over in the process.

Insomniac introduces a number of new species into the series with this entry: there are the muscle-brained Agorian warriors, the melon-headed Terachnoid scientists, the reptilian Vullard junk-collectors, and the technophobic Fongoid tribespeople. Each new species is well-represented and provides at least some comedic effect.

The humor present in past games makes a definite return, ranging from pop-culture references to the names of objects, e.g. the orb of gratuitous immobilization. Character quirks, such as Clank’s signature laugh, Nefarious’ clumsiness and habit of becoming paralyzed while broadcasting audio from a bad soap opera, and Quark’s ineptness will be easily recognizable to past fans, but are used in situations varied enough to avert allowing them to become stale.

aCiT1

Audiovisual

Although the graphics are not Pixar quality during gameplay, the cartoony characters, weapons, and environments are rendered beautifully and colorfully on screen, even when there are many different things going on. Clank’s subconscious is a particularly striking environment, with floors that undulate dynamically. Insomniac also continues the use of short animated segments by implementing them as weapon introductions and humorous story elements.

There were problems with graphical stuttering and clipping, but the biggest disappointment on the graphics front was that Ratchet’s armor–or current skin–is not reflected in cutscenes, instead being replaced with the generic, colorless base. All of these issues were minor and did not come into play very often, so it is hard to really hold them against the developers.

The voice actors play their roles quite well, with voices that fit the characters and spot-on comedic timing. The music always fits the setting, and space travel comes with a newly implemented radio that allows the player to switch between four stations: Polaris Classical, Pirate Radio, House of Synth, and Deep Space Jams, all of which provide pleasing music to listen to during the player’s travels. Personally, I kept the radio switched to the House of Synth and listened to the electronica music it provided throughout most of the game.

Although I did encounter a glitch that caused a weapon’s sound effect to repeat ad nauseam, this particular glitch occurred only once and with such specific parameters that other players are not likely to run into themselves. A more pressing error is the lack of quality subtitles: even with other sounds turned down a great deal, it can be difficult to hear peripheral dialogue, and the subtitles do not cover most of this content. In fact, the subtitles for many exchanges, especially in space, will omit Ratchet’s half of the conversation completely, making this game decidedly unfriendly to those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

aCiT2

Gameplay

Since Ratchet and Clank are separated from each other, the gameplay is split between the two. This leaves Ratchet without his trusty, mobility-enhancing backpack and Clank without his furry, weapon-toting carrier. Fortunately, the gameplay has been tweaked for both. Ratchet gains a new gadget, the Hoverboots, which allow him to zip around environments and have a limited gliding ability, whereas Clank is provided with the Chronoscepter, a staff that is able to control time in limited ways, and is challenged by temporal puzzles in which he must record and rerecord copies of himself in order to overcome the hurdle. The late-game Clank challenges, in particular, should be highly satisfying to the analytical mind.

The hover boots are rather fun to race around on, and their gliding abilities do make up for the lack of Clank, but unfortunately, they can not replace Clank upgrades such as the hydropack, which means that this game is lacking the underwater gameplay found in most of the previous titles. Besides this deficiency, gadgets in general were scaled back: many of the automatic gadgets such as the Grindboots and O2 Mask from previous games come standard, but other than the Hoverboots, only Ratchet’s OmniSoaker and Clank’s Time Bombs are new to the series, and neither are used nearly as often as the Hoverboots.

The weapons are still creative and occasionally hilarious, such as Mr. Zurkon, who will make remarks about enemies, innocents, and even Ratchet being small and frail compared to him. Much like the gadgets, weapons were scaled back in some ways: even though there are three quick select menus, there are only enough weapons to completely fill the first two, with a single weapon spilling over onto the third. Besides that, there are absolutely no melee weapons in the game, save Ratchet’s wrench. Perhaps most disappointing is the scaling-back of weapon customization: only three weapons are able to customized, and two of those are so weak and lacking in ammo capacity that they are almost worthless, no matter what combination of parts the player puts onto them.

