Ratchet & Clank Future: Quest for Booty Preview

Warning: The following article contains endgame spoilers from Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction.

Ratchet & Clank Future: Quest for Booty, the next entry in Insmoniac's cartoony PlayStation 3 platforming series, is a little different than the last one.

Instead of being a full-priced $59.99 retail title sporting 20 or so hours of gameplay, Quest for Booty is a smaller, shorter title that will be downloadable from the online PlayStation Store later this summer for $14.99.

It's the first downloadable game from Insomniac, which describes the effort as its way of "testing the waters" with episodic content. The studio had previously teased that the Ratchet & Clank Future franchise would "touch the PlayStation Network somehow," but had remained mum on the specifics because those details were in constant flux.

In fact, Quest for Booty wasn't originally conceived as a standalone game at all. It was initially meant to be a downloadable level for Tools of Destruction, one that would sate fan demands for more exploration and platforming. But it kept getting bigger, growing from one level to three separate islands, with some sea battles mixed in for safe measure.

However, the shift in pricing and distribution aren't the only changes. While Quest for Booty certainly appears to be your traditional Ratchet & Clank title at first glance--complete with a brightly colored hub world and a few quests that can be tackled in any order--there are a few tweaks.

For one, Ratchet can now use his trademark swingin' wrench as a tether to pull objects, such as an expandable bridge. He can also use it to pick up objects, like a glowing bug to light the way in a dark cave or an explosive volcanic rock.

But the biggest change, by far, is the part where Ratchet's robotic sidekick Clank is missing in action, per his mysterious disappearance at the end of Tools of Destruction--the impetus behind Ratchet's latest adventure.

Seeing as how Clank had become a vital character to the series' gameplay--it was his mechanical chassis that often solved puzzles and allowed Ratchet to hover and glide--that's bound to have an effect on how this latest adventure plays out.

Though from what I've played of Quest for Booty thus far, it seems the separation isn't all bad. While the absence of Clank and his abilities is definitely felt, the title certainly retains all of the core gameplay and platforming elements, and even manages to throw in some new mechanics and a psuedo-sidekick so players don't get too lonely.

The section I sampled was classic Ratchet, with our furry hero canvasing the island for a number of wind turbines, which had to be activated in order to open up the next area. Each turbine required a bit of platforming--carefully timed jumps, dangling from ledges, avoiding steam blasts from the wall--to climb before getting a chance to turn the activating bolt.

It's not the first time Insomniac has separated the furry-metal duo. Back in 2005, Ratchet: Deadlocked, the series' fourth entry, focused entirely on Ratchet's combat-heavy tour of duty on a kill-or-be-killed game show--a move that didn't jive with fans accustomed to the traditional lighthearted tone and platforming elements.

So what made the developers think they could once again separate Ratchet and Clank without resulting in a lesser game?

"With Deadlocked, we took a lot of risks with the theme and we took out a lot of the platforming exploration," Allgeier admitted.

"I think the key [with Quest for Booty] was that we were sticking to the roots of what has made the Ratchet games so great, and that's the theme and platforming exploration," he explained.

Allgeier further noted that the title will have Ratchet solving puzzles, a feat that used to be Clank's area of expertise.

"But we still have Clank involved in the storyline," he teased with a smile. "More will be revealed."

Ratchet & Clank Future: Quest for Booty is slated to arrive as a downloadable PlayStation 3 title this summer.