Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One Review
The Rachet and Clank franchise is one of the best PlayStation exclusives--period. A fusion of Nintendo’s long-standing tradition of cartoony characters married to gameplay pulled from much more mature titles, Ratchet and Clank games are perfect for both children and adults. So, it comes to no surprise that developer Insomniac Games would want to bring this transgenerational fanbase together in a game that takes the best features of Rachet and Clank and marries it with a family-friendly cooperative experience. The resulting Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One is a mixed bag with some good ideas that get squashed under some odd design decisions, making the game almost meanly competitive.
The core of any Ratchet and Clank game is to take our titular Lombax hero and guide him through linear platforming sections while utilizing a variety of different weapons against hundreds of enemies. All 4 One is no different, presenting players with sections of gentle platforming sections, this time requiring cooperative techniques. For example, players need to throw each other across ledges to hit switches or to lasso each other across the cavern. It’s nothing you haven’t seen in a cooperative platformer before, but some of these little challenges turn into extremely short minigames that are fun enough in their own way.
Unfortunately, All 4 One becomes extremely competitive early on. Think of it like the following--compare All 4 One to The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, and pretend that players actually have a place to spend all those rupees they collect. Imagine that those extra rupees can be spent on more weapons, like a boomerang or bow and arrow. That is the case with All 4 One. The game is centered on collecting bolts so that players can buy bigger guns and get the bigger upgrades.
Additionally, depending on how many enemies a player destroys or alien creatures they collect, bonus bolts are dolled out. Thus, what starts out as a friendly cooperative game becomes a race to defeat more enemies or break more boxes. I’ve always found Ratchet and Clank to be a fairly methodical platformer/shooter, and this heavy push towards competition is a little harsh. If you can, play through the campaign with friends and start at the same level. This is because each of the four characters, Ratchet, Clank, Doctor Nefarious, and Commander Qwark, are individually leveled up. If you play through a big portion of the game and level up your Clank, for example, and then a friend jumped in with a fresh Doctor Nefarious, that Doctor Nefarious is going to be at a serious disadvantage. Sticking it out with the same friends is more enjoyable.
However, if you totally ignore the co-op element of the game, what are you left with? Since all of the puzzles need to be completed with at least two players, the computer will take over for Clank and assist you. I actually played the whole game this way, and I did not find it entirely terrible. The computer does a completely serviceable job of guiding Clank around, even going so far as to use the same weapon as me to defeat enemies (a technique that results in a secondary effect), or tossing me items so that we can complete puzzles. Unfortunately, the experience of a single player Ratchet and Clank in this game is extremely watered-down experience compared to previous titles. It doesn’t feel like a proper Ratchet and Clank game. Instead of exploration and discovery, it’s a straight-shot platformer. That’s disappointing.
Additionally, it seems like Insomniac Games has run the well dry of new weapons for Ratchet, Clank, and their fellow characters to play with. A gun that transforms enemies into cute animals, a whip, a nuclear gun--these were all extremely new and fresh nearly ten years ago. Now, they feel tired and old. Additionally, the old method of weapon upgrades dependent on usage is long gone. Rather, players have to purchase the weapons, and each of the upgrades have to be purchased, as well. Thus, instead of customizing play style dependent on a player's gameplay decisions, most weapon usage defaults to the basic combuster gun, which is the first gun and the quickest to be upgraded.
Thankfully, there are various non-combat related tools, such as the vacuuming Vac-U, jetpacks, jackhammers, and uh, the glob lobber, and they all fit nicely within the mild puzzles players have to complete. Secondary puzzles, allowing the team to earn parts to the Rhino mech suit, are often under a short time limit and require team mates to work together. These are my favorite parts of the game, and they are substantially easier with a fellow player.
When all this is said and done, All 4 One comes across as a nice experiment, a slight segue from the good and proper Ratchet and Clank games. While it’s not bad per se, there are noticeable design decisions that slightly hampers the fun. Don’t get me wrong, when everything comes together, it’s quite enjoyable, but you really need to find the right set of friends to make it happen.