Ratchet and Clank have appeared in so many sequels since their eponymous 2002 debut that they've become the Cheech and Chong of videogames. One of gaming's great duos, once vital and relevant, is now on the verge of becoming tedious and glib. And Ratchet & Clank Future: Quest For Booty, a downloadable postscript to their previous PlayStation 3 title, Tools Of Destruction, does little to change that perception.
In Tools' finale, robot Clank was kidnapped by a gang of oddball robots named the Zoni. Quest For Booty ostensibly puts Ratchet, the fuzzy creature who resembles a bipedal raccoon wearing a hairnet, on Clank's trail. Anyone familiar with the series knows the drill by now. Robots will be battled. Over-the-top weapons will be doled out. Platforms will be double-jumped. Battles will increase in scale and scope until one final powerful "boss" is defeated.
After three or four solid, unsurprising hours of gameplay, it's clear that a better title for Quest would be Side-Quest. Ratchet, in the end, is no closer to finding Clank than he was at the beginning of the game. According to Quest's final screen, gamers will have to wait until fall 2009 for the denouement.
Beyond the game: Ratchet's new wrench-centric abilities, which let him magnetically tether onto nearby bridges and platforms and tug them toward him.
Worth playing for: Insomniac's sense of humor. Rusty Pete, the perpetually soused robotic pirate from Tools Of Destruction, returns, playing the role of unreliable narrator to hilarious effect. And one wrong move during an interactive conversation with the island locals on will get Ratchet labeled as a "crotchetizer salesman" for the remainder of the game.
Frustration sets in when: A series of semi-obscure puzzles during Quest's latter stages will have plenty of gamers Googling FAQs for assistance.
Final judgment: Slick almost to a fault, Insomniac attempts to obscure the fact that Quest is merely more of the same via a façade of bombastic battles that unfortunately wind up being more tedious than exciting.