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Review: Ratchet & Clank: Quest for Booty

Graeme Virtue | 2 Oct 2008 20:51
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Ahoy there, matey! Won't ye drop anchor awhile? For this scurvy-ridden old seadog be wantin' to ply ye with grog whilst me spin a picaroon about ... um ... the latest downloadable iteration of Ratchet and Clank Future available exclusively on PlayStation 3. (Once you get past "aaarrr!" and "shiver me timbers!", talking like a pirate is kind of impractical.)

So what do galaxy-hopping, platform-negotiating gun nuts Ratchet and Clank have to do with pirates, exactly? Well, though you wouldn't necessarily have guessed from its marketing, the last proper R&CF instalment, Tools of Destruction, featured a lengthy nautical interlude that tipped its tricorne to the high-seas hijinks of Pirates of the Caribbean, not least with its improbably rousing faux-ho-ho soundtrack that both evoked and skewered the work of movie composer Hans Zimmer. Ratchet and his prissy aide-de-camp Clank clashed sabres with the diabolical space pirate Captain Slag ... and predictably sent yon bilge-sucking buccaneer alls the ways down to Davy Jones's that's-quite-enough-pirate-talk-for-now.

You can't keep a good corsair down, though, so Captain Slag returns to wreak havoc in Quest for Booty - a bite-size R&CF add-on that costs a mere 15 bucks from PSN - although there's sadly still no sign of Clank, who was whisked away by placid-but-mysterious alien race the Zoni at the climax of the last game.

So despite the subtitle, this isn't really an expedition for mere financial gain; our hero Ratchet is attempting to pick up the trail of his beloved metallic flunky. He's accompanied by criminally underdeveloped love interest Talwyn - no Ratchet and Skank jokes, please - but since she's almost always jetpacking off somewhere else, it feels more like a solo mission, with our furry hero hopping and blasting through four sumptuously-realised alien locales.

Developer Insomniac Games has intimated that Quest for Booty is meant as both a stopgap for long-standing fans before the next full instalment (pegged for Fall 2009) and an entry-level primer for gamers unfamiliar with the highly polished series. So where the franchise once fetishized a riotous arsenal of wanton weapons that sprawled over multiple inventory screens, here it mostly boils things back down to basic puzzling and platforming, with a renewed emphasis on Ratchet's trusty Omniwrench. This techno-spanner has been upgraded, now functioning as a burger-flipping tool to snare and transport key items, notably glowing underground beasties that repel swarms of evil bats. It's also capable of firing a Ghostbusters-esque energy beam that can recalibrate unhelpfully positioned platforms. While the shift from frenzied, full spectrum blasting to mechanical tinkering might not sit well with the mayhem-addicted hardcore, it makes for some satisfying leaping action (it helps that your manipulator beam crackles noisily like the old-school electricity that animated Frankenstein's monster).

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