Video Game Review: ‘Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One’ Expands Hit Franchise

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CHICAGO – The world of “Ratchet & Clank” has always seemed like a perfect fit for co-operative play. It’s right there in the title. The award-winning games have long been about teamwork between their central characters and so turning them into a co-op family adventure probably seemed like a no-brainer. With smart dialogue, clever gameplay, and so many of the hallmarks that have made this one of the most notable game franchises of the last ten years, “All 4 One” does nothing to diminish the legacy of this great series. It’s not even close to the best installment in it but it’s worth a look for “Ratchet” fans and should even attract new players looking for something for the whole family. Video Game Rating: 4.0/5.0
Video Game Rating: 4.0/5.0

After the amazing end to the “Future” trilogy in one of 2009’s best games, “Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time,” it felt like it might be some time before this prolific franchise released another installment, if ever. And it felt like when it returned that it might be a unique, new take on the series. “All 4 One” isn’t quite the radical leap forward that it could have been and I believe it will ultimately be looked as a footnote in this great franchise, but it’s a damn entertaining footnote.

Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One
Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One
Photo credit: Sony

“Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One” is simple (almost too much so). Up to four players can work through the game’s story together or you can tackle it individually with AI-controlled partners. The four playable characters are Ratchet, Clank, Qwark, and Dr. Nefarious and the story centers around all four of them being kidnapped and basically going through an elongated escape process. After some incredibly rich, dense, and in the case of the last game, brilliant storytelling, the actual plot of “All 4 One” is a bit of a letdown. The focus is almost solely on action but enough of the clever writing of the past comes through in the dialogue and weaponry that the game feels like it fits in the “Ratchet & Clank” legacy. I just wish the story was more engaging.

Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One
Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One
Photo credit: Sony

More than ever, “All 4 One” is about destruction. If you play alone as Ratchet, you’ll regularly work cooperatively with an AI-controlled Clank in a manner that will be totally familiar to fans of the series, but you’ll also be like a kid in a candy store when it comes to bolt collection. With four players competing for the little metal items that can be used to buy and upgrade weapons, the constant smashing & collecting doesn’t get as tedious as it does on your own. But the fact is that a large portion of the gameplay here is based on smashing boxes & collecting creatures, something that may be fun for the little ones who like to compete with friends and family for bragging rights but that might get boring for older members of the clan.

What is not boring is the consistently-clever weaponry, a hallmark of the “Ratchet & Clank” series. Classics like Mr. Zurkon (a robot buddy who unleashes firepower for you and a personal favorite of mine) are back along with some new weaponry and gadgets that are often required to proceed. As for what gadget or weapon to use when, there’s not as much ingenuity to the level design as in the past with “X” literally often marking the spot of where you need to go next. With four players, it feels like actual puzzle-solving would get a little difficult (especially without headsets) — no one wants to feel dumb co-operatively — but the linear & obvious progression of the game is a bit disappointing in terms of level design.

Almost to make up for the lack of options or puzzles in the heart of the game, players also collect creatures for what are basically in-game puzzle missions in which players have to work together to save a little lovable creation. Even here though, the name of the game is timing and teamwork more than actual ingenuity or puzzle-solving. And they’re a minor portion of the overall gameplay.

With complaints about level design, smash & grab gameplay, and below-average storytelling, you might assume that I have serious issues with “Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One.” I don’t. Like a teacher who’s hard on kids that he knows can do better, I’m only critical because of the heights this franchise has reached in the past. If you’ve never experienced the “Ratchet & Clank” series, you have a world of exciting gameplay ahead of you. With that in mind, this release feels more like a spin-off of a great show or a side project of a great band. There’s still enough greatness carried over from its predecessors to make this an above-average game when compared to the entire marketplace, just not when compared to the releases that preceded it.

‘Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One’ was released by Sony and developed by Insomniac Games. It is rated E (Everyone). It is exclusive to the PS3 and was released on October 18th, 2011. content director Brian Tallerico

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