Video Games

‘Ratchet & Clank’ a fun, Hollywood-style reimagining of classic game

'Ratchet & Clank' movie trailer

The feature film adaptation of the popular video game "Ratchet & Clank" opens Friday, April. 29 in Fresno theaters.
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The feature film adaptation of the popular video game "Ratchet & Clank" opens Friday, April. 29 in Fresno theaters.

At 27, I thought I was above smashing boxes with a wrench and double-jumping to avoid cartoon lava.

My refined palette is accustomed to forming complex relationships with nonplayable characters. When I save the world, I do it after 70 hours of meticulous preparation. Why would I ever need to go back to using ridiculously big flamethrowers and egghead robot companions?

Like Thorin Oakenshield before me, I have never been so wrong in all my life.

The new “Ratchet & Clank” – a Hollywood-style reimagining of the 14-year-old classic spruced up for pairing with an upcoming film – shows that you can teach an old Lombax new tricks.

That Lombax, the cat-like character Ratchet and his robot buddy Clank are back in their familiar roles as unlikely heroes, but the true strengths of “Ratchet & Clank” don’t have much to do with its stars.

Two things struck me while playing though the relatively short game: Wow, these worlds look beautiful now, and this has got to be the funniest all-ages game I’ve ever played.

My PlayStation 2 is a dependable old girl. She sits on my entertainment center, holding a firm place of honor next to her newer, shinier counterparts. She still works, even after 15 years.

But the distinguished lady’s innards can’t compare to the purr of her descendant.

The original “Ratchet & Clank” released on Nov. 4, 2002.

The retooled worlds of “Ratchet & Clank” look fantastic. Although exploration is extremely limited by today’s standards, every colorful planet is unique and offers different puzzles or gameplay options.

The series has often been referred to as playable Pixar movies, and the latest entry fits well inside that comparison. It also reminded me of the “Skylanders” games, which I had not realized borrowed a lot – perhaps too much – from “Ratchet & Clank.”

Like most Pixar movies, the latest “Ratchet & Clank” is peppered with humor designed for all ages.

Most of the comedy comes from Captain Qwark, who serves as title’s narrator. Qwark, also a secondary character in the game, follows a textbook formula: A strong, dashing hero who is actually a coward who takes credit for other people’s accomplishments. Although it is a common way to manufacture jokes, “Ratchet & Clank” nails it so perfectly that players can’t help but chuckle every 15 minutes or so.

Insomniac Games, the often underrated creators of “Ratchet & Clank,” “Spyro” and “Resistance,” also made a few solid story choices for this new series. It’s told from the perspective that players know what happened, either by playing the first game or watching the movie.

Qwark, who surprised us in the first game by being a bad guy, is in prison in the opening scene. He’s telling players his side of what happened, which allows for exaggerations and commentary that shake up the familiar plot a bit.

“Ratchet & Clank” also sticks to a core strength of the series: tons of customizable weapons. Ratchet has quite a few ways to rain fire, acid, lasers and explosives down on evildoers, and Clank is no slouch, either. My favorite launches a giant ball that pulses every second, destroying pesky robots or mean aliens in its wake.

In all, there have been 14 releases in the series – including the unfortunately named fifth installment: “Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters.”

I was a little disappointed with the size and scope of the game. It’s possible to zoom through everything a new world has to offer in 15 or 20 minutes, and there aren’t that many worlds to begin with.

The title’s core controls – the ones you use while playing as either Ratchet or Clank – are fine, but the missions that require you to use a vehicle exposed another flaw. I had a lot of trouble controlling the spaceship used in a few missions, which turned them into a chore rather than a refreshing change of pace.

Brevity doesn’t diminish “Ratchet & Clank” much, though. I’ve always said I would rather play a great short game than an OK long one.

Most people will find something to like about this title, but I suspect parents will love it the most.

I don’t have any kids yet, but I remember from babysitting a younger sister that not all children’s entertainment is created equal. Disney movies, “Looneytunes,” “SpongeBob SquarePants” – these all have slightly adult humor that skates right by its young target audience and draws a few muffled chuckles from the dad washing dishes in the next room. Shows like “The Wiggles” and “Teletubbies” did not and were to be avoided.

“Ratchet & Clank” is the former, and its strengths are more than a match for must everyone-rated games.

Ratchet & Clank

Video game review

▪ Developer: Insomniac Games

▪ Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment

▪ Rated E for everyone

▪ Out now for the PlayStation 4

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