Narrative in Video Games #6: Ratchet & Clank Future: Quest for Booty

The Ratchet & Clank series is unique when it comes to platformers for focusing less on the actual platforming, and more on destroying everything in your path with a vast arsenal of unique weapons. The formula hasn’t changed much since Ratchet & Clank’s 2002 debut, but with such a solid foundation it doesn’t necessarily need to. Perhaps the series’ biggest distinction is its approach to narrative with colorful characters and emotional storylines earning comparisons to Pixar films. This focus on narrative gave way to the Future series, which brought us today’s subject: Ratchet & Clank Future: Quest for Booty.

Quest for Booty was released on the PlayStation Network in 2008 to tide fans over between 2007’s Tools of Destruction and 2009’s A Crack in Time and it shows with the final product serving more as more of an interlude than a game able to stand on its own merits. It also wouldn’t be the last time developer Insomniac Games toyed with narratively justifying a new game, as seen by 2013’s Into The Nexus, an epilogue to the Future series. Unlike other games in the series where the player can fly to previously visited planets at will, Quest for Booty opts instead for a linear experience with levels rendered inaccessible after completing the story segments. The exception is Hoolefar Island, which is revisited between levels as something of the de facto hub, though calling it a “hub” is being a bit generous.

Ratchet is searching for deceased Space Pirate Captain Darkwater, who had information on the Zoni, the race that kidnapped Clank at the end of the last game. It quickly becomes apparent that Ratchet actually needed a piece of Darkwater’s treasure to activate a machine rather than the captain himself, but when Darkwater’s spirit is revived the plan gets put on hold. At this point Darkwater becomes less of an antagonist and more of an obstacle to the MacGuffin.

Quest for Booty has a disjointed pace that somehow manages to drag and rush at the same time. The pirate ghost story is so disconnected from Ratchet’s actual mission that it feels like it’s only there to pad the game’s length. At the same time, most weapons are obtained at level three out of the maximum five, and opportunities to spend bolts are limited to plot advancing items and the final, fully maxed out weapon to compensate for the game’s shorter length. This awkward approach to both gameplay and narrative makes the game feel lacking in a way that’s hard to fully discern, and what we’re ultimately left with is the most forgettable and least essential experience in the entire franchise.

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