At the tail end of the PS3’s lifespan, the cute but destructive duo of Ratchet and Clank return to the console for one last hurrah, an epilogue of sorts to the duo’s Future series that began back in 2007 with Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction. Into the Nexus continues the franchise’s more recent trend of popping up in short but sweet doses, and is a bite-sized chunk of platforming and shooting action in much the same vein as 2008’s Quest for Booty and last year’s underwhelming spinoff Q-Force. Thankfully, it has dropped the latter’s failed experimentation with tower-defence gameplay.
Into the Nexus may be a short game, but its production values are absolutely top notch. Character models and animations are fantastic, the voice acting is great, and the game’s worlds are colourful, vibrant, and well-designed.
The story is a fun, kid-friendly sci-fi adventure that suits its look perfectly as it brings to mind the style and humour of a Pixar movie, which is no small compliment. This is all tied together by an excellent musical score, one that flows easily between bombastic space adventure orchestration and the kitschy disco beats of the Groovitron.
Of course, Ratchet and Clank just wouldn’t be Ratchet and Clank without the wacky and creative arsenal, and favourites like the Omniblaster, the Warmonger, and death-dealing robot bodyguard
Mr. Zurkon all make welcome returns.
There are also – as expected – a few fun additions on debut. The Winterizer is a freeze ray that plays the tune of “Jingle Bells” while turning enemies into cartoon snowmen, the Nightmare Box is a scary jack-in-the-box contraption that terrorises and distracts nearby foes, and the Netherbeast presents a classic opportunity to give the bad guys a taste of their own medicine.
Also key to the series is the array of gadgets at our heroes’ disposal, and Into the Nexus again delivers. Old favourites like the hoverboots, helipack, and swingshot are back, and their combined use makes controlling Ratchet a smooth, fast, and enjoyable experience.
Gravity boots also play a major role early on, and although their application makes for a visually impressive set piece as Ratchet escapes from an exploding spaceship, their actual practical use is fairly restricted and linear which is a shame because they are a heck of a lot of fun.
Again, there are a couple of new additions. About mid-game Ratchet gains access to a jetpack, which is a new gadget in theory but not a particularly fresh one as it does exactly what players will expect. More interesting is the new grav-tether, an apparatus that fires gravity streams between designated points, creating a sort of simplified version of Portal 2’s tractor beams.
Portal 2 this game is not, however, and most of the puzzle-like aspects presented by the grav-tether are quite straightforward. The gadget’s greatest charm lies in the soft, angelic harp music that plays whenever the player is floating along its pink current – yet another cute touch in a game that prides itself on its presentation.
The biggest experiment for the series is a new recurring 2D puzzle platforming section that sees Clank venture into the Nexus, a dimension where pink is always on trend and gravity can be manipulated at will.
This leads to a number of gravity-based puzzles seemingly influenced by the magnet sections of indie platformer Limbo.
The gravity shifting, which is controlled by the right stick, is an inventive gimmick, but it does feel like its full potential isn’t quite realised over the course of the game.
Most puzzles are not particularly tricky, and the short levels tend to be repetitive.
With only five levels to explore, Into the Nexus certainly isn’t a lengthy adventure, but Insomniac has at least made a concerted effort to add replay value. There are more weapons in the game than can be unlocked in a single playthrough, and to level each one up fully will take at least two goes at the story.
Then there’s Challenge Mode, which ramps up the difficulty accordingly to keep things interesting for the pros. At its low price point, there’s no doubt that Into the Nexus represents decent value for money, but its story is slight enough that players may still experience a nagging feeling of “Is that it?” after the final boss.
Even so, the game works hard to tie up a few loose ends, and to reward longtime fans with some amusing callbacks to previous games.
Fans of the Ratchet and Clank series will know exactly what to expect with Into the Nexus, and this is by no means a bad thing. With a batch of fresh weapons, one or two fun new gadgets, the introduction of a bit of 2D puzzle platforming, and a slew of references for old hands to recognise, the game works as the perfect closer to the series as we know it.
With the next R&C title no doubt earmarked for the PS4, it may be time for the property to undergo a more radical evolution before it resurfaces, but Into the Nexus is a fitting final chapter for the PS3 era.