Faster, Lombax! Kill! Kill!
The "Ratchet & Clank" series from Insomniac Games is 11 years old, and has averaged more than one game per year since its debut in 2002. Leonine warrior Ratchet and his robotic sidekick Clank have generally starred in games of remarkably consistent quality, and "Into the Nexus" is no exception.
The last two "Ratchet & Clank" titles, "All 4 One" and "Full Frontal Assault," attempted to change the series into something it's not — a four-player cooperative action game and a real-time strategic tower defense, respectively. While they didn't quite fail, they left fans wanting a more traditional installment.
That's exactly what "Into the Nexus" is: an old-school intergalactic adventure where the dynamic duo explores outlandish planets, collects bizarre weaponry and fights over-the-top (but often three-dimensional) villains. "Into the Nexus" doesn't do much that's new, but it's a great send-off for Ratchet and Clank on the current generation of consoles.
"Ratchet & Clank" fans know what they're in for in terms of gameplay — it's typical of the action/platformer fare of the past 10 years or so. You'll play as the eponymous heroes (mostly as Ratchet with Clank strapped to his back, although occasionally as the snarky little robot in special subsections) who spend most of their time leaping from place to place, exploring branching level pathways and trouncing enemies with some of the zaniest weaponry in the galaxy.
As a rule, the series has never been satisfied with boring old laser blasters and rocket launchers. You'll find them, to be sure, but Ratchet will also face enemies using whirlwinds of saw blades, extra-dimensional goblins in flowerpots, and beams that turn foes into snowmen while "Jingle Bells" plays in the background. "Call of Duty," this is not.
Weapons level up with use (standard practice for the series), meaning that a humble grenade can become a powerful fusion bomb. Players can also collect Raritanium, which lets them further buff up weapons with extra ammo or added firepower. Customizing and leveling up weapons is as much fun as it's ever been, and rewarding players in a way that suits their unique styles is always a welcome touch.
Although Clank is usually content to hang out in Ratchet's backpack and act as a jetpack or mini-helicopter, he also takes center stage in some very clever gravity-manipulation puzzles. Clank's solo sections in "Into the Nexus" are some of its strongest points, combining 2D platforming with mind-bending physics and exciting chases.
While "Into the Nexus" excels in the traditional "Ratchet & Clank" format, it doesn't add much that's new. Early on, Ratchet receives a gun that can manipulate gravity streams, but he can use it only to explore certain locations and solve specific puzzles. It's not a bad mechanic by any means, but it's also not nearly as exciting as, say, the hover boots or the time-manipulation abilities from "A Crack in Time."
The game runs about six hours or so, but there's plenty of reason to replay it. Beating the game opens up "Challenge Mode," where you can tackle tougher enemies, earn more money and upgrade your weapons even further.
Ratchet and Clank find themselves in deep space, transporting a dangerous criminal named Vendra Prog to her quintuple life sentence in prison. Their plans go awry when her twin brother, Neftin, stages a rescue mission. The two heroes set out to thwart the two villains and prevent them from unleashing an interdimensional menace on the galaxy — one that Ratchet and Clank themselves may have made possible through their actions in previous games.
Narrative and writing have always been strong points of the "Ratchet & Clank" series. Like previous entries, "Into the Nexus" is laugh-out-loud funny, whether it's embracing slapstick humor, wry social commentary or decidedly adult one-liners (that will fly safely over the heads of younger players).
Kids will love the colorful characters and sci-fi adventure; adults will be impressed by just how much innuendo and how many weighty themes Insomniac was able to cram into a game that's ostensibly aimed at a younger audience.