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Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time
Score: 95%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: Insomniac Games
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Platformer (3D)

Graphics & Sound:
Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time hasn't seen quite the amount of hype and attention as past games in the series. As a long-time fan of the games, I'm a bit disappointed at the lack of attention, but at the same time understand it. The series has, for the most part, followed a steady path through the action-platformer genre with very few major deviations to the formula. This may lead some to see the series as formulaic, which in some respects is true. But with A Crack in Time, Insomniac has managed to squeeze in a couple of new ideas, making it the best on the PS3, if not the entire series.

A Crack in Time looks and sounds great. The player models are immaculate and in some areas rival some CGI movies. One of the more noteworthy additions is self-shadowing, which gives everything a semi-cel-shaded appearance. It definitely adds just the right amount of "pop" to everything, particularly the levels. Every planet you come across has its own aesthetic, making it seem like its own unique place and one piece of a larger universe.

Comedy is one of the hardest things to pull off, especially in videogames, but once again, Insomniac has pulled it off. Voicework is spot on in both tone and delivery and the music always hits just the right mood.


Gameplay:
Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time marks the completion of the story that began in Tools of Destruction and carried on through Quest for Booty. With the duo still separated after the conclusion of Tools of Destruction, Ratchet continues his quest to find his missing metal friend. At the same time, Clank is finally discovering why the Zoni kidnapped him in the first place and why he is the only sentient robot to step off the assembly line all the way back in the first game.

Series vets should be able to jump right into the story without a hitch, but for newcomers, Captain Quark provides a short recap at the beginning of the game. Quark's narration also provides a good look at the game's sense of humor. Although there is a more concerted effort to make the story about the characters and the duo's relationship (expect some touching moments), the game's narrative really doesn't take itself that seriously. Everyone you meet has some sort of absurd personality quirk, creating some laugh-out-loud moments, as well as a goofy, fun vibe that continues throughout the entire game.

Gameplay is split into two sections following Ratchet or Clank. Ratchet's sections should be immediately familiar and feature the same run-and-gun platforming as previous games. Once again, Ratchet has access to an ever-increasing and evolving arsenal of over-the-top weapons. Weapons run the gamut; from pistols and shotguns to ice grenades, gun-ho robot helpers and a cannon that turns enemies into monkeys. In addition to blowing things up with his arsenal, players can collect numerous items throughout Ratchet's adventure. The main story takes about 12 hours to complete, though you can easily tack on another 5 -6 going through the optional moon levels, arena matches and other side-quests.


Difficulty:
Clank's sections in Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time follow the same platformer-based gameplay, but offer inventive time-based puzzles, creating some of the game's more difficult areas. Each puzzle places you in a room with switches, levers and multicolored buttons. Standing on one of the buttons records Clank's actions. The object is to create a clone army performing multiple actions to open a door. For instance, one clone will need to step on a switch to raise a platform, while another will need to stand on that platform to hit another switch that opens the door. What's cool about the feature is how much you need to work in precise concert with other clones. Solutions aren't hard to envision, but getting the timing right requires some patience. If patience isn't you forte, you can always skip out on these sections with a slight penalty.

Looking back at Ratchet's areas, they're much more straightforward and not incredibly difficult. Veterans can easily jump into Hard and blast through the game with few problems.


Game Mechanics:
Ratchet's weapons level up with use and can become really powerful, really quickly. Guns earn experience every time you hit an enemy and, as they level up, become more powerful. Areas tend to be stuffed with enemies, so even after purchasing a weapon late in the game, it doesn't take long to max it out. Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time also introduces a new upgrade system for weapons that lets you further customize weapons. Add-ons are scattered throughout the galaxy and offer things like rapid fire, exploding shells and other slight tweaks. None of the upgrades is necessarily more powerful than the other, causing the system to feel like a real customization kit and not just another way to level up weapons.

The biggest addition to Ratchet's side of the game brings back two of my favorite features. While zooming between planets, you can engage in a little space combat with enemy ships and even take missions from wayward travelers. Flying is restricted and few of the ship's capabilities, like barrel rolls, go under-utilized, but overall the areas are still fun. Additionally, you can land on moons and run through spherical planet levels in pursuit of weapon upgrades and Zoni. These areas provide a few platforming challenges, some of which aren't intentional. The camera can become uncooperative when traveling around planets, especially when jumping.

Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time is the sum total of all the tweaks, changes and features found in past games. It may be "more of the same," but that isn't a problem.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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