Video gaming has trends that wax and wane and ebb and flow like anything else. A decade or so back, it was the first person shooters (the Dooms, the Quakes, the Duke Nukems). Currently, we’re in the middle of the Sandbox trend, where every other game has to have the sandboxy mechanic where you run around an open world map and do the same 4 or 5 missions against progressively tougher otherwise identical foes (the Grand Theft Autos, the Assassin’s Creeds, the Infamouses). (Of course, now, we’ve discovered the joys of mixing these two great tastes that taste great together and making games like the Skyrims, the Fallouts, and the FarCrys.)
Well, back when the big PC trend was First Person Shooters, the consoles were doing their thing with Action Platformers. Mario 64 was, of course, the perfect one but it had no shortage of “me too”s. The Jak and Daxters, the Crash Bandicoots, the Spyros, the Banjo Kazooies. Well, the greatest of all of these was Ratchet and Clank.
Ratchet and Clank took the basic template found in 3D platforming (jumping from this place to that one, combat in the middle of a swarm of monsters, boss fights that required strafing, some light RPG elements) and mixed in some of the more well-done variants: rail grinding, magnaboots that allowed you to run on the sides of buildings, levels on the backs of moving trains, or on painfully small planets (that still managed earthlike gravity), or swimming through pipes, or swinging Tarzan-like across bottomless chasms.
The real kicker was the addition of so very many different weapons to choose from as you were running around. Better than that, the different weapons felt different from each other. You had the old standbys of the straightforward blaster, the rocket launcher, and the sniper rifle but, on top of those old friends, you had stuff like the Bouncer (which would spit out big mines that would bounce toward your enemies) or the Rift Inducer (which would create a mini black hole that would suck up your enemies) or the Visibomb Launcher which would shoot a rocket and the game would switch perspective so that you were able to drive the rocket and get it to turn and rise and fall and it would then become a guided missile and you were the guide) and the suction gun that would suck up your enemies and then said enemies would become the missiles that you could shoot at other enemies and…
Well, there were a lot of weapons and they all felt different from each other. It was a masterpiece of a game.
Well, as happens, games ebbed and flowed and waxed and waned and 3D platformers went into different directions. The Prince of Persias went one way, Dark Souls went another. The happy fun cartoony platformer more or less disappeared entirely.
Which is why it’s nice that Playstation 4 is re-releasing a remastered Ratchet and Clank. This game, being the first one, suffers from the creators not exactly knowing what they were capable of quite yet. The game was delightful and fun and you couldn’t wait for the sequel and each of which was better than the last for a good long while there. The problem with each being better than the last was that attempts to go back and replay the earlier ones ran into problems of the graphics looking dated (“I don’t remember the graphics being this bad the first time…”) and the missions that were so very difficult the first time you played are now missions that you know like the back of your hand.
Well, I’m pretty sure that I’ll still know the missions like the back of my hand, but it will be good to revisit an old friend who looks as good today as I remember it looking through the rose colored glasses of memory.
So… what are you playing?
(Picture is “Untitled” by our very own Will Truman. Used with permission.)