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Full disclosure, while I'm no stranger to 2000s-era action platformers, I’d never really played any of the Ratchet and Clank games before now.
I’m highlighting it upfront because while PS5-exclusive Rift Apart is essentially the 16th entry in the long-running PlayStation series, it’s very clear from the off that developer Insomniac have specifically built it to be an absolutely perfect jumping off point for newcomers like me.
It’s a relief, as those unfamiliar with the adventures of Lombax (read ‘cat-like alien’) mechanic Ratchet and his robot buddy Clank would be hard pressed to plough through all the various mainline games, spin-offs, and comics that have been made since the series’ debut back in 2002.
Ratchet and Clank are back for an interdimensional quest
The opening of this 3D action adventure sees the titular pair participate in a grand airborne parade, honouring their previous bouts of interplanetary heroism and simultaneously filling you in on enough key details for you to get the general gist.
However, the float-based nostalgia trip is quickly marred by Dr Nefarious and his goons, seeking revenge on Ratchet and Clank for the endless defeats he’s previously suffered at their hands. During the ensuing explosive set pieces, Nefarious gets his hands on the Dimensionator, a device that permits travel between dimensions.
Your arsenal has plenty of variety to it
The villain activates the device, creating a portal that pulls himself and our two heroes into an alternate universe with a version of Nefarious installed as the evil emperor of a totalitarian regime. The protagonists are separated, with Clank whisked off by what appears to be Ratchet’s alternate reality counterpart, a resistance fighter called Rivet.
What follows is a rip-roaring, fast-paced ride that sees you switching between Ratchet, Clank and Rivet at various junctures as they attempt to sort the inter-dimensional mess out.
As well as the titular duo, you'll also play as Rivet
The bread-and-butter third person platforming and shooting is exceptionally polished, harking back to that undeniable early 2000s gameplay style while feeling slick and fresh. It’s all helped along by some fun weapons and nifty traversal abilities.
For example, the Rift Tether allows you to pass through dimensional cracks to get to new areas or to quickly move to different areas of a battlefield and get the drop on some enemies. Its use is accompanied by a neat graphical trick which – rather than having you pull yourself through the rift – makes it looks as though you’re pulling the entire landscape to you while you remain stationary.
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Elsewhere, there’s a weapon called Mr Fungi which deploys a sentient levitating mushroom that will open fire on your enemies to distract them, letting you flank or simply grab some breathing space during the game’s many frantic encounters. A personal favourite is the Topiary Sprinkler, which turns enemies into plant-based statues letting you mow them down at your leisure. All the weapons are intuitive and enjoyable to use, with the DualSense controller’s adaptive triggers allowing for different firing modes depending on how hard you press down.
There are great traversal gadgets, like hoverboots and the Rift Tether
As was the case with any action platformer from the 2000s, there are collectables aplenty, here serving as currency to purchase and upgrade your weapons, and hidden Gold Bolts to unlock gear to boost your stats as well as your style. Dashing about to bash open crates to harvest these bits and bobs elicits an almost Pavlovian response, as does hoovering up the scattered doodads dropped by slain enemies following a huge gunfight.
Each environment is packed with detail
Over the course of the game, you’ll head to various planets which you can revisit to mop up any missed collectibles or optional missions. Each locale and its NPCs are packed full of amazing design and personality. For instance, walking around the neon-soaked dystopia of Nefarious City, you’ll pass by a whole bunch of background characters muttering to themselves or having amusing conversations among themselves, making it feel like a truly living, breathing world (the fact they’re robots aside).
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It’s the sort of nice environmental details that you’d see on something like Mass Effect’s Citadel, which caught me by surprise. Indeed, among the cartoonish humour and graphics, the game as a whole offers some narrative moments that are more heartfelt and engaging than its art style would suggest. Ratchet and Clank’s genuine affection for each other is palpable, and Rivet carries herself as someone who’s sacrificed a lot while fighting the good fight against an evil empire.
Insomniac Games have once again delivered an astonishingly well-made adventure which undoubtedly offers plenty to Ratchet & Clank veterans while acting as a perfect stand-alone entry point for newbies. It doesn’t really do anything revolutionary, but what it does do, it does with fantastic production values, attention to detail and a never-ending sense of fun. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is a brilliant example of a classic formula refined to a point of near perfection.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is out on June 11 for PlayStation 5