Insomniac Games is on a roll lately, positioning themselves to be one of the strongest Sony first party developers, as well as one of the best in the business at large. With nearly three decades worth of iconic franchises across various genres, including first-person shooters like Resistance and the PlayStation exclusive Marvel’s Spider-Man series, players are excited for whatever the team delivers next.
While much of the studio’s mainstream blockbuster success can be attributed to the aforementioned wallcrawler, the heart and soul of Insomniac is often considered to be the outlandish exploits of a certain adventurous Lombax and his little mechanical sidekick. The series in question is, of course, Ratchet and Clank; an action platformer that found its footing on the PlayStation 2 and has graced every generation of PlayStation console since. The next installment, Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, is set for launch this June on PlayStation 5.
Long before Ratchet leaped onto the scene however, Insomniac developed the Spyro the Dragon franchise on the original PlayStation during the height of the 3D platformer craze of the late 90’s. From level design, mission objectives, and the overall sense of humor, many of the elements in Spyro the Dragon can be seen as the foundations being set for what would later be expanded upon in Ratchet and Clank games.
With the launch of the N64 and PS1 in the mid 90’s, gaming was transitioning over to the 3rd dimension, opening new doors for possibilities and technology within the medium. Super Mario 64 helped usher in an entirely new genre of games called the “collect-a-thon,” a variation of the traditional platformer in which the objective was less about reaching the end of a stage, and more about exploration and collecting items. New franchises were trying to capitalize on this popular trend, but Spyro the Dragon was one of the few to really nail the fundamentals of a satisfying gameplay experience in the genre.
Much of this is attributed to how Spyro the Dragon understood that a platformer can’t simply rely on jumping and shiny objects to collect. It is just as important to have a variety of memorable locations, filled with fun characters to meet and different objectives to complete. Each level had a personality of its own, often giving the player access to a new power or minigame in order to keep things fresh and interesting. It also helped that the music was carefully crafted to fit each specific area, helping to carry and enhance the level of immersion for the player.
With these core concepts in place after three successful Spyro the Dragon games on the original PlayStation, Insomniac went back to the drawing board, wanting to explore new frontiers on Sony’s upcoming PlayStation 2. Considering the team had just spent years perfecting the platformer formula, it only made sense to keep working within a familiar genre, just with added tweaks. Fellow PlayStation developer Naughty Dog was making similar changes with its new action platformer series Jak and Daxter, and Insomniac’s new effort in Ratchet and Clank made similar strides when it arrived on Sony’s new console.
Retaining the principal gameplay loop of exploring new areas, collecting items and meeting colorful characters aside, Ratchet and Clank (and its many sequels) emphasize a heavy dose of action and gunplay to further compliment the platforming formula. Big guns and bigger explosions prove to be a good mix with established platforming mechanics, considering how many Ratchet and Clank games have been produced over the years. Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart looks to continue the same addicting gameplay seen in prior releases, with much of that success being owed to a certain purple dragon for being the original trailblazer.