After saving their inhabited galaxy quite a few times, the dynamic lombax and robot duo of Ratchet and Clank, feel that they deserve some time off. After all, Dr. Nefarious is long gone, right? Rumors are swirling, saying that the green and purple menace escaped before he could be destroyed, though there is no official evidence to go along with that here-say. Suspecting they were victorious, the pair would like to sit back and relax, in order to spend some quality time with their favourite holo games. Though, due to the fact that the life of a hero is always a busy one, that idea will become a pipe dream instead of reality. Instead, the pair must enter their latest digital adventure in Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One.
As it turns out, Nefarious did escape from certain doom, much like any other super-villain in fictional history. He’s not only safe and alive, but has decided to plot yet another evil trap occurrence for his pint-sized nemeses. This newly formed and devious plan comes to fruition at the start of the game. The resulting chain of events is catastrophic, going wrong on as many levels as possible. It sets the game off on an action-packed front and instigates an interesting surprise for series veterans. More about that later though.
Conveniently, President Quark (the oft-funny but dim-witted supporting character we all know and love) is given an invitation to an award ceremony which is said to be honouring his achievements. Not clueing in to the fact that the podium is located inside of a gigantic, frozen monster’s mouth in the middle of nowhere, the galaxy’s bumbling leader steps inside. As per usual, small details are overlooked and trouble ensues, with Nefarious flying out of the shadows on a high-tech hover board. Thinking that he finally has the upper hand in a no way out situation, his greeting is both maniacal and comical, though things don’t go as planned.
When the colourful, robotic evildoer unleashes his monster from its cryogenic stasis, it makes a b-line for the city in the distance and starts creating a terrible path of destruction. In the midst of all of the resulting panic, the hover board is smashed and Nefarious’ robotic butler tenders his resignation, leaving his former boss at the hands of three angry heroes. Doomed to a potential life in jail or worse, he admits guilt and decides to help fix his created mess. This creates the group of four which we get to choose from and play as, throughout this platform-action title.
The team’s surprising formation and impromptu debut mission as a foursome, sets off an interesting chain of events. Resulting travels lead to capture by a GLADoS style robot, where the group must escape from certain doom with the help of a young girl. It’s after this chance meeting that the game’s full plot kicks in, with the stranger asking for help in saving her people from evil. Scientific evil, which has displaced their tribe from its homeland.
Insomniac Games has become a well-known name amongst members of the gaming community, mentioned atop lists of developers who are skilled at their craft. The studio’s specialty is creativity, no matter which genre they tackle, with the Ratchet and Clank series being their most well-received property. Their penchant for creating interesting and innovative platform-action titles is quite impressive, with these skills being used to further the popular series with All 4 One.
The colourful allied duo’s latest adventure is somewhat different from their previous quests. Instead of taking on a solo adventure vibe with two playable characters, All 4 One is a four-player cooperative adventure, touting both couch and online play options. Of course, those who would prefer to go through the game in old school fashion can do so, with the help of a computer-controlled ally.
Containing many elements from previous series releases, Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One is a solid release which marries quick and precise jumps with melee attacks and out-of-this-world weaponry. After all, it wouldn’t be a Ratchet and Clank adventure without insanely cool tech. The elements fans like and look forward to are here, but in a simpler form, in an attempt at accessibility for younger audiences and those who haven’t played many video games before. The result is a solid, family friendly title, though one that doesn’t necessarily showcase all of the team’s strengths as much as previous releases have.
The best part about Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One is that it’s pretty fun, accessible and interesting. The series’ transition to more family friendly material was handled quite well and the outcome is pretty fun to play. However, the game’s overall design leaves some things to be desired. The map design is colourful and has some nice amounts of varied scenery, but each level feels similar to the last due to an over-use of similar pathways and interactive elements. It feels strange saying that level variety is a problem area in a release from this series, but the aforementioned designs led to an unexpected amount of repetition. Don’t get me wrong: There are some neat segments found within, such as a jetpack stage and a water skiing event, but what’s there is too few and far between.
Each stage is a competition of sorts, with a concluding tally displaying its chosen victor. The decision, which is based on the amount of bolts collected, enemies killed and creatures captured, will be a fun motivator for kids. However, the older crowd will be disappointed by how little the award matters in the long run. Cooperative actions are quite often required for traversal through hard to reach areas (whether you’re shooting a partner across a chasm or completing two to four player puzzles), but multiplayer sessions lead to individuality at most other times. Players are always competing to see who can get the most things which is fun, but also departs from the overall team mentality. Perhaps that’s a nitpick however.
Your heroic foursome is awarded a neat vacuum device at the start of the game. It can be used as a weapon, bolt collector or partner-shooting contraption. However, one of its other main modes is the ability to capture creatures found throughout the world. At first, this quest doesn’t make a lot of sense, but its reasoning is revealed as the storyline progresses. This vacuum and the chance to deal amplified amounts of damage upon enemies through team shooting (using the same weapon) are two of the main additions to the series’ established formula in All 4 One. Both help out a lot in the attempt to make cooperative play a selling point for this digital excursion.
Longtime fans of the series will enjoy Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One, though they might find that its gameplay is oversimplified. Newcomers and the younger crowd will be more forgiving of this change, as it presents a relatively competitive, lengthy, interesting and colourful experience. I just wish that there was more creativity and less repetition found within the game’s pathway designs, boss battle mechanics and interactive elements. There’s a lengthy campaign to be found on this disc, lasting around eight to ten hours or so, but it could have been a bit better than it is. The emphasis on shooting and rather standard boss battles can become a bit tiresome after a while, which is too bad.
From a structure and design standpoint, there was one issue that stood out to me as being somewhat surprising and confusing. There’s a severe lack of auto-save checkpoints, meaning that turning off the system during a stage will result in the player(s) having to re-play that section from the start. Although each location is split up into a few different areas, this can still result in a setback of ten or fifteen minutes. It only saves progress at the end of these segments, which is when the scores are tallied. Older gamers will be more forgiving, but it may become an annoyance for the younger crowd – especially if they have to shut the game off for dinner. It froze on me once, which resulted in a frustrating loss of mission progress, as a result of this design decision.
With this release, Insomniac Games are once again showing off when it comes to presentation. Their ability to craft colourful and neat-looking worlds, alongside interesting characters, is an impressive art. From an aesthetics standpoint, Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One is a surefire hit. Its colour palette is rich with tons of detail to be found within its environments and weapon-based effects. The action is fast and fluid, for the most part, with occasional frame rate issues creeping in.
Taking its new target audience into account, one should enter Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One expecting some lighter jokes. The writing is still pretty solid and has its comical moments, but the emphasis on being family friendly has affected it a bit, resulting in some sequences feeling more like a Saturday morning cartoon. A pretty good one, though. One that contains quality and humorous voice acting from its cast.
Although it’s a departure from the series’ norm, Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One is a solid game which provides a lengthy campaign. It’s not perfect and has lost some of its prevalent charm and creativity found in previous releases, but what’s there is quite fun and interesting. Fans of the series should check this one out even though it’s not targeted completely toward the hardcore crowd, choosing to focus more on basic puzzles and kid friendly content. Newcomers, families and young children should check it out for a colourful romp through alien worlds, with some quirky characters and solid gameplay. There’s a solid game here, but it lacks memorable creativity and a potential wow factor element; things which could have made it a great classic.
This review is based on a PS3 copy of the game which we received for review purposes.
Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One is a solid and colourful title which boasts 4 player cooperative play as its main selling point. Couple that with great presentation and solid voice acting and you have a fairly enjoyable experience. It's just missing that "wow" factor.