Like a next-gen version of last-gen’s Deadlocked, Quest for Booty is clearly intended to tide Ratchet fans over for another year while expanding the franchise’s storyline and setting the stage for the 2009 release. As episodic content Booty explores some intriguing new turf for the series. Unfortunately, it also sacrifices some of the things that make Ratchet games shine.
In what amounts to a chapter of the epic, Quest for Booty adds to the mythos without compromising the cliffhanger of the last game. The Quest? Pirate-y. The Booty? Clank’s location. Opening some time after Clank’s disappearance in Tools of Destruction, Booty has Ratchet in the space-pirate fray on a desperate search for his robot friend. Rusty Pete returns with Captain Slag’s head-on-a-stick to narrate the Lombax’s adventure. While fans may miss Quark and his unrivaled self-adoration, Rusty Pete and Captain Slag’s bickering is a far better backdrop for the fast-paced Quest for Booty. The pirate antics and the usual humor of a Ratchet title are present, and match the shorter story with a fair bit of quip.
Essentially an add-on, the game is unconnected to the Tools of Destruction game save. Booty’s decidedly quicker approach to a Ratchet game may have sliced out some familiar elements, but it also makes for sleeker episodic content free of any dull moments. A snail’s pace gamer could eek out four or so hours of gameplay – but with limited incentive for replay.
The controls are what you would expect of a Ratchet game, and while Booty introduces some truly fun new gameplay elements, they are harder to appreciate when other features are notably absent. With few locations to explore and even fewer of the gameplay-extending components we expect from a Ratchet game, Booty can feel downright abbreviated. With only a handful of familiar weapons and limited upgrades the repetition of the tools at your disposal combined with unvaried opposition means little to no experimentation, especially for veterans. On the plus side, the boss battle is epic, and even without Raritanium or more than a couple experience-based upgrades the weapons still manage to make a respectable boom.
Also on the list of features that got the ax are arena battles, vehicle sequences, mini-games, Golden Bolts, Skill Points and of course, Clank gameplay segments. Where there are no Skill Points, there is not even a silver, bronze or gold glimmer of hope for Trophy support. Even if Trophies don’t tempt you, the Skill Points were always a draw for replay and I missed them sorely.
Still, with many of the perks of exploration like Raritanium and Golden Bolts absent, it doesn’t mean the game is completely without payoff. With a tiny bit of searching players will come across a handful of weapons upgrades as well as an action figure of the late Dan Johnson. In the only-in-a-Ratchet-game category, Booty has Ratchet making use of bioluminescent critters that bubble, squeak and bark when tossed about.
The Kinetic Tether is also introduced, a new use for the wrench that fills the utilitarian hole left by Clank. Breathing intensity and life into the platforming and puzzle elements of the game, the Kinetic Tether works like a controlled laser that activates game elements to move platforms or set springs. Bringing great new puzzles to the game, including a puppet-like shadow casting segment, I look forward to seeing how the Tether is used in the next installment.
Phenomenal graphics, detailed textures and fantastic lighting effects mark Quest for Booty as a polished Insomniac title. The voice-over work is top-notch, and though largely straight out of Tools of Destruction, the soundtrack is very fitting. In place of the usual stunning cut-scenes are charming 2D animated maps very appropriate to the quest. In the end, Booty holds on to much of what works for Ratchet games, like solid controls and exceptional polish, but sacrifices too much.
For the amount of content delivered, fifteen dollars is just too expensive. At a quarter of the cost of a full Ratchet game, it is nowhere near a quarter of the size. Insomniac may be trying to pay the studio bills, and the development quality is deserving of high praise, but I would much prefer that they settle into a pattern of a Ratchet title every other year rather than risk milking the franchise.
This is a title for the fans, and if you are not a fan you should pass. The game is shallow, but focused, and Insomniac’s aim is clear: short, sweet, episodic content – but Quest for Booty gives the player the sense that Ratchet just isn’t meant for episodic styling. The game is by no means a bad game, it is being judged against some of the best games out there: other Ratchet titles. With competition like that, there is no escaping that the Booty is just too small to satisfy.