Quickie Review: Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus
After some experimentation with other genres and conventions, Ratchet and Clank has finally returned to its chaotic action-platformer roots. Where All 4 One was a nigh-unplayable experiment in me too game design and Full Frontal Assault wasn’t particularly well received (I quite liked it myself), Insomniac wisely chose to return to what made the games work so well in this light-hearted, brisk epilogue to the Future arc. I’m definitely a fan of toying with your franchise’s mechanics this late into their lifetime, but it’s great to see Ratchet and Clank back with what they do best.
Into the Nexus does not break any new ground, nor does it attempt to. Instead, it throws a handful of tightly designed planets and the obligatory battle arena at us, with the signature madness of Ratchet’s arsenal close behind. Some series regular weapons return with minor upgrades, sitting beautifully alongside a small collection of new gear. I especially enjoyed turning my enemies into exploding snowmen with the winterizer (complete with hilarious Christmas music) and scaring the hell out of them with the nightmare box. Needless to say, this game made me smile or cackle maniacally much more often than would be considered healthy.
Character and weapon progression are exactly the same as they’ve always been. Murdering fools with specific weapons levels them up, while all downed foes count towards earning upgrades for your total health. A cool, almost new raritanium upgrade system has also been introduced that has players spending collected ore to upgrade their weapons node by node. These upgrades typically grant increased damage, more ammo, longer range, and the like. It’s basic, but it was a great deal of fun to see how much damage you could do with your favorite toys after a trip to the upgrade bench.
Exploration is also nothing new at all, but that’s not a bad thing. I found the planets well designed and fun to explore, and there were plenty of goodies tucked away to collect, like the typical golden bolts, skill points, and Ryno schematics. Bolt-packed crates are of course on display along with tons of destructible elements built into the environments, so the gleeful smashing and bashing of its predecessors is well intact. A tiny gripe I have is with the game’s maps, which aren’t always helpful or easy to follow. Icons for collectible items would sometimes not accurately reflect where they were located for example, but it never broke the experience for me. Just might take a bit of extra digging from time to time to find what you’re looking for.
Visually, the game impresses and is easily the best looking Ratchet game yet. Characters and foes alike were well designed and brilliantly animated. The frame rate never dipped for me either, even in the middle of the absolutely ridiculous carnage I caused with some weapons. It’s also very well acted and features a satisfying soundtrack that will sound great on a good set of speakers, especially with certain, more explosive weapons. It handles as well as any other game in the series, even if character movement feels a little slower this time around.
It’s an intentionally short budget-priced romp, but there is plenty of value to be had here, especially with the included copy of Quest for Booty. A challenge mode and multiple difficulty settings are present for those who enjoy double-dipping with their games, and the temptation to return and upgrade your arsenal further is impossible to resist.
Ultimately, I liken Into the Nexus to comfort food. We all anticipate and strive for those special 5 course meals, but there is something so satisfying about sitting down with an old favorite for a quick, guilty chow down.