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These days, Insomniac Games is probably best known for the award-winning God of War series (or perhaps its new Facebook outing, Outernauts). Back in the day though, the studio was famous for something else. Two somethings, actually: Ratchet and Clank.
It's been ten years since we first met Ratchet (he's the fuzzy, alien one) and his robot sidekick Clank, and the pair have had some fine adventures since then, culminating in last year's Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One. This year though, aside from an appearance in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, everything's gotten a little retro with this collection of the first three games all bundled together on one handy Blu-ray disc.
We now have the original Ratchet & Clank, Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando and the amusingly-titled Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal, but really, there's no reason to look at each individual title as a standalone product - all three work so well together that this whole really does end up better than the sum of its parts.
This new collection throws the Ratchet & Clank evolution into stark contrast. While the first game is a platformer, born in an age where platformers were falling rapidly from fashion, the second started throwing elements of role-playing and third-person action titles into the mix. By the end of the third game, our humble heroes are supplied with futuristic vehicles and an array of creative, high-impact weapons. The joy of driving is at your fingertips (hovercar, anyone?), and not only can you blow your enemies to smithereens, but if the mood strikes, suck them into black holes and transform them into disconcerted sheep.
It's a testament to Insomniac's design and development that the backbone of these innovative, destructive games hold up so well: The controls are solid, voice acting timeless, and the storylines are every bit as enjoyable now as they were back in the day.
To recap: Ratchet & Clank sees our heroes trying to prevent Supreme Executive Chairman Drek's plan to take pieces from other planets and combine them into an all-new planet for the Blarg.
Locked & Loaded sees the title two rescuing the "protopet", defending their reputation, and battling it out against a giant mutated monster.
Up Your Arsenal (known in a few countries as simply Ratchet & Clank 3) sees the galaxy invaded by the Tyrhannoids, whose leader is determined to wipe out all biological life.
The artwork has been polished to within an inch of its life, with that inimitable art style looking spectacular on the HD big screen (and playable in 3D, as long as you have the right hardware and are prepared to drop a few frames-per-second). But it's only the gameplay that's in 1080p and 16:9. The included FMV cutscenes revert back to their original 4:3 non-widescreen ratio, dropping the resolution and looking remarkably out of place.
Our only other disappointment - again, only slight - is that this retro box-set is so bare bones. Surely Insomniac had some extra content it could have thrown in for the fans? Concept art, old-school promotional material, trailers, something behind-the-scenes? Yes, it's fan-service. Yes, we're looking that gift horse squarely in the chompers, but it would have been a nice touch.
Overall though, with trophies thrown in, multiplayer beefed up, and a few modern tweaks, The Ratchet and Clank Collection is an enjoyable outing, whether you're meeting the pair for the first time, or joining some old friends for a stroll down Memory Lane.
I like video games and music and cups of tea and noodles and beagles and colour-cycling LEDs.
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