Ever since the days of the original Super Mario Bros., platforming gameplay has been a popular basis for hundreds of other video games. The simple fun of just running and jumping is something that’s always translated well between both 2D and 3D, and 15 years ago, another franchise got started by adding some twists to the mix – Ratchet and Clank.
The first game arrived for the PlayStation 2 in 2002, developed by Insomniac Games and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. The story followed the two titular characters, who meet after Clank, a small sentient robot, crash-lands on the planet Veldin. Clank explains to Ratchet that the evil Chairman Drek is trying to harvest inhabited planets in the system to make a new world for his own race (known as the Blarg). Ratchet and Clank team up with other heroes in the galaxy, such as the superhero Captain Qwark, and eventually are able to destroy Drek before he can destroy any more planets.
Ratchet and Clank has the player primarily controlling Ratchet in a third-person perspective, with Clank being carried on his back. The key gameplay element that made this game stand out from the pack was the weapon system; Ratchet can collect weapons and other gadgets throughout the worlds he explores, and can purchase ammo for them by collecting Bolts, the game’s currency. The weapons and other equipment made for unique gameplay challenges and a high replay value.
Insomniac Games already had plenty of experience with making high-quality 3D action-platformers, as they had previously created the Spyro the Dragon series for the original PlayStation. Following their work on Spyro, they moved on to creating new ideas; the original thought was that Ratchet would be an alien reptile of some sort, though he was eventually reworked to his final feline-like appearance. Interestingly, Insomniac was approached by people from Naughty Dog during the development process regarding sharing technology that Naughty Dog had already created for their own action-platformer, Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy. The collaboration resulted in Ratchet and Clank’s core game engine being developed in-house by Insomniac, but many of the rendering tools being borrowed from Naughty Dog.
The original Ratchet and Clank game was positively received, particularly in regard to the clever platforming action and the high level of graphics for the time; it also sold well, eventually moving more than 4 million copies. The success of the first game kicked off a series that has become a staple on Sony platforms, with numerous sequels and spinoff titles as well.
In 2016, an animated feature film based on the original game was released. The Ratchet and Clank film featured the voices of Paul Giamatti, John Goodman, Rosario Dawson, James Arnold Taylor, and David Kaye. Though it was a critical and commercial failure, it did spawn a reimagining of the original game as well, which released on the PlayStation 4. Fortunately, the game was widely praised, in contrast to the film it was based on. A decade and a half on, it’s clear that Ratchet and Clank is bound to be a long-lasting franchise – at least when it comes to video games.