Having saved the world rather spectacularly at the end of 2009’s A Crack In Time, funky fox Ratchet and his robotic buddy Clank are taking some much needed time off and letting Galactic President Qwark take all the credit. However, when they visit the city of Luminopolis to watch their egotistical, wise-cracking buddy receive the Galactic Tool of Justice Award, old enemy Nefarious turns up to ruin things.
It’s a great start to Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One, as the big-brained green one unleashes the skyscraper-sized Z’Grute upon the citizens of Luminopolis, only to find himself forced into cooperation with his nemeses when a brand new villain shows up and it all gets out of hand. Chasing down the huge monster is entertaining enough, and a fair indication of things to come. Unfortunately, one of the biggest problems with All 4 One is that it never really picks up and gets going from here on in. Once the Z’Grute is defeated by way of a huge, city-wide boss fight, and the bickering quartet are abducted by Ephemeris the Creature Collector, the action remains at an even, non-threatening level.
It seems to me that the comparatively sedate pace is a step back from the last effort. Ironically, so is the multiplayer, which is unfortunate as it’s the game’s central conceit. Working with others makes All 4 One too easy, and the simplistic non-puzzles (each of you stand on a switch / pull a lever / shoot a target) are too straightforward to ever be engaging. Played alone, All 4 One becomes slightly tougher due to the iffy, obstructive AI that controls your partner. The combat element remains incredible simple, with a mixture of ranged and melee attacks, ground slams and weapon tossing. Though there is a good selection of guns to unlock, you’re never really encouraged to try them all and will likely end up levelling the first one you’re given and sticking with it throughout.
Most of the real variety comes from the locales, all of which are brightly coloured and well-detailed – even if they are purely backdrops. A lack of exploration makes the short campaign levels painfully linear, however, and so traversing these locales, lovingly-drawn as they are, is simply a case of racing from A to B whilst scavenging nuts and bolts to pay for your weapon upgrades. Though the weapons don’t improve as they have in previous titles, you can still increase their damage at dedicated stations found throughout the levels. Again, though, it’s simply not essential.
What All 4 One retains from the franchise is its personality and sense of humour. Qwark, in particular, is borderline hilarious (it’s worth selecting him just for the dry one-liners). The witty script evokes elements of a Disney / Pixar movie, as does the slick, colourful animation in the cutscenes), and the voice actors play their parts perfectly. All 4 One’s charming personality is evident in everything from the writing to the art design and, in all fairness, it’s mostly responsible for lifting the title above mediocrity.
Cast somewhere between the Lego Star Wars franchise and Crash Bandicoot, there are moments when the game lets itself down by just not being quite as manic as it needs to be. Sections where you’re required to grind long service pipes while something huge chases you, or you have to jump in a minecart for some on-rails shooting and dodging are far too slow – they’re also so easy to navigate that you hardly feel responsible for finishing levels. At times, Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One is so kid-friendly that it’s not unfair to call it dumbed-down and, as a result, there’s nothing here to entice serious gamers to play.
All 4 One is by no means a bad game – it’s just not enough of a game to keep grown-ups, or even young teens – interested. Which is a shame, because alongside a sharp script filled with jokes that children of a certain age simply won’t understand, the co-op mode has the potential to be a great deal of fun when there’re four of you crowded around the sofa. As a game for older pre-teens, Ratchet & Clank succeeds by its vibrant artwork, humorous cutscenes and painless gameplay – for anyone needing a decent challenge or engaging co-op, however, it’s all been done better elsewhere.