In this entry, Insomniac added in space exploration, allowing the player to touch down on moons and small planets as miniature playgrounds of either platforming, combat, or a mixture of the two. This added freedom is welcome, but space battles were reformatted in order to allow for this freedom, leaving the combat gutted, tedious, and repetitive.

aCiT3

Violence

Just like its predecessors, “A Crack in Time” primarily revolves around Ratchet gathering a strange assortment of weapons and proceeding to blast anything and everything around him. The player is rewarded for destruction of property with bolts, used as money to buy more weapons, and skill points such as one given for destroying all objects in a peaceful village. It is also possible to attack innocent bystanders whenever they are around, although the player is never able to do anything more than annoy them.

The characters that are able to be killed will meet their end by bullets, lasers, explosions, sound waves, buzz saws, blunt objects, ice, fire, electricity, flesh-eating bugs, and even offscreen mauling by an interdimensional being named Fred. No matter the mode of death, all deaths are cartoonish in nature: robotic enemies will explode, leaving nothing behind, while organic enemies will simply disappear. The closest things to gore are the greenish ooze that is left behind by certain insectoid enemies and the destruction of a disembodied head, which simply explodes into bolts. Some might find it objectionable that one of the parts for the Constructo Bombs adds shrapnel to the explosions.

Spirituality

The Fongoids are a race of tribal aliens that serve, and seem to worship, a character named Orvus. At different points in the game, the player will hear some of them say, “Praise Orvus,” and even, “Praise Nefarious,” in a certain section. The Fongoids have also sworn off technology, thanks mostly to their prior abuse of time travel, which plays an important role in the story. Even so, they have staffs that shoot blue energy at their enemies: without the use of technology, this seems to imply magical means, but the player is never informed of the staffs’ workings.

Dr. Nefarious is the source of the rest of the game skimpy spiritual aspects: he refers to the Great Clock as being a “marvel of science and sorcery.” Elsewhere, he speaks of taking a spirit walk, complete with one of the aforementioned Fongoid staffs, practicing yoga, and taking part in meditation, with a picture of him hovering over the ground while in the lotus position. Most of this is used as a joke, but it might still trouble some.

aCiT4

Language

No vulgar language is used or implied for most of the game. Some terms that disparage one’s intelligences, e.g. moron, are used throughout, mostly by Nefarious, but little else that anyone could find offensive is to be found. The sole example of questionable material for this category is in the credits: the nickname for a certain person includes the nickname “fackoff” in quotes.

Adult Content

Most of the content in this category comes from Captain Quark: at one point, he dresses up as a female nurse in order to gain entry to Nefarious’ station, although it is not taken any farther than it was with Bugs Bunny in old Looney Tunes cartoons. At certain points in the game, Quark will tell his attackers to “take it easy on the goods,” which is a bit more troubling.

Upon being freed, one Fongoid comments that he cannot wait to see his wife, with another responding, “Me, too!” Besides this, there is a skill point called “Chasing Tail,” although it is actually speaking of the tail of a comet.

aCiT5

Miscellaneous Content

Crude humor is used, and the chief offender is Quark. For example, after a particularly harrowing experience, he says, “So much for clean underwear.” The armor salesman is effeminate, which might be an issue to some. Ratchet is willing to break the law in order to find Clank, at one point breaking into a company whose president is in league with Nefarious. Elsewhere, a smuggler says he is looking for someone with “malleable morality,” finally asking Ratchet to help him. It is briefly mentioned that the Agorians have not continued to evolve for the past few millennia.

Positive Content

Characters are saddled with difficult decisions, and weigh them carefully before choosing a path. Other characters make it clear that they will respect the choices, whether they are happy about them or not. A father makes it clear that he would rather his children be happy than fulfill the destiny he had planned for them. Friendship is held us as an ideal over using people for your own good.

Conclusion

The weapons, gadgets, customization, fun gameplay, puzzles, crude humor, and double entendrés one might expect from “Ratchet & Clank” make a return in this entry, but for better or for worse, there is simply less of all of them. What was included is stellar, save space combat, and I was greatly happy to see a much better balance between platforming and combat than has been in many of the games. Hopefully, Insomniac will look at what worked and what did not in this title and will combine all of the best aspects of this and previous entries to make the next Ratchet & Clank game stand above all of the rest.




Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Eden Communications or the Christian Answers Network.

About this game