Escaping the Black Hole of Action Platformers: “Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus”

Here’s why I like the main Ratchet & Clank games: you don’t just spend time shooting enemies with a variety of powerful and silly guns/gadgets (in the case of Into the Nexus, you’ve got a “Nightmare Box” that scares enemies; previous entries have whipped out enemy-to-sheep transmogrifiers and distracting disco balls), but also exploring exotic worlds and executing often difficult platforming sections. Every now and again, you’ll reach an obstacle that switches control to Clank for a brief but taxing puzzle–previous entries have focused on guiding Lemming-like bots to an exit, and Nexus offers up gravity-reversing gameplay. The point is, you’re never doing one thing for too long; you might have to defend Clank while he hacks a navigation system, but immediately after that, you’ll take to your jetpack, scouring the city for missing battery droids. After sneaking past laser turrets, using the grappling hook and a series of tractor-beam devices (reminiscent of those found in Portal 2), you might have to quickly escape the rising toxic sewage, jetting between whirling fan-blades as you race the clock. Even the Destructathon Arena is deceptive: yes, you’ll often have to defeat enemies, but you’ll have to do so while jumping over revolving flamethrower beams or hovering through aerial rings.

Level design varies, too: the tutorial on Nebulox 7 has you fighting both within and without a giant spacecraft that’s come under attack, whereas Thram is an entirely open area filled with boost ramps and refueling cylinders, meant to be scoured for secrets. (A particularly tricky section tasks you with finding and retrieving a battery bot within forty-five seconds.) Even single worlds are filled with various activities; on Igliak, you’ll thwart the laser security within the Planetary Museum and then fend of a Nether invasion in the city center. Into the Nexus is only five levels long, if that, and roughly as many hours, and–in the mark of a good game–it feels much, much too short. Still, I’d prefer that a game continue to innovate rather than draw things out (and there is a Challenge Mode for those who want to replay and grind better versions of their weapons); in any case, it’s nice to have Ratchet & Clank back at all, especially after their last two releases saw them playing around with co-op and turret defense genres. Now hurry up; the PS4 needs some of this action!

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