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Ratchet & Clank are decidedly back for another PS3 outing. This time, however, there's the smell of change in the air. Where previous games have made only small upgrades on the core platform and combat mechanics of the series, A Crack in Time takes a significant leap forwards.
The name A Crack in Time is a reference to the story of this game, but also to the gameplay theme that makes it stand out from previous games most noticeably. These fall into two basic categories, one is time manipulation - which it transpires is an ability of Clank. In a twist that we will not go into for fear for spoiling the plot for potential purchasers of the game, Clank's role in this game is far more significant than in any previous game, except for Secret Agent Clank - a side game if ever there was one. The other aspect is time travel, which plays a small but important part in the gameplay and a much larger and equally important part in the storyline.
In his larger role, Clank can now slow down time, and doing so plays a major part in his ability to traverse The Great Clock which he occupies for much of the game. Inside the clock, he comes across time pads which enable him to record his actions and replay them. This activity forms the central activity in a good number of increasingly mind-bending puzzles during the game. At first, it's nice and easy. Record Clank standing on a switch to open a door, and then go through the door while it is open. Soon it becomes a good deal more difficult, and forms some of the most fun this reviewer has had puzzling in an action platformer for some time.
One other new aspect of A Crack in Time is the inclusion of Hoverboots. These enable Ratchet to travel quickly over terrain that he would not otherwise be able to traverse. Hoverboots also enable Ratchet to extend the distance he can cover after jumps and while using sprung platforms. Some levels are constructed in a way that requires use of the Hoverboots in order to complete them. In other levels, their use makes things easier, even if they are not required.
A Crack in Time also has a new map and transport mechanism. Instead of flying directly to a planet, Ratchet can fly to a solar system. Once there he can fly around in a 2D plane in 3D space. Here he will encounter battles that can be fought (or optionally avoided) and missions that can be taken or not as preferred. There is also a selection of moons in each system that offer a range of puzzles and combat opportunities. Almost every mission offers a rich reward in bolts, but some offer greater prizes too. The space combat missions are more involving and more fun than in previous games, where for me they were always more of a chore than entertainment.
When all's said and done, there are a lot of new goodies to recommend Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time.