Nov 9, 2011

[Games] Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One (PS3)

I've been a fan of the Ratchet & Clank franchise since the very beginning - and this is despite my limited success with platformers. But for one reason or another, this series has always worked for me given its quirky humor, dynamic gameplay and challenging puzzles.

Earlier this year Sony released PlayStation Move Heroes, which got me rather excited since it promised to be a multiplayer platform game featuring some of the PlayStation's most iconic characters, including Ratchet & Clank. How the game turned out to be a bomb given the 2-player co-op involved the second player being strictly limited to being a supporting character / side-kick. Possibly fun, but not quite what I was hoping for.

So when this game came out, I was initially cautious about it. And while the initial reviews weren't unanimously praising the game, at its core it's a multiplayer co-op game, which became the main selling point of the game for me and my partner. While it's not exactly the most complex game genre for sure, we do find it to be a lot of fun and thus we're always on the look-out for local co-op games.

Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One is a 2011 four-player cooperative game developed by Insomniac Games and distributed by Sony Computer Entertainment. It's an exclusive PlayStation 3 title and it takes place some time after the events in Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack In Time.

In terms of the game's story (and it really does have one), things start with Galactic President Qwark on his way to receive an "Intergalactic Tool of Justice Award" from some unknown group. Ratchet & Clank accompany him to the awarding and are both skeptical about this little award. True enough, it turns out that the whole thing is a trap by Dr. Nefarious and he proceeds to awaken a light-eating Z'Grute. But instead of merely attacking our heroes, the Z'Grute goes wild and thus Dr. Nefarious is drawn into an uneasy alliance with the three heroes.

The game allows you to control one of the four characters. Each generally has the same controls - a way to attack, jump, throw a projectile and use weapons for the most part. Of course they all look and sound very different from one another and the characters each have their fair share of in-game chatter as you fight through each level.

Like other Ratchet & Clank games, All 4 One has a very creative weapons system featuring a variety of exotic weapons, some of which may be familiar to longtime players. You all start with your basic Combustor but later on get a robot companion called Mr. Zurkon and the Critter Strike, which allows you to convert an opponent into a critter like a pig or a dinosaur. Each player character also has a unique weapon only they have access to like Clank's Zoni ray which slows down enemies or Dr. Nefarious' Cloaker which allows him to turn invisible.

Like any other platform game, the various levels consist of a series of puzzles and challenges that are best surmounted with the aid of a friend. When playing a single player game you'll still get an AI companion. And of course you can max things out for a total of four players whether online or offline. Combat is nearly constant with a steady stream of enemies ready to kill you but all in a rather cartoonish way.

What was frustrating was the controls, especially as you gathered more and more weapons and gear. As the menu gets larger, it becomes harder to negotiate which weapon you want to use at any one. In the heat of battle, it can lead to your death more often than not when you what to select a fearsome weapon but instead hurl a blob of goo at your enemy for no effect. A few boss stages were a bit ridiculous in terms of difficulty, leaving the game with moments of amazing frustration when you can't quite get past an enemy. On the other hand, some stages were stupidly easy, speaking of less than ideal level design and enemy balancing.

Still, for a fan of the franchise and of platform games in general, Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One is still a promising and entertaining game for you to enjoy. Best played with at least one friend - the 3 and 4 player variants seem a bit too crazy to manage all at once. Thus the game gets 3.5 cute little critters belching fire out of a possible 5.

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