Platform: Playstation 3. Developer: Insomniac Games.
It's a measure of how much services like Steam, Xbox Live Arcade and the PSN Store have changed the games market when a title like Ratchet and Clank: Quest for Booty emerges. This isn't a stripped back mini-game based on Ratchet and Clank or an extra episode for owners of the incredible Tools of Destruction, but a proper (albeit pint-sized), brand new AAA game featuring everyone's favourite furry alien/robot duo (though Clank fans should be aware that their hero gets a guest appearance only). It's every bit as exciting and technically accomplished as Tools, and in all ways but one (length) indistinguishable from a new Blu-ray R&C adventure. Admittedly, we're talking about a whacking 3.2GB download here, but Quest for Booty feels like a little piece of the future, right here, right now.
It begins pretty much where Tools of Destruction left off, with Ratchet and Tools' female lead, Talwyn, on the trail of the missing Clank. Ratchet discovers that the secret of his friend's whereabouts rests with a legendary pirate, Captain Darkwater, once the boss of Captain Slag and Rusty Pete. Thus begins a tale confined to a planet of pirate-themed adventure, complete with phantoms, pirate ships, secret caves and tropical islands – just like those Caribbean based films that were so popular with the youth in picture houses a few years ago (or the Monkey Island games before them, come to that).
The actual action is classic Ratchet and Clank, combining platforming and puzzling with some satisfying shoot-em-up action. Here, however, the mix is skewed a little differently than it was in Tools of Destruction, with less emphasis on the heavy artillery and more on the jumping and conundrum solving side of things. Some fans have moaned about this, but I didn't mind this too much. In a way, Quest for Booty is the closest R&C have come to an old-fashioned platform game since the awesome Going Commando/Locked and Loaded back in 2003.
On the one hand, this means that there's nothing in the way of new weaponry to mess about with – and experimenting with the latest big guns has always been part of the Ratchet and Clank appeal. On the other hand, Insominac has introduced some cool new mechanics to spice up the platforming a little. First, Ratchet's new wrench (the Omniwrench) has developed a sort of tractor beam, which can be used to manipulate certain objects and create or reposition platforms, or ready springboards for jumping.
Secondly, the game goes fairly big on dangerous dark areas which need to be filled with light, with an unstoppable enemy that reminds me a bit of the Kryll in Gears of War. To survive these irritating varmints Ratchet needs to scoop up little glowing cave creatures called Heliogrubs, and getting from one to the other is a regular source of puzzles in the game. Little exploding lumps of magma also have their part to play in opening barriers, and plenty of entertaining and engaging – if old fashioned – gameplay ensues. In fact, Quest for Booty even finds space for a few pirate challenges that bought back sweet memories of the Monkey Island games to my mind (even if the puzzles aren't anything that your average five year old couldn't handle). You just have to love Captain Blackwater's personal cocktail shaker, for example.