Rory Galvin celebrates Ratchet & Clank’s debut on its 20th anniversary
Ratchet & Clank is now twenty years old, which is a weird thing to say. Some of my earliest memories are of the original game on PS2, sitting cross-legged on the ground in front of a CRT playing it. It is the first game I ever played - and at the age of two you could only really blame my parents for that one, but it holds a truly special place in my heart. Since that time, I’ve replayed this debut countlessly - always marveling at how ahead of its time it was.
Insomniac Games are a legendary studio at this point, making hit after hit with titles like Spiderman, Spyro and Sunset Overdrive (they love the letter ‘S’), but for me the Ratchet & Clank series sits above all of them. If you don’t know, the title shares the name of the two protagonists: Ratchet is a Lombax - a kind of alien cat, and Clank is a small robot with enough brains for the two of them. They end up finding each other and have a similar goal of stopping the big bad: Chairman Drek. He’s actually a pretty well-made analog for the evils of capitalism and corporate greed; for what’s meant to be a kids game there’s plenty of double entendres and references that’ll go over a young one’s head. Insomniac have always been going after this kind of Pixar-feeling with the series, and they pretty much got it with their first effort. All of the characters are fantastic and only get better with future games - Captain Qwark is an all-time great villain/hero/comic relief.
for what’s meant to be a kids game there’s plenty of double entendres and references that’ll go over a young one’s head
The gameplay of Ratchet & Clank is a then-unique blend of platforming and 3rd person shooting. For this game in particular, things feel a little rough - there’s no strafing like in later titles and the movement isn’t nearly as smooth. It’s still a great time, and to combat this all you have to do is take a slower approach to the enemies in each level. This is also the start of Insomniac’s trademark collection of guns and gadgets - obviously not as good as in later titles, but I loved using weapons like the Suck Cannon and the classic OmniWrench. It was an amazing start, and laid the groundwork for the now twenty year old series. I still dread doing the hoverboard racing though.
This game is gorgeous by the way. With a wide variety of planets and an early mastery of the PlayStation 2 hardware - Ratchet & Clank has aged like a fine wine. Just walking around places like the resort world of Pokitaru or the rainy war-torn city in Battalia felt so impressive and still looks great today.
If you want to play this game, good luck. Your best options are either getting it on PS2 and playing on original hardware, or playing it off the excellent HD collection on PS3 - there’s also a port to the Vita if you’re a maniac like me and are into that (my next playthrough will be there). Hopefully there will be a version for modern hardware soon.