Insomniac Games has treated PlayStation users to the wonderful world of Ratchet & Clank since 2002. A Crack in Time was one of the best in the series in 2009, but since then the destructive duo has had some lacklustre journeys through the co-op universe and the galaxy of tower defense. With Ratchet & Clank: Nexus, have they found their way out of the doldrums, and set their course back into familiar territory?
As Nexus starts off, Ratchet & Clank are escorting a devious criminal Vendra Prog to a detention facility, when her twin brother crashes the party and stages a bombastic jailbreak. The duo do some planet-hopping in pursuit of the twins, and in doing so uncover an even more dangerous threat to their existence. Even though the chase is a short one though, it is filled with the traditional elements we’ve come to love about the series.
When it comes shooting all the things, the 11 weapons (12 if you can piece together the RYNO VII), are unlocked gradually during the game. The standard blaster, shotgun, and sniper rifle take their place on the weapon wheel alongside some kooky weapons like the Winterizer that plays seasonal music while turning enemies into snowmen, and the Nightmare Box that scares your foes to a standstill. Similarly in Up Your Arsenal, the weapons shop in Nexus has a handy try-before-you-buy feature, and given the (high) price of weapons, this is great for skinflint players.
Keeping with tradition, your weapons can be upgraded from one level to the next. Everyone’s favourite helper Mr Zurkon returns in Nexus and his adorable “family affair” upgrades include the addition of his son and the rather frightening Mrs Zurkon. Raritanium, one again, needs to be sought to upgrade weapons, be it to increase the rate of fire, stopping power, or ammo capacity. The upgrades are presented as a honeycomb structure, with a few cells being mystery upgrades. Upgrade all the cells around a mystery cell, and you unlock that mystery upgrade. Playing around with the weapons has always been a major draw card in the series, and it’s almost as fun in Nexus. The weapon selection here is, however, a little weak compared to the past games.
Besides the weapons, Ratchet has the regular gadgets in his toolbox: the heli-pack, swingshot, and jetpack (Ed: What? No grind boots?). The latter is won by winning in the Thugs-4-Less gladiatorial arena, the Destructapalooza where you can test your fighting skills and win bolts. The jetpack’s use is limited to a few levels and rather mundane at that, but there is one thrilling escape sequence where Rachet needs thrust his way out of a subterranean waterworks that is quickly filling up. The Grav Tether gadget is a new addition and lets you fire a purple beam between to Grav Targets and float between them while listening to soothing elevator music. It’s used prominently in the earlier parts of the game, and then promptly forgotten, which is a pity considering the potential for its application in puzzles.
The Clank-specific time puzzles that were so fun to play in A Crack in Time, have been replaced with Netherverse levels, 2D sidescrolling mazes where you have to alter gravity and navigate Clank through to awaken a slumbering creature. You lead it on a merry chase and it will break through from the Netherverse into the real one, opening a way through the level that wasn’t available before. While they might not be as elaborate as some of the puzzles that have come before, these are the most irritating and require some quick reflexes to get through them. There are skill points on offer to those who can finish the levels in good time.
There are only four main planets to visit and each is rendered beautifully. There is a great amount of detail in the game whether it is the gleaming steel and glass of a city to the squalid sewers. Each planet has its distinct environment and matching colour palette.
Nexus also includes a cool history lesson on the universes greatest villains. There’s even a Lombax wing on your museum trip, although it’s sparse in the number of exhibits. It was nice to take a step away from the frantic action and think back on the previous adventures of Ratchet & Clank. Considering that this is the last in the series, it’s a wonderful tribute.
As mentioned before the story is on the short side, about five hours or so. But you can extend the play time by a few more. After the game has ended, challenge mode is unlocked and starts a new story campaign but keeps your existing weapons. You can go back to find any gold bolts that you may have missed, buy weapons that you didn’t get the last time, and find the elusive plans to the RYNO VII. For completionists, challenge mode isn’t an optional extra: the Omega versions of weapons and all the upgrades can only be unlocked after some grinding. The best armour comes in at the ludicrous price of 1.5 million bolts! The game also includes a voucher to download the similarly short adventure, Quest for Booty. Normally R99.00, it can be gotten gratis, for a limited period of time. That offer expires in 2015 if I recall.
Nexus is the final game in the “Future” series and mostly likely the last we will see of Ratchet & Clank on the venerable PS3. Is it a fitting send-off though? If you are expecting it to be an epic adventure on the scale of A Crack in Time, Nexus may disappoint you. But for what it’s worth (R399 RRP in stores), Nexus delivers a traditional Ratchet & Clank experience. It’s really more of the same, but with fewer (fun) weapons.
Final score: 7.5 Qwarktastic prawns out of 10
Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Age Rating: 12