So this video popped up on my recommended Youtube feed. A Ratchet and Clank video by TheGamingBritShow. I actually used to play tons of Ratchet and Clank on my old Playstation 2 and I’ve completed (with a little help) the first game, Up Your Arsenal and Ratchet: Gladiator, which was called Ratchet: Deadlocked in the US. I never played the later games because I never had a Playstation 3 or 4, but it turns out there are five next-gen Ratchet and Clank games – three ‘Future’ games, a short game set in its own time and a remake of Ratchet and Clank 1.
I watched the video, and it was an hour of good commentary, probably not everyone’s cup of tea though if you’re not interested in the franchise. It mainly looked at the differences between the original game and the remake, which only came into existence because of the Ratchet and Clank movie. That movie, after a second viewing and me having another look at Let’s Plays of the original game, was fucking awful. And I take back most of the good points I made when I reviewed it. The movie was a generic money-grabber aimed at kids.
After watching the video, I was slightly confused. Yes, I hadn’t actually seen any of the newer games, but surely this was just something with the remaster and the movie?
So I sat down and watched Let’s Plays of the first five games and the remaster. One of my favourite Let’s Play-ers, Bisnap, has played all the games and has them all on his channel, so I watched them there. He loves the games. Mainly for the gameplay and not really for the story at all. But for me, it was an eye-opener of how… dulled the newer games are.
I don’t mean dull as in boring. The games are very fun. There’s a bunch of cool weapons to level up and lots of things to explode and kill, as well as my arch nemesis, platforming. They’re all good, despite the increase on how repetitive they were. Have to have an arena world, have to have a place where you collect a ton of stuff, have to have X, Y and Z weapons or weapon variants. And so on. Clearly there was something about the arena format that was so good they made a whole game based on it – Ratchet: Gladiator was probably the edgiest of the whole series, but on the plus side, it contained pretty much no annoying Clank levels.
No, the problem is that everything’s blunt and dulled down. The sharp edges are sanded away. You start off as two people just trying to get shit done and at the same time building a relationship between themselves. As they travel, they realise that most people are scumbags looking for fame or money. Much like the real world. But as the game goes on, everything is just… given to them.
Sounds weird, but let me give you an example. In the very first game, you have to buy the Helipack upgrade for Clank. Al has to eat, you know? Everyone’s the same, and you get both Ratchet and Clank becoming frustrated about it all. Zoom forward to the remake, and Al just gives you the Helipack upgrade. While Clank is somewhat normal, Ratchet suddenly turns into that same boring starry-eyed child protagonist who wants to be a hero.
The weirdest thing though is that the remake of Ratchet and Clank has, well, nearly nothing to do with the original game. I wondered why I was confused watching the movie originally (it’d been years since I’d actually played the first game) and it wasn’t until I went back that I realised they changed the final boss completely! Dr. Nefarious is the boss from the third and seventh games, and suddenly he’s the boss in the remake, replacing evil businessman Drek. The story is only somewhat similar, as both games contain the ‘Deplanetizer’ and part of the bad guys’ plan is to destroy planets to build a new one. But that’s it.
The toned down, child-friendly content though doesn’t appear straight away in the Ratchet and Clank remake. It’s apparent in the next-gen console games too, just not as obviously. The characters turn into caricatures of themselves over time and everyone’s willing to help them. The only real scumbag of the later games is the weird pseudo-Australian lizard guy, the Smuggler but otherwise everyone’s pretty decent. Even Captain Quark, who literally tried to kill the protagonists in the first two games, is now nothing more than a blundering fool who wants to do the right thing and be famous but is just a fucking idiot. This almost comes back in the remake, with Quark betraying the team, but he almost instantly regrets it. Yet somehow that bastard had more of a character arc than Ratchet or Clank did.
Then you’ve got the whole ‘chosen one’ thing. Ratchet and Clank were always just two guys. Suddenly, in the Future story arcs, Ratchet is the last Lombax, and it turns out the Lombaxes were a super intelligent race. Clank isn’t just a mis-made robot from a factory, he’s somehow the chosen one, the heir to a great machine that maintains time. This all pops out of nowhere. And it’s cliche as heck. What makes this worse is that it’s all inconsistent. Why did Orvus, Clank’s ‘father’, make Clank in a factory that was building war droids? Why is Ratchet the last Lombax when we play alongside another Lombax in Ratchet and Clank 2? And how comes everyone in the galaxy knows what a Lombax is by sight, despite them all having disappeared when Ratchet was a baby?
It all clearly worked though. Enough to make a ton of games and a movie. Even if the movie didn’t sell well.
Oh well. That’s what happens when you streamline a game for a wider and wider audience?