Ratchet and Clank: Quest for Booty represents a new approach to Insomniac Games' celebrated series. It is a shorter game than its predecessor, Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction, available for download from PlayStation Store and on Blu-ray Disc at a special price. And it is constantly entertaining from start to finish.
The action begins without preamble, dropping Ratchet onto the deck of a rain-drenched pirate ship where he must take on its occupants - Captain Darkwater's minions. The heroic lombax is searching for his best friend Clank, who has been kidnapped by the mysterious Zoni. The only clue to his whereabouts is a lost treasure known as the Fulcrum Star, and Captain Darkwater knows where to find it.
Using the same game engine as Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction, Ratchet and Clank: Quest for Booty looks stunning, and the shimmering deck of the ship as it sways in the storm is immediately eye-catching, as are the particle effects and explosions when the plasma is flying.
Also making a welcome return is the arsenal of over-the-top weapons, most of which are available to use from the outset. Among these are the Combuster, a handgun that fires balls of plasma; a Tornado Launcher that sends enemies near it into a spin; and a glove that releases dozens of aggressive insects onto anyone close by.
Gameplay is a familiar blend of combat and platforming, with the occasional grinding or first person shooting section adding variety. A new feature is the Omniwrench, which Ratchet can attach to out of reach platforms and use to pick up small objects. This really comes into its own on the game's second level, Hoolefar Island: an idyllic tropical island with a spooky network of caverns deep underground. On the surface, Ratchet has to manoeuvre groups of platforms high above the canopy to activate wind turbines, adding a welcome strategy element to the normal jumping and shooting. Underground, he can pick up and throw explosive rocks and light emitting creatures called Heliogrubs; the former can be used to blow up doors and the latter to illuminate dark rooms and keep bats away.
Driving the action is a sense of humour that appeals to both kids and adults, and has become a series hallmark. The game's overall presentation comes across as streamlined; in creating a shorter title Insomniac Games have come up with an experience that is straight to the point, relentless and fat-free.
Ratchet and Clank: Quest for Booty is a juicy morsel of a title. The drop in length makes for shorter development times and a more affordable game, and if future chapters contain this level of innovation and design expertise, and are released more frequently than lengthier titles, then PlayStation 3 gamers are in for a treat.