Your best friend has been kidnapped by the hater of all organic life, Dr. Nefarious, you are the last known example of your species and you’re stuck with a large green ‘super hero’ that is as useful as money on one of Winona Ryder’s shopping trips. Defeat Dr. Nefarious and rescue Clank. That’s the basic story to Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time and this is outlined within the first five minutes of the game; but do not be fooled by such a simple premise. In true Ratchet & Clank style, the game becomes vast and immersive in very little time at all, not least of all because of the addition of The Great Clock – a time controlling device at the center of the universe which Clank is expected to take charge of.
Due to the fact that our heroes are separated from the very beginning of this game, you take control of Ratchet and Clank alternately, each with their own path through the story. The path you take with Ratchet will be very familiar to fans and followers of the series: Visit various planets, destroy crates, earn Bolts and eliminate enemies. Obviously there are reasons for visiting each location and the storyline will take you through simple rescue missions of peaceful creatures to full-blown warfare with some less than friendly beings.
When given control of Clank, the game play takes on a different pace and feel. Despite the fact that Clank is less charismatic and much less ‘cool’ than his best friend (a bit like C3PO), his portions of the game do allow for completely different mechanics to be used. One such mechanic is the introduction of ‘Temporal Recording’. As Clank ventures around The Great Clock he will come across several puzzles that need to be completed in order to advance. To complete these, you have to work out which switches do what and using 2, 3 or 4 ‘Time Pads’, record your actions, play it back whilst recording another action, play those back whilst recording another action and play all of those back whilst recording another action. At any one time you can have up to four different versions of Clank running in all different directions, activating switches and ultimately opening the door for your controllable version of Clank to pass through and advance to the next stage.
Assuming this was a family game, I underestimated the complexity of these time puzzles and, especially later on, you will find yourself slowly slipping into a stupefied state as you desperately try to work out where each Clank is going, what they are doing and what the hell to record next, all before your allotted minute is up. At times this is hindered by Clank’s frustratingly temperamental controls, especially when using the helicopter add-on to cross gaps and reach higher platforms.
The Temporal Recording is just one of a vast number of additions to the series. I was seriously impressed with the sheer volume of things to do within the game. Another major part of A Crack in Time comes in the shape of a spaceship called Aphelion. Aphelion is Ratchet’s vessel of choice when it comes to crossing the vast expanses of space; it’s no Enterprise but then again you can’t have everything, can you? Previously, Ratchet is taken on a pre-determined course from planet to planet with the occasional space fight in between, but, with the aid of Aphelion, you can now explore each star system in your own time; you can even land on smaller planets to carry out sub-missions and earn more bolts and extras. Like most of Ratchet’s gadgets, Aphelion will upgrade as you venture through the game. Capturing Zoni will automatically increase the fire power, health, strength and speed of your spaceship.
The sub-missions which are strewn throughout the galaxy don’t vary much, it has to be said, but they are enjoyable enough to want to do them. They are limited to finding Zoni, Gold Bolts or weapon Mods to destroying a set number of enemies. There are also missions such as towing other spaceships to safety, destroying satellites and escorting people to a certain point. Whilst that may sound like a lot of extra stuff to do, it does become predictable very quickly. The main problem I have with this game is the camera and how it interferes with the flow of the game; it’s even more noticeable on the smaller planets. Although you can control it with the right analogue stick, there are moments when the camera becomes fixed or semi-fixed and it’s here that you lose a sense of depth and distance, which in turn leads to those all-to-familiar moments where you want to hurl the controller at something that smashes…or bleeds. But, putting predictable missions and jarring cameras aside, there is one area that A Crack in Time excels – weapons.
With an arsenal that would embarrass the military of any Super-Power, Ratchet has more than enough ways of defeating his enemies. There are over 15 different guns of varying damage and intensity at your disposal; three of them are completely new for the Ratchet & Clank series. These are called ‘Constructo’ weapons. With Pistol, Shotgun and Bomb variations, the Constructo range allows for modifications and tweaks depending on your preferred playing style. This, for example, means that you could build your shotgun to include explosive ammunition, rapid fire and ricocheting bullets while your Bomb conceals a toxic cluster that will rain down upon your foes when detonated. And what would any customisable weapon be without the option for a custom paint-job? The great thing about Ratchet’s arsenal is that although you’ll no doubt find yourself a favourite, Buzz Blades in my case, each one has its own strengths and at some point during your play through you will use all of them to accomplish something.
But Ratchet’s tools of destruction don’t stop at things that go ‘boom’. You will also be given Hover-Boots, allowing Ratchet to race around the landscape. These boots do allow for even more elements to be added to the game, including what can only be described as race tracks. However, I found these to be more of a hindrance than anything else. There are times when they become necessary in order to complete your mission but the handling is extremely rough and control leaves a lot to be desired. The only thing I could do to ease the stress they induced was to ponder the possibility of using the boots’ flames to melt Ratchet’s eyeballs!
Clank isn’t completely devoid of weapons either; he will earn the right to wield the ‘Chronoseptor’. This elaborate-looking staff puts the gold one that Skeletor has at the end of the 1987 movie, Masters of the Universe, to shame (don’t pretend you don’t know what I mean). The Chronoseptor does four things: 1) It can be used to bludgeon enemies to death, 2) It can be used to fix objects to gain a few extra bolts, 3) It repels incoming fire, whether that be from an enemy or security platform and 4) It repairs time. Clank also owns ‘Time Bombs’. These are basically small bombs that will create a bubble of slow-motion; anything that enters this bubble will immediately become slower than a two-legged sloth on valium, which is handy when faced with a large number of enemies.
With masses and masses of things to do/buy/collect, Insomniac have really out-done themselves in terms of in-game content. The story is decent enough and it does provide some very funny moments in both the hi-res cut scenes and background chat, but A Crack in Time does feel different to other R&C games and I can’t quite put my finger on what that difference is. It’s an odd feeling seeing as we know the characters so well and players of previous titles will be familiar with the majority of the game play. The only thing I can think of is that it does feel somewhat more mature even though it’s still family friendly. Like I said, it’s an odd feeling. The graphics are great, as is the voice acting, but, certainly in the early parts, it is slightly inferior to Tools of Destruction, for example. Having said that, A Crack in Time is in no way a bad outing for the last-known Lombax. In fact, it’s actually quite brilliant.
The length of the game will depend on how you play. I, for example, played on the Hard setting from the outset and because I’m obsessive about gathering up everything there is to collect, I completed the game in around 17 hours. Upon completing the game you will be given the option to go back in time in order to collect any out-standing extras that there may be, or to complete any out-standing sub-missions as well as the option to create a new save and begin Challenge Mode. Challenge Mode is where you’ll keep all of your existing experience, weapons and bolts, and face a tougher version of the game with the option to purchase the Omega range of weapons. Having played the game on Hard, Challenge Mode isn’t actually a challenge – if anything it’s a little easier. If you’ve completed everything else there is to do, you can do this mode within a couple of hours.
- Huge amounts of content
- Lengthy campaign and masses of replayability
- Funny and entertaining
- Great graphics and voice acting
- Some combat becomes repititious
- Controls are sometimes clumsy and awkward
- Space travel can become predictable
Verdict: Overall A Crack in Time is a brilliant addition to the Ratchet & Clank franchise and it manages to keep its charm and character despite the introduction of so many new features. The control issues, along with some repetitive content, do jar on occasions but they aren’t enough to distract you from your overall enjoyment of a game that is well worth the money.