Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus Review
Do you remember when the Ratchet & Clank series used to, you know, involve Ratchet & Clank saving the day, all the while doing it in a fun 3D platformer environment with some incredible weaponry and witty writing? Yeah, so do I, way back before the series went 4-Player Co-Op, tower defense, side story, Move based, and Smash Bros clone on us (Yes, yes, I know the last two were a Sony thing). I only thank the stars above that the series didn’t go full “Kart Racer” on us, you never go full “Kart Racer”, because when you do it’s of course the telltale sign that a franchise and its developers have completely lost their collective marbles.
Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus is the kind of game that I always whine and complain about developers not making anymore. The writing is devilishly witty, with jokes a plenty that appeal towards younger players as well as more current event savvy adults. You have to wade through all the recent muck, all the way back to 2009 in fact, and Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time before you find a comparable game in the series. Which to it’s credit makes sense, as Into the Nexus is basically the epilogue to the entire ‘Future Saga’ concluding Ratchets’ personal story arc. It’s just a shame we had to suffer through the pairs butchering and subsequent sale as sausage links to every other mundane and unnecessary gameplay gimmick of this generation. I’m looking squarely at you Playstaion Move.
Into the Nexus continues the excellent 3D platform mechanics that Insomniac excel at, and that so many other developers gave up on when the industry left the warm and lifegiving womb that was the 16-bit era. Other than the Ratchet & Clank series, how many other 3D platformers can you name that are still going strong in todays market place? Disregarding Mario and Nintendo’s desperate and disturbed psychological need to have him stand in line in the unemployment office, waving his motion controlled arms around taking any job that comes his way, when not out saving Peach from whatever ‘vacation’ Bowser has whisked her away to.
This is a case where the developers honestly love the characters and the world that they created for them to interact in. Everything is bright, colorful, and full of life. Sure, we still have to deal with the occasional camera problem that leads to an untimely death from time to time, something which I fear 3D platformers may never truly be cured of, like cancer, or people being dicks on the internet, or why nice girls don’t like me. Enemies here are varied, from small killer droids, to large jetpack carrying lizard men, and all manner of mini boss in-between. The team at Insomniac also have this strange fascination with making the main secondary baddies speak Russian for some reason, to great comic effect mind you. I don’t know what it is about the Russian language that lends itself to comedy so well but I’m sure it can be traced back to large amounts of Vodka and Yakov Smirnoff.
Controls here feel nice and responsive, capturing that elusive middle ground between runaway rhinoceros in a hockey rink and a slightly apathetic sloth. I have never understood why getting a character to control like a half normal person is such a challenge sometimes. Mario 64 did it seventeen years ago and it seems the Ratchet & Clank team are one of the few who took notice and said to themselves “Hey, why don’t we do that”, something for which I am eternally grateful. Like past games in the series you have access to a large assortment of tools of destruction, see what I did there, to use against your enemies and the bosses you will encounter. The weapons are all fun to use and the chance to test them out before you buy is a nice feature that allows you to better tailor how you want to play.
The game picks up with you and your team escorting the criminal, Vendra Prog to the Vartax Detention Center to serve out multiple life sentences when the transport ship is attacked and our story begins. Into the Nexus is geared as a Playstation Network downloadable title, and that being the case the game gets off to a swift start, not faffing about with any handholding segments. It’s simple and straight to the point. Something happens, the game gives you a text box with a basic explanation of what to do, and then you do it through the long lost art of ‘Trial and Error’. Into the Nexus is the kind of fun that you remember having back before life beat you down with responsibility and the rise of the tyrannical dictatorship of gritty first-person shooters came along. A game that everyone in the family can play and enjoy equally is a rarity, and Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus really takes advantage of this. We are also treated to some really quite enjoyable 2.5D bits that have you controlling Clank in a separate dimension with a neat gravity based mechanic. These segments aren’t there just to pad out the game, but are a necessity when breaking through barriers in the real world to open up new areas to explore.
That’s not to say that the game is perfect. It doesn’t set out to reinvent the wheel in any way, so if you have played a game in the core series then you already have a pretty good understanding of what you will be getting. Another thing to note is that the game is pretty short clocking in at just a few hours, give or take, of gameplay. It’s a shorter game overall than even the previous downloadable title in the series, Ratchet & Clank Future: Quest for Booty. The game is still a great deal of fun, you are just left realling wanting more. I don’t know if Insomniac just didn’t have the budget for a full epic Ratchet & Clank game, or if the marketplace right now isn’t demanding a 3D platformer, or if (hopefully) they are just keeping the fans satiated while they develop a new trilogy on the Playstation 4.
From an audio perspective everything is quite nice with the games voice cast really coming through with the help of a some good comedic undertones in the script. All the weapons have a distinct cartoon like sound, as if I’m watching and episode of Bucky O’Hare (How’s that for a vague reference, internet). The musical score gives the impression of a larger than life epic is taking place around you without getting in the way. That last thing I wanted was to have a musical sting happen every time I pushed a button or a lonely violin to start playing before running into an enemy. Here, the sound and music are simple and fit in well.
The game will have you jumping back and forth between the five available core worlds completing various tasks and accessing new areas on your return. It all works just fine, but you really won’t have a large enough reason to go back a play the game several times if like me, you go about and destroy every crate and object picking up the games currency. Thats the problem that many predominately downloadable titles (although Nexus does have a budget disc release) have in that, if they aren’t puzzle/ high score games, they tend to offer little in terms of replay value. You get to unlock some neat concept art and the apropos titled ‘Challenge Mode’ after completing the game which is fun. Another really nice treat for players is that Insomniac has bundled the first downloadable game ‘Quest for Booty’ along with both the retail and digital versions of Into the Nexus, so if you haven’t played that entry in the series then you are getting another fantastic game and some serious play time.
Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus is a fantastic game that does everything right without taking any chances. If you are a fan of 3D platform games or the series in general, then you are going to really enjoy this title. If 3D platformers aren’t your thing, then Into the Nexus isn’t going to change your mind with anything new and/or innovative.