by John Constantine
The “Ratchet & Clank” series is the Volkswagon Golf of video games, an unassuming, funny, reliable little machine that gets a new model every twelve months, quietly improving with each passing year. When project lead Brian Alger fired up a demo of this fall’s “Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time”, I was expecting the usual: more weapons, new jokes, etc. “A Crack in Time” turned out to be a lot more than this year’s model.
Two levels were shown. Krell Canyon, that has you playing as Ratchet, showed off the Lombax mechanic’s new hover boots. You use these constantly in play, zipping about the environments and launching off tons of platforms and ramps. The new pace and skills see the usual "Ratchet" environments transformed into something altogether new. A more subtle change is the series’ new look. Insomniac’s new tech gives every object and creature in the game self-shadowing, which in non-programmer speak means the game has a more stylized, almost cel-shaded look.
The second unnamed level has you playing Clank. Clank, after getting kidnapped at the end of “Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction”, is trying to escape an unknown world. The demo showed off the new time warping puzzles in Clank’s levels. These are solved by recording three different routes to door locks for Clank and running them all simultaneously. It looks as complicated as it sounds.
Since Clank’s in captivity, Ratchet has a new companion in his levels, a Lombax named Alister. When asked is “A Crack in Time” might introduce multiplayer to the series, Alger responded with a smiling, “No comment.” Sweet.