Ratchet and Clank was one of the biggest mascot platformers of all time and throughout the entire PlayStation 2 and 3 life cycle had been a staple of the console. Not only was it a staple to PlayStation though, the Ratchet and Clank series was a staple for me. Ratchet and Clank 2: Locked And Loaded was for a very long time my favourite game ever (only in 2013 was it eclipsed by the masterpiece that was Bioshock Infinite) but when Ratchet And Clank 2 is your favourite game you have to play every game in the franchise, it’s almost mandatory. As such, I spent the majority of my youth going through and completing every mainline Ratchet and Clank game, Because when you have a franchise as big as Ratchet and Clank you’re going to get more than just the main platforming games. You’re going to get a whole bucket load of spin-offs. Unfortunately, spin-offs are often overlooked and completely written off just because of their labelling, I believe this to be a crying shame in the gaming industry. I personally believe spin-offs don’t get enough attention or praise, so I’d like to bring to light some of the more obscure off-centre games in the Ratchet and Clank franchise and ask not where are they now, but what made them great. Explore the fact that some spin-offs can actually be good and the Ratchet and Clank franchise is the perfect way to do just that.
Firstly though, some context; The Ratchet and Clank games are huge mascot action platforming games for PlayStation. In them you play as the titular characters and fight through various different worlds beating bosses, performing intricate platforming puzzles and using extravagant weaponry. The game leans heavily into its sci-fi world and is consistently praised for the range of mechanics and weaponry available to the player, from sheep guns to disco ball launchers, it’s an incredibly strange franchise of games that took the world by storm upon the first release. Now you’ve got the basic jist of the franchise we can look at the first spin-off, Ratchet: Deadlocked
Starting off were going all the way back to 2005. Following the release of the hugely successful Ratchet and Clank Trilogy, Insomniac wanted a change in pace and with the creative director of the franchise saying “We’re really looking to take Ratchet and Clank in a completely new direction” so Ratchet Deadlocked (also known as Gladiator in the UK) was born. This action-orientated take on the franchise saw Ratchet kidnapped by an evil corporation and forced to compete in a deadly gameshow known as Dreadzone and before I go any further let me just say that this is by far the coolest game of the entire series. Ratchet is no longer hindered by the sarcastic wit of Clank and is allowed to unleash his inner cool. Instead of focusing on platforming and working your way through different worlds, you make your way through various tournaments and challenges set by the evil leader Vox. Ratchet Deadlocked was a clear, distinctive separation from the main franchise and a refreshing change of pace. The game fully embraces its gameshow theme with commentators, floating cameras and wild and eccentric characters. Not only that, it changes the tone dramatically. While the game isn’t completely devoid of humour, the overall game is much darker than all of the previous entries so far. Thankfully Ratchet Deadlocked was praised for this, Ratchet and Clank could have easily become over saturated on the PS2 but instead of making more of the same they managed to mix up the action and still retain the core experience of the series.
Ratchet Deadlocked was also a financial success selling over 1.2 million copies worldwide, which isn’t bad at all considering it’s only a spin-off. But even with great stats behind it, it wasn’t until 3 years later that we saw another Ratchet and Clank spin-off title and just after the initial release of the first PS3 Ratchet and Clank game we saw the release of Secret Agent Clank.
I’m not going to beat around the bush, Secret Agent Clank was a weird game in the grand scheme of things. While Ratchet Deadlocked was still pretty much a Ratchet and Clank game at its core, Secret Agent Clank completely subverted everyone’s expectations to the franchise and created a puzzle-platformer game. Released on both PSP and PS2, Secret Agent Clank saw you take the reins of Clank’s alter ego; a James Bond-like figure with a whole host of gadgets in his arsenal. It’s the second in the series not to be developed by original creators Insomniac, the first being Size Matters, instead the duties are handed over to High Impact games (Which funnily enough is made up of ex Insomniac devs) this turned out to be a relatively sensible move as they really mixed up the whole series and what a Ratchet and Clank game had the capabilities of doing. You have a tie that turns into a boomerang, a rose which becomes a carnivorous man-eating plant and a variety of other crazy weaponry much akin to the main entries of the game. It’s hard to pin down the gameplay of Secret Agent Clank because it’s so very varied, there are segments where you play as Giant Clank, Ratchet, Quark, Gadgebots (the Pikmin like creatures from previous games), rhythm sneaking segments to just name a few. It’s as if the developers thought, Ratchet and Clank games are not crazy enough so let’s just go mental with this one. It’s obvious that the developers had a lot of fun making this though because the game itself is so loving to the elements it’s parodying. You never know what’s around the corner and it makes for a really fun, refreshing experience. Critically and sales wise, Secret Agent Clank wasn’t hitting the mark as much as previous entries to the franchise so it wasn’t until 3 years later that we saw the next spin-off game.
Now the beauty of spin-off games is that they get to explore the aspects of games franchises the main series can’t. They provide external world building, new gameplay mechanics and usually just an excuse to play more of the franchise you love. So far, the two Ratchet and Clank spin-offs had done exactly that, for me anyway, but there was always one major feature that was missing from Ratchet and Clank games. Multiplayer. Enter Ratchet and Clank All 4 One, a 4-player locked camera puzzle/action/platformer game that answers all your multiplayer Ratchet dreams. It’s the huge step away from the usual Ratchet and Clank gameplay we are used too but at this point, a whole 10 games in, that’s okay. The gameplay remains the same as most entries to the series but with the controversial addition of a locked camera and of course the 4-player coop. There’s nothing revolutionary about All 4 One, nothing particularly stands out about this title other than the fact that this is another shining example of how to make a spin-off game. Instead of ruining the integrity of the main series by forcing in a 4-player mode, Insomniac created a completely different game that embraced everything people wanted out of a coop version of the beloved franchise. Every spin-off released up to this date was fantastic, the infamous series was being taken in completely new directions, selling really well and living up to the high standards of the main series. So, it was inevitable that Insomniac was due to make a mistake at some point, nothing good lasts forever as they say.
Ratchet and Clank Full Frontal Assault is cited as the worst game in the entirety of the franchise and unlike the fantastic examples of spin-offs before it, full frontal assault is exactly what a spin-off game should not be. Full frontal assault is a cheap piece of shovelware content that should not feature the Ratchet label. The aim of the game is to, over the course of three rounds, capture and conquer the enemy team in a Plants VS Zombies Garden Warfare type of mode. That’s pretty much it, the single player element of the game takes place over the course of various matches of this gameplay with little to no story added to it. The multiplayer gets old after the 5 maps included have been played more than twice and the overall amount of content comes up short even when in comparison to the mini-adventure Quest For Booty. Its as if the developers took this mode from one of the main entries and just decided to release it separately to make a bit of extra money. It’s a loveless cash cow of a game that only amplifies what spin-off games shouldn’t be.
Spin-off games themselves are a lost art nowadays, very few franchises are big enough to produce a fully-fledged spin-off title with a budget of the main game series. It’s also a risky venture for a developer, but when done properly spin-offs can be a great extension to an already popular universe of games and Ratchet and Clank, for the most part, showed that perfectly. To ask the question where are Ratchet and Clank spin-offs now? that would be hard to answer. The recent release and success of the Ratchet and Clank remake on PS4 leads to a whole number of new outlets the series could go in and if it continues to thrive the likelihood of a further spin-off will heavily increase. But that’s not the point of this where are they now, my point is to take you on a trip reminiscing about a collection of great spin-off games and remind you that a spin-off should never be written off purely because it’s a spin-off, some of the best games in the Ratchet and Clank franchise are its spin-off titles and that should be praised not punished.
What your favourite spin-off game and did you play any of these Ratchet and Clank spin-offs? Make sure to let us know in the comments below