This was always where Insominac’s developers engaged the stranger parts of the imaginations, and the same holds true in Tools. New favourites include devices like the Groovitron, which holds your enemies under a disco-dancing spell, and the Tornado launcher, which throws out a cool, tilt-controlled cyclone that sweeps up any enemies in its path and shakes them around until they implode. As before, weapons are upgradable, but while you can still level them up just by using them, you can also buy range, rate of fire and damage upgrades with crystal collectibles at a local weapons vendor. The result is that even the weediest weapons at the start of the game will transform into hard-hitting baddie-busters by the end, while the toughest arms with the coolest effects just get more and more spectacular as time goes on.
You might have noticed I mentioned tilt-control above, and Tools of Destruction is an excellent example of how Sixaxis support should be done. It’s the main control system for certain weapons, and feels like a surprisingly natural way of doing so, but it also comes into play during certain action sequences, such as when Ratchet uses Clank’s built-in glider to sweep through sections of a level, or when our duo float down through clouds of hostiles in a daring skydive to a planet’s surface. The Sixaxis even gets an outing in nice little puzzle sections, where you try to cross gaps in circuits using a variant on the old rolling ball maze games that used to appear in Christmas crackers. In fact, breaks from the basic platform-blasting action are a real strength of the game. The series has always featured Starfox-style shooting episodes and more puzzle-based solo sections for Clank, but here they’re more epic in scale or more cunning and convoluted than before. In particular, there are some nice chunks where Clank commands a small group of psychic creatures to help him complete objectives.
But now we come to the crunch. Just a few weeks ago, when I first played Tools of Destruction, I would have had no hesitation in telling you that it’s the best platform game of the last five years. It’s spectacular, expertly paced and packed with well-designed levels that give you a bit more to do than merely exercise your reactions and your trigger finger. New items like the gun that deploys bouncy gelatinous platforms are brilliantly conceived and executed. The set-pieces are awesome, the difficulty level is well thought out, and even the checkpoints are cleverly paced. All the same, however, Tools of Destruction isn’t a huge departure from the Ratchet and Clanks that came before. If you know the routine – find planet, explore planet, pick up clue or item, discover location of new planet – then there’s nothing on the fundamental level of gameplay that will really surprise or amaze you. Having played Nintendo’s revolutionary Super Mario Galaxy in the interim, I’m pushed to admit that, in a way, Tools of Destruction is a bit old hat. In score terms, it’s clutching for a nine, but at risk of getting knocked down to a still very appreciative eight. And before fans of Up your Arsenal and Deadlocked complain, the lack of online multiplayer hardly helps the cause.