This week on Zero Punctuation, Yahtzee reviews Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.
You may recall my first and only experience with Ratchet & Clank was playing that one on the PS4 that was tying in with the movie, and which made me go, "Hmmm... is that the smell of distended rectum, or has this franchise gone completely up itself?" Always an occupational hazard when a series goes on too long, runs out of new territory to explore, and instead decides to settle down and curl up inside its own bum, but what an excellent setting of tone for the latest one, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.
Incidentally, speaking of bums, whatever happened to the tradition of Ratchet & Clank games having slightly risque subtitles, like "Going Commando" or "Up Your Arsenal", in the grand DreamWorks movies, Grabbed by the Ghoulies, "stealth joke for the mums and dads" tradition? S'pose we're above that kind of cheeky fun these days, aren't we, Sony? Probably got nicked by someone in marketing whose only experience with comedy is having had it patiently explained to them at a mandatory seminar. I'm trying to think of ways the title "Rift Apart" could apply to bums, but all the possibilities make me feel uncomfortable.
[CORRECTION] (Ahem. While rewatching this video prior to final upload, it occurred to me that "rift apart" might be intended as a sort of pseudo-spoonerism for "ripped a fart", which would be a bum joke, and if that was intentional, I hereby retract the preceding complaint about the subtitle not being a bum joke. I repeat: Ratchet & Clank's issues may not presently be for want of bum jokes. We now resume your snarky internet video.)
It's called "Rift Apart" because the plot deals with the eponymous duo getting transported to another dimension hauntingly similar to their own with identical game mechanics, but where they never got together, and therefore, everything is wrong and bad, which is just about the only plot left that a franchise that has gotten up itself can do. When the heroes have won too many times and the villains humiliated too often to be a credible threat, it's time to play the "What If?" card; it's like what happened to superhero comics after they officially ran out of ideas circa 1975, and every story since has just been one race after another to restore the status quo in which Spider-Man is poor and miserable and Batman is rich and miserable, and as, of course, we've recently learned, unadventurous in the bedroom.
So in the new dimension our heroes get trapped in, the local versions of Ratchet and Clank - girl versions, no less; the fan fiction community will be abuzz with madly oscillating fists tonight - never met or became partners, and so, Girl Ratchet and Girl Clank getting together is the fucking final puzzle piece required to win the day and finally correct their deviant existence. See, there's something terribly flimsy about the setting of Ratchet & Clank, which might be because it 100% pivots around the relationship between a space cat and his fucking Roomba. On the one hand, it's got this grand space opera interplanetary scope, but it also seems so weirdly underpopulated; it's like each planet only has one actual character on it and ten million copy-pasted generic locals whose job is to run around screaming every time something explodes.
And a lot of the plot feels like one contrived excuse to go to a new planet after another: "We need to get a magic crystal! Let's go to the magic crystal planet where they're mined from. Oh no! Our magic crystal shattered!" "Well, we're on the magic crystal planet; couldn't we just get another one?" "NO! Now we must go to the fixing things planet and enlist the legendary fixer of things!" This is literally what happens at one point; it's like someone casually brings up this fixer dude, and suddenly, that's the only imaginable solution to a problem that only calls for half an hour's work and a Pritt Stick. Then we go to the fixer planet and have to fight a fucking giant robot out of nowhere 'til I guess the sequence runs out of setpieces, and we abruptly stop fighting the giant robot. "Oh, sorry; thought you were someone else. Here's your fixed crystal. Plot tangent over."
As for the gameplay, it's Ratchet & Clank; you switch between playing Ratchet Classic and Girl Ratchet, whose actual name is "Rivet", and I tell you that now before I give into my sudden extremely shameful impulse to refer to her as "Snatchet". And the opportunity to mix the gameplay up with a new playable character was missed like Catwoman's unfulfilled G-spot, because they both play exactly the same; in fact, when one of them gets a new gadget or weapon, the other one automatically has it as well without them even having to meet, possibly thanks to Space Dropbox. So it's mostly more of the same: the usual rail-grinding, box-smashing, pew-pew combat and leveling up your favorite weapons until they become super powerful, and then never fucking using them again because your dog turd on a stick needs leveling up and you don't want to waste the XP.
The only significant addition to core gameplay is a "Quick Dodge" button, which I seem to remember saying the last game could've done with when the combat got intense, so again, it's nice to know I still have that power; for my next trick, I will command Sony to cluck like a chicken and release Bloodborne on Steam, for fuck's sake. Otherwise, it's more of that very PS2-esque Ratchet & Clank gameplay that hasn't changed much since the first racily-subtitled sequel, but you know what? No bad thing, say I; in a world where it seems like every AAA franchise is inexorably creeping towards the universal Jiminy Cockthroat model like blobs of hairy cum towards a prison shower drain, it's actually nice to see something resisting the pull and sticking with what works. And honestly, as up itself as the story has gotten, it is sort of impressive that it's still maintaining the same continuity after all this time, and has only had a slight dalliance with rebooting.
I just find the characters really boring! It's a ways into the game before Ratchet and Rivet meet up in person, and since being the last member of his species is Ratchet's only remaining interesting character trait, their eventual meeting is hyped up with some significance; I mean, these two are pretty much going to have to smash at some point, if only for the sake of scientific inquiry. But then they do meet, and it's like watching two teenagers being forced to hang out together at a barbecue because their parents are part of the same swinger's club. And meanwhile, basically every other character is "comedy person who gets flustered and talks too much", a character archetype that, to my mind, should be sealed in the nearest Borderlands game and chained to the ocean floor.
So that's Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart: generally inoffensive, but hardly pushing the envelope; more prodding the post-it note, really. I apologize for the abject blandness of this take, and also for the lateness of this review; it would've come out sooner if we'd gotten a review code before the release date, but Sony wouldn't give us one when they found out what it was for. They said that, quote, "Given the tone of that coverage, we'd prefer you secure your own code." From where, Sony?! The fucking dumpster outside your office?! I don't normally give you these cheeky little glances behind the beef curtains, but, I mean, really? I guess we all knew publishers want to dictate the content of reviews, hence those review guides they keep sending us that read like a timid schoolchild asking to please not be kicked in these specific sensitive areas, but I didn't expect them to just come out and admit it! What's your problem with my tone, Sony? You didn't know I'd make the "Snatchet" joke!
- Incidentally why not get an Escapist Plus subscription: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- Don't worry, I ran this video by my wife and she assures me that I'm not provably a misogynist
- But besides that can we have a review PS5 now