With the previously PlayStation 5 exclusive Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart making its way to PC, now seems as good a time as any to take a trip down memory lane and impart a brief history of the Ratchet and Clank franchise from its humble PS2 origins to its present day incarnation.
Ratchet & Clank (2002) – PS2
Where it all began, Ratchet & Clank released for the PlayStation 2 console more than twenty years ago now and introduced gamers to its titular heroes – a cheeky ‘Lombax’ known as Ratchet and his drily comic robotic companion, Clank. Unlike other previous games that had the platforming antagonist duos such as Banjo & Kazooie and Jak & Daxter, Ratchet & Clank instead combined three-dimensional platforming with the sort of shoot em’ up shenanigans that were previously the preserve of side-scrolling efforts to create something that was truly unique for the time.
Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando (2003) – PS2
Unfolding in a different setting to its predecessor, Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando whisks the galaxy-saving duo off to the Bogon Galaxy where a mysterious experiment must be retrieved lest, you guessed it, the universe falls into an unfathomable peril. More interestingly, Going Commando would bring a neat levelling system for its weapons that would become a staple of the franchise for every game thereafter.
Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal (2004) – PS2
Guiltily amusing title aside, once again reunites Ratchet & Clank to embark on yet more intergalactic heroics, this time to defeat the evil (and appropriately named) Dr. Nefarious before he can wreak havoc across the galaxy. Though Up Your Arsenal maintained the core mechanics and structure seen in previous games, it kept things fresh by bringing split-screen and online multiplayer to the table for the first time.
Ratchet: Deadlocked/Gladiator (2005) – PS2
Separating Ratchet and Clank for the first time, Ratchet: Deadlocked (or ‘Gladiator’ for those folks residing in Europe or Australia) elected to focus more on the combat side of things as the titular Lombox found himself thrust into a cosmic gladiatorial contest to rescue his longtime partner, Clank.
Ratchet & Clank: Going Mobile (2005) – Java powered mobile devices
Marking the first time that the duo would leave their PlayStation stomping grounds, Ratchet & Clank: Going Mobile was a two-dimensional action platformer that hopped onto Java powered mobile phones all the way back in 2005. Given the technological limitations of the mobile phones of the day, it’s understandable that the three-dimensional spectacle of the PS2 titles wouldn’t make the leap, what is perhaps less understandable is why the game felt so tragically lifeless and soul crushingly dull.
Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters (2007) – PSP
Like Jak & Daxter before it (well, just Daxter actually), Ratchet & Clank was another PlayStation marquee franchise that would be given time to shine on Sony’s shiny new PSP handheld. Essentially a spin-off from the core series established on PS2, though it found itself lacking somewhat in the visual department when compared to the series entries on its home console big brother, it still captured enough of the platforming combat essence to make it compelling to fans all the same.
Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction (2007) – PS3
The debut of Sony’s new favourite mascot duo on its PS3 hardware, Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction felt like a return to form that not only leveraged the newfound horsepower of Sony’s seventh generation PlayStation console, but also doubled down on the core mechanics that made the series so enrapturing in the first place. Not only can players once again control Clank separate from Ratchet (complete with his own puzzle solving sections), but a range of wacky new weaponry – the highlight of which being the hilarious Disco Ball that made affected enemies dance like lunatics – all underscored the fact that Tools of Destruction was the best Ratchet & Clank game to come along in a good while.
Secret Agent Clank (2008) – PSP
The second attempt at the limelight on Sony’s PSP handheld would come in the form of 2008’s Secret Agent Clank, the first (and only) game in the entire series in which Clank is the sole and main act. Separating itself from Clank’s input into the mainline games where his involvement mostly boiled down to some inexplicably slim puzzle-solving and platforming sections, in Secret Agent Clank our quick-witted robot has weapons and abilities all his own, lending credibility to the notion that Secret Agent Clank was able to successfully capture the core of the series at large.
Ratchet & Clank Future: Quest for Booty (2008) – PS3
A direct sequel to the events that unfolded in 2007’s Tools of Destruction, Ratchet & Clank Future: Quest for Booty basically gave players more of everything that they enjoyed from the duo’s PS3 debut. Where Quest for Booty is a little different though is in the increased focus on puzzle-solving and platforming elements above and beyond what players were typically used to.
Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time (2009) – PS3
Embodying the best of the series old and new, Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time is rightfully regarded by many as one of the very best entries in the whole franchise. Not only does Ratchet now possess a fancy Chronoscepter that can fix broken objects, but so too can Clank record up to a minute of himself while his actual self is off doing something else. Naturally, many of A Crack in Time’s challenges are built around these two concepts and provide some of the most compelling puzzles the series has seen to date. Elsewhere, A Crack in Time is also much more open than its predecessors, with our heroic duo able to fly between planets and moons freely.
Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One (2011) – PS3
The first (and to date, only) title to feature four player co-operative play, Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One was a series spin-off that got quite the mixed reception to say the least. Though the notion of a four player co-op Ratchet & Clank game is an enticing one, All 4 One’s abridged length, demonstrably inferior level design and lack of polish compared to its predecessors all meant that this felt like quite the disappointment after the excellence that A Crack in Time brought to the table.
Ratchet & Clank Collection (2012) – PS3, PS Vita (2014)
A remaster of the first three PS2 games in the series, the Ratchet & Clank re-imaged the first game, Going Commando and Up Your Arsenal with 720p resolution and buttery smooth 60 frames per second animation. As an added bonus, not only did the multiplayer portion of Up Your Arsenal make the lap to PS3 fully intact but Insomniac Games also decided to throw in a stereoscopic 3D mode just for kicks. Oh and the PS Vita handheld version wasn’t half bad either, marking the first time that the original three games in the series would be playable on the go. A fitting way to celebrate Ratchet & Clank’s tenth anniversary.
Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault (2012) – PS3, PS Vita (2013)
A spin-off that incorporated tower defence elements into the series trademark third-person platforming shooter sensibilities, Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault sadly succumbed to its newfound design elements, making it feel more like a watered down strategy effort rather than a truly satisfying entry in the series. Worse still, the PS Vita version was an absolute mess with horrendous loading times, poorly detailed textures and on-screen text that became illegible at times.
Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus (2013) – PS3
Once more returning to the calibre that defined the earlier mainline games in the series, Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus did a decent job of capturing the series classic magic. Beyond its adherence to the series design bedrock, Into the Nexus brought new elements into the fold where Ratchet must manipulate gravitational forces to reach previously inaccessible places.
Ratchet & Clank (2016) – PS4
The sole Ratchet & Clank offering to be developed and released on PS4 (presumably we have the adventures of a certain well-known webslinger to thank for that), Ratchet & Clank is actually a reimagining of the series’ very first instalment. More than that, the 2016 outing also became one of the better entries in the series to boot thanks to some incredible visuals and a return to the superb platforming shooter gameplay that made the series so compelling to begin with.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart (2021) – PS5, PC (2023)
Supported by the PS5’s cutting edge architecture – and in particular its screamingly fast SSD, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart was ambitious in ways that no other game in the series could have been. A direct sequel to 2013’s Into the Nexus, this entry thankfully plays similarly to the series 2016 outing but augments it with portal based mechanics that allows our titular heroes to seamlessly hop one from dimension to the next, while the visual presentation was of such high quality that it can look like you’re playing a Pixar movie at times. A soaringly impressive offering, it’s little wonder that only the PS5 and the beefiest of PC rigs can fully realise the sprawling technical ambition of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.