A good offence is an electrifying/groovy/bunny morphing defence

Ratchet…are you feeling alright? When the economy collapsed, the fluffy Lombax seemed to hit some sort of odd mid-life crisis. He’s become increasingly uncomfortable with using his best friend as a backpack and seems to be switching through genres like there’s no tomorrow. First he had a go kicking the camera overhead, tackling a Diablo-esque run ‘n’ gunner with All 4 One. Now he’s returned, setting the camera angle straight and the genre…still completely off whack with Ratchet & Clank: QForce.

Lumped with the neurotic Captain Qwark, the dynamic duo find themselves having to right the wrongs of the dim-witted chunk of cowardly lard once again. Qwark super-fan Stuart Zargo seems to be the only one in the entire galaxy aware of the sullen superhero’s many failures, and sick to death of the cretins squandering off the status sets out to rid the galaxy of such cheap-skates in a bid to show everyone that super villains are the new idols of the future. With moron in tow, genuine heroes Ratchet and Clank re-establish the QForce to launch an assault on the disillusioned geek and halt his plans for total annihilation before it is too late.

Things kick off in traditional fare, with the camera returning to Ratchet’s rear (…) and a bevy of daft weapons peering at you behind vendors. However, you soon find yourself leashed to your starting point, forced to guard the base you rode in on from being invaded by googly eyed terrestrial beings. It soon dawns that you won’t be scouring massive alien planets at your own pace, but rather bumbling around bases, setting up defences in a bid to destroy endless streams of enem…

…hang on…

…THIS IS TOWER DEFENCE!?

Yes, in another genre leap, Lombax, robot and buffoon have stepped into a genre that, on paper should be completely amiss. However, in a world where giant frogs can be disembowelled and made into remarkable shotgun like devices, it strangely slips together quite smoothly, inhibitions put to one side and all. As you stockpile bolts, you can invest in standard tower defence oddities. Shields, turrets and mines range from the bog standard to the electrified to the DNA morphing, giving the already absurd arsenal a new array to select from.

Rather than forcing you to plan ahead from the comfort of some form of army issued seagull, Q-Force makes you get rather hands on in guarding your precious. Whilst you can suit up your base with piles of turrets that would make Optimus Prime blush, you’ll have to leave the artillery comforts of your makeshift fort to gather weapons and actually progress in your mission to assault the enemy’s base. In gameplay that’s still as satisfying as it always was, players can use Ratchet, Clank or Qwark to thwack their way through hoards in a bid to reach objectives. It’s good that, outside of the HD collection, we can return to what the series is best known for, as well as adding something new to the mix…it’s just weather this fresh angle adds spice to the formula.

Walks away before it even really scratches the surface Whilst an entirely new genre is seeping its way into the platforming pundits, essences of the series staple formulas still crop up. Familiar weapons can be levelled up through use, gold bolts still nestle themselves in obscure locations and banking piles of bolts is a necessity. However, to facilitate the new bosom buddy genre such familiarities have been skimmed down to more basic principles. Weapons can be levelled up incredibly quickly and ‘hidden’ gold bolts seem to have dropped the day job and appear to be on holiday, soaking up rays in open areas. Whilst both gameplay features work well together, it seems neither got particular focus, and as a result, both classic attacking and fresh defending feel like they could have really shined with a little bit more emphasis and work.

While the delightful visuals and unmistakeable charms of all the titles returns for this off-kilter instalment, the comedy elements waver somewhat this time around. Rather than revel in its occasionally twisted dark humour, Q-Force relies on the internet for its giggles…a lot. Not a minute in a cutscene goes by without an unnecessary LOL or ROFL beckoning from the antagonist, tickling your chin as if to say ‘Ha, you know them abbreviations and use them abbreviations in conversations! Ha! WHT R U LYKE?’, and Qwark swiftly runs out of daft anecdotes as both Ratchet and Clank simply stare on silently, hope lost with wit slowly drifting away from them. Yes, throwing a Groovitron and seeing assailants jig to ‘Gangnam Style’ does garner a few chuckles, but a majority of gags can’t stand strong with a lack of originality behind them.

Those who see the low price tag will know they’re not getting a comprehensive R&C title here, but even so, Q-Force feels like it’s all bone and no meat at times. Just as you start to really embrace the features on offer, the game rapidly screeches to a finale that forgets each unique aspect it built on to end in spectacularly mundane fashion. With only 3 maps on offer (with one mission effectively repeated…with snow), you’ll find yourself blitzing this adventure and lumped in a final linear boss battle in no time, with nothing but repetitive trophies and some mild competitive multi-player to justify space on your hard drive, and neither are particularly captivating.

The game also feels very unfairly balanced should you be feeling anti-social or simply stubborn. Play on your own, and whilst you away armies of enemies will identify your abandoned base and storm it, forcing you to constantly bugger off and return like your fort keeps wetting the bed. It’s incredibly frustrating, especially for those attempting to beat the games medal award winning developer times, and should you randomly draw a set of constant onslaughts, it turn out to be more boring than annoying.

Ratchet & Clank: Q-Force is certainly a fun deterrent for those awaiting a fresh instalment in the franchise, and certainly works as a concept. However, it walks away before it even really scratches the surface. It gives you a peek into what an awesome little mash-up this could potentially be, only to slam the door in your face before it embraces its features. Those who are craving a fix of Ratchet & Clankmadness will find some peace with this bite size nugget of colourful madