Ratchet and Clank (PS4)

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For as bouncy and colorful as this game is, Ratchet and Clank prepares kids for some hard, inevitable outcomes – heroes won’t always be who you think they are, victories are not assured, and capitalists are merciless people.

Ratchet and Clank still speaks to children. This is a series led by a Lombax and his partner, a robotic intellectual. Little ones are well catered to. The cautious world building and swoon-worthy color ensure that core target audience will pay attention.

The oddity lies in how Ratchet and Clank concerns itself with real world circumstances. “Everybody” heroics are at the helm, not super humans. It works. Ratchet has dreams. He’s a lowly tinkerer in a lowly mechanics shop who dreams of heroism, a powerful lead-in to this generous spectacle. What follows is special, coated with exceptional, unexpected cynicism which doesn’t exist to hurt so much as show a hero persevering. Ratchet and Clank bumps into contemporary super hero culture, using the comic fervor to show kids they are heroes, not Batman or Iron Man.

Qwark, the barrel chested non-hero of Ratchet and Clank’s Solane Galaxy, exists as a fraud. He’s representative of Spider-Man or Superman in his own incompetent, lazy, and sheepish way. He happens to have a great marketing team though, and thus a universe of people look up to him, Ratchet included. Yet Ratchet saves the universe with a wrench; Qwark doesn’t try in the first place. Believe in heroes only to become one – a superior theme that gives Ratchet a pleasing character arc, crowned in the third act when Ratchet cannot defeat the villain in the game’s interesting false ending.

Politics are secondary to Ratchet and Clank, yet these planetary systems are helpless. Their bureaucratic policies have done nothing to squelch the growth of Drek Industries, the corporate monolith who spawned a galaxy-wide catastrophe – all for the people, of course.

In line with a ludicrous uproar over The Muppets Movie and its comical oil baron villain Tex Richman, Ratchet and Clank takes greed to task. Landing on Drek’s homeworld shows a planet devoid of color. Smog is belched into the atmosphere, rendering the skyline lost to a grim, green-ish haze. Contrast that with the delicious saturation of planets elsewhere and Ratchet and Clank finds its show-don’t-tell story center. Drek’s plot, an attempt to shatter planets and reform them under a corporate moniker, is clever. Visuals glance global warming and Drek’s scheme instills a necessary life skill: Don’t believe the marketing.

Younger players are taken through this sharp parable in a dazzling videogame, smartly compact, rich in design smarts, and stupendously paced. “Polished” may be a nonsense word in critical sensibilities, but few other words seem so fitting. Ratchet and Clank respects everyone’s limited leisure time, and the constant excitement from added weapons or skills are flawless in their pacing. Portions of the universe still remain locked to their early 2000s origins though. An obsession with extreme sports beckons to be categorized with the period’s litany of skateboarding/snowboarding/BMX’ing endeavors.

Ratchet & Clank fights for its place, as much a movie tie-in (a rarity any more) as another remake on a Sony platform. The console maker remains giddy about regurgitating their work for profits. A bit of fourth-wall humor – which acknowledges the reboot – softens any distaste of the egregious do-over.

Ratchet and Clank’s vibrancy is more than attractive. Instead of trying to best a century’s worth of cinematic progress and losing (as so many do), Ratchet and Clank ingests film’s methods and then executes them in an interactive space. Establish characters, give them arcs, be gorgeous with a purpose, and discard any fat.

It’s been a pleasure Ratchet and Clank.


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