As a big fan of Spyro’s adventures on the original PlayStation, Insomniac GamesRatchet and Clank caught my attention immediately during the PlayStation 2 era.  As a lover of all things platformer and collecting, the series delivered a strong blend of the two while introducing some fantastic combat options.  While the franchise has enjoyed a couple of PlayStation 3 releases, a collection has brought together the duo’s three original outings.  For those who may have missed out on them the first time around or simply want to revisit those classics, the Ratchet and Clank HD Collection is well worth a look.

Ratchet the Lombax and his robotic sidekick Clank saw three titles debut on the PlayStation 2: Ratchet and Clank, Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando and Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal.  While the PS3 releases certainly are more beautiful and refine the central mechanics, it is impressive to see how well the titles hold up by today’s standards.  Within minutes of starting the original Ratchet, I found myself resorting back to a rhythm of bolt-collecting and weapon upgrading.

The start of a beautiful Lombax-robot friendship.

For those less familiar with the gameplay, Ratchet and Clank hop from planet to planet, completing missions (usually uncovering story information or clearing out enemies from a world) and collecting bolts (the franchise’s currency to buy ammo and weapons).  Traversal will be familiar to third-person platforming fans with some light puzzle solving thrown in, but the series truly shines with its gunplay.

Along the way Ratchet will gain access to a number of new weapons, from gloves that throw bombs to a gun that sets up mini-turrets to another that turns enemies into exploding sheep.  Yes, exploding sheep.  Ratchet and Clank is all about finding new weapons, figuring out when best to employ them, and eviscerating the antagonistic aliens and robots in your path.

Clank is for more than just one-liners. He also helps Ratchet traverse more vertical terrain.

Using a weapon wheel easily accessible at any point in combat, players can access a myriad of weapons at any time, and nearly all of them are a treat in some fashion to use.  While you’ll certainly gravitate to a few favorites, the game produces a great feedback loop of frequently introducing new weapons that you will want to try for at least a few kills.  Weapons become more lavish as the titles progress, but the tradition established in the first title works well and only improves with each experience.

Going Commando also introduces upgradeable weapons, turning bombs into mini-nukes with one weapon, for example, which adds another incentive to play around in the toy box of weaponry.  Up Your Arsenal also adds a multiplayer component to the franchise.  For a previously single-player only experience, this portion of Up Your Arsenal delivers a surprisingly enjoyable set of modes that deserve at least a few rounds to experience one of the first major risks of the series.

In between all that shooting, I found myself still, even after having played every Ratchet previously, breaking each crate, lampost or other destructible in my path with the protagonist’s signature wrench melee weapon.  There is something I find immensely satisfying about amassing as many bolts as possible, and not only because I am seeking out bolt-related trophies.  More bolts equates to more weapons, which I can then test in combat and upgrade as I progress.  This simple yet addictive system is as fun to play as it was years ago thanks to a colorful art style and some amusingly written characters.

Planet hopping has its risks, including having to run from vicious, mechanical dogs.

In that respect, the Ratchet titles hold up surprisingly well.  The cartoonish look, while certainly dated in the earliest title, is never a hindrance while playing, and the HD bump provides each title with a considerable sheen.  Even when the titles clearly show their age, especially for those who have played the beautiful PS3 entries in the franchise, it is still as easy for Captain Qwark or the exchanges between the lead duo to entertain me as it was when I played each entry earlier in life.

Though the age of the oldest title does certainly show, the foundations of the franchise’s mechanics were established strongly enough to warrant a playthrough.  Don’t expect the smoothest outing, however, as the leap in both visual fidelity and gameplay is noticeable from the original title to the second offering.  Going Commando and Up Your Arsenal certainly improve things in both major and minor ways, from the addition of space combat to simply refining the way Ratchet runs and jumps, but the progression is an enjoyable one to experience from start to finish.

And yes, even having played all the the titles on their original console, this collection still holds a ton of enjoyment for fans looking for some nostalgic platforming.  These games were so well-received originally for a reason, and its a testament to Insomniac’s design that the games still hold up today.  All three titles offer a lengthy enough adventure to keep players invested for some time, and despite the frequent desire to hop into whatever is newest or the best-looking, the Ratchet and Clank HD Collection should not be overlooked by platforming and PlayStation fans.

 

Here’s the Rundown:

+ Fantastic blend of combat, collecting and platforming
+ Endearing and at-times hilarious characters
+  Enough creative and kooky weapons that are as satisfying as they are amusing
- Bare-bones presentation
- The original Ratchet and Clank can be rough around the edges
- If the weapon-bolt collection-platforming loop doesn’t entice you, this is not the collection you’re looking for

 

8 and 8.5 represent a game that is a good experience overall. While there may be some issues that prevent it from being fantastic, these scores are for games that you feel would easily be worth a purchase. 

Ratchet and Clank HD Collection was developed by Idol Minds and published by Sony Computer Entertainment.  It was released on August 28, 2012 for the MSRP of $39.99.  A copy was provided by the publisher to RipTen for the purposes of review.