In the middle of my second play through of Ratchet & Clank I realised the re-imagined version had begun to infect my memories of the original, and I was OK with that. The realisation actually began on my second trip to Planet Veldin, where the Lombax with dreams of high adventure first encounters the reject warbot that would become his best friend and co-star. In the original game Clank's ship crashes on the planet's surface, and Ratchet rushes to the scene to perform a daring last-minute rescue before the vessel explodes.
Only that didn't happen in the original game. Ratchet finds Clank next to the burning wreckage, makes sure no one is looking and calls dibs.
Retooled to fit with the CG movie coming later this month, the new Ratchet & Clank's version of that meeting is much more dramatic.
The original Ratchet & Clank is one of my favourite games of all time. I replay it regularly, most recently about a year and a half ago via the PlayStation 3 HD collection. I pretty much had the game memorised. A week and a half with the re-imagined version and those memories have been transformed.
What Insominac has done here is hung fresh trappings and mechanics over familiar beats. The meeting between Ratchet and Clank is different, but the circumstances and outcome are the same. The Captain Qwark Fitness Course on the planet Kerwan is now the Galactic Ranger Training Course. That annoying bit on Rilgar where you have to escape the sewers as they flood with water? Still there, still annoying as hell.
Captain Qwark, the questionable hero of the galaxy plays a larger role in the game this time around, acting as narrator as he recounts the events from the original game. So if the differences between the two bother you, blame him. He's probably responsible anyway.
All hail the Sheepinator.
The humour is spot-on. The sublimely satisfying platforming and shooting controls are intact. There are new places to explore and some of those collectible gold bolts might not be where they were the first time around, but that just makes finding them all that much more satisfying.
The biggest differences between the new Ratchet & Clank and the original happen in the menus.
Weapons still upgrade with experience, but each one now has a skill tree of sorts which uses special crystals to unlock enhanced powers and abilities.
Collectible cards hidden about the various planets or harvested from enemies provide more bonuses. Collecting a three-card set can up amount of money (bolts) that drop from enemies and broken boxes. Collecting cards is also the key to unlocking Omega versions of the standard weapons, further expanding their skill trees.
Instead of being used to unlock gold weapons, those gold bolts unlock special cosmetic game options, like this silver screen filter and dinosaur mask.
Or this option, which replaces bolts and gears with um. It's a secret to everyone.
The new Ratchet & Clank is familiar enough to feel like a homecoming, while being divergent enough to never feel old-hat. Forget HD re-releases. Every classic game should get this treatment.