I live in a Ratchet household. Some folks live in Mario households, or Pokémon households, or even Master Chief households. But the mascot of choice for our family is the frisky, big-eared lombax. The sense of humor, the amazing graphics, and the outlandish weapons of the Ratchet & Clank games have always struck just the right chord for my daughters and me. Throughout the PS3′s lifecycle that’s meant that one person plays while the others merely watch the adventure unfold. You can well imagine the excitement at my place, then, when the girls learned we’d be able to tackle the next Ratchet & Clank game together.
Only, this isn’t exactly a Ratchet & Clank game — at least not like the ones we’ve come to love in this console generation. People (myself included) often refer to Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time as, “the closest thing to a Pixar movie in video games.” If that’s true, then Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One is more or less the licensed game you’d expect to be made based on that property. That is to say, it retains a fair measure of the charm and the spirit of the source material, but there’s no denying that it’s a watered-down version of the real thing. That discovery raised a number of questions; not just from me, but from my young couch co-op partners.
Click the image above to check out all Ratchet & Clank All 4 One screens.
“Which guy should I pick, dad?”
In All 4 One, you can assume the role of Clank, Ratchet, Captain Qwark, or Dr. Nefarious — a rather diverse set of critters that you might assume would offer distinct, complementary skills in a co-op game like this. Sadly, all four of the selectable characters play essentially the same, with no unique abilities to differentiate them beyond their skin (there are a couple character-specific weapons, but even those are quite similar). There are myriad co-op moments — like tethering together on a swing or launching another player to the other side of a chasm, but they’re the same regardless of the characters on screen, and frequently involve simply standing in the same spot and hitting a button.
“Hey dad, what’s over here?”
Once we picked our characters and created a game, we immediately noticed some big differences between All 4 One and its predecessors. The camera is now in a fixed perspective, presumably to facilitate the co-op play. That makes sense, of course, but the field of view is sometimes too constricted, which leads to some cheap deaths, and the screen doesn’t split to permit players to venture off in different directions (and if you’re playing with other people online, without voice chat, trying to reach a health upgrade that’s just off-screen can prove maddening). That would be more of a problem if exploration were a part of the All 4 One experience, but the game is instead a series of very linear paths.
You clear those paths of enemy creatures with a wonderful array of trademark Ratchet weaponry, and this is where the game really shows its stuff. While there’s nothing quite as visually spectacular as A Crack in Time’s Rift Inducer, by game’s end you’ll have “upped your arsenal” with electrical whips, flame throwers, rocket launchers and, oh yes, Mr. Zurkon (though, if you have daughters, you may find that they will exclusively use the Critter Strike to turn bad guys into cute little pigs and sheep for the duration of the game). Using multiples of the same weapon simultaneously increases their effect and results in baddies exploding in a satisfying shower of fire, metal, and collectable bolts.