With such a rich catalogue of games having been built up through the history of the home console, it's definitely worthwhile visiting an old classic every once in awhile. It may only have been ten years ago that Ratchet and Clank first teamed up to fight evil and save the universe, but a lot has changed since then. Even those who have 60GB PS3s capable of playing PS2 games will agree that there is a significant difference, and the look of a thing – while not the be all and end all – can affect a player's ability to immerse themselves in a game. So, The Ratchet & Clank Trilogy: Classics HD polishes into high definition the three core action-adventure shooter/platform games from the original series: Ratchet & Clank, Ratchet & Clank 2: Locked and Loaded, and Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal.
The colourfully cartoonish style of the Ratchet and Clank games means the improved graphics really shine; everything still looks relatively basic, but is much sharper. The games obviously haven't quite been brought up to the same standard as the PS3-exclusive Future trilogy – the distant environments still have that cardboard cut-out look about them, and the lava has straight edges – but they don't stand out quite as much. The only things that do jar with the improved look are the cutscenes, which obviously couldn't have stood being converted into HD and are thus played in 4:3. But these never take up enough time that they detract from the game, and are actually a nice breeze of nostalgia, especially those that show original gameplay clips.
Insomniac Games and Idol Minds have struck a good balance between sticking to the original and performing a complete (and costly) overhaul. The visual quality has been improved enough that those used to what the PS3 is capable of – especially those who have never played the original trilogy – won't be put off from playing, but the relatively simplistic environments, characters, music, and so on are still there to bring back memories for those who have played before. Just like an old song reminds you of a particular time in your life, the sound effects in these games – some of which seem as if they were directly borrowed from the original Spyro The Dragon games, also developed by Insomniac – will take you back to the way games were in 2002, when games were more about timing jumps and clunky controls, when dying sent you back what seemed like hours, and when Ratchet and Clank still thought Captain Qwark was a hero.
So much about these games is still so good, even ten years later. The humour, while occasionally a little dated, remains strong, whether it's Clank finding the Magneboots only to have them cling to him or Ratchet commenting of a working man, 'Look, plumber's crack'. There are still fairly big worlds to explore, and a wide variety of weapons, from the Visibomb Gun that shoots remote-controlled flying missiles to the Morph-O-Ray, which turns enemies into chickens. With so many bad guys to dispose of, the action is obviously the main component to the games, but there are breaks to be had in the mini-games and side-quests, which get better with each sequel. Hoverboarding and flying a jet fighter are particularly fun, and the occasional puzzle element – used, for example, to unlock doors – keeps your mind alert. Replayability comes from the collectable gold bolts that are hidden in remote areas of each map, and skill points obtained for completing various challenges, some of which align with the new trophy support the update has brought to the games.
But there are some things a makeover can't hide. The controls are a lot slippier than those who've only played the more recent Ratchet and Clank games will be used to, and the quick select menu has limited space for your favourite weapons and gadgets; you will almost certainly want to use more than will fit. The characters start off very two-dimensional in the first game, though there's a clear improvement by the second. It's interesting to play through these first three games in order and experience the progression as Insomniac gained confidence with the series and implemented the features that came to feel necessary by the time the Future trilogy rolled around. The introduction of proper strafing and the ability to smash up the environment – not just wooden crates – for monetary bolts in the second and third will probably make you reluctant to go back to the first after having played it through once. And one big feature that seems to leave a glaring hole in the first Ratchet & Clank – though obviously it was never there originally, and this is just a kind of backwards nostalgia for what we have come to expect in the later games – is upgrades, levelling up and unlocking improved versions of armour and weapons. With this and other incremental improvements, the Ratchet and Clank games really got into their stride in the second and third games, and the fact that the series is still going – with a new, 'proper' adventure for the heroic duo due to be released later this year – is testament to its popularity, even after so many years.
Playing this trilogy will likely make you long for things that exist in the Future trilogy, like the larger capacity quick select menu or the ability to manually control Ratchet's spaceship, but it will also remind you of some of the wonderful characters and weapons that do not appear in the later games. Despite a few signs of age, these games are far from being so dated as to be unplayable, which is helped a great deal by the improved graphics in this collection. And with three full games to play through – each with skill points to conquer, weapons to buy, gold bolts to collect – there's a lot here for the price. For those looking for the simpler fun they found in the games of their youth, or for anyone who either started playing Ratchet and Clank games with Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction or has somehow managed to never play any of the games before, this is a perfect purchase.
Ten years younger: Ratchet and Clank get a high-definition makeover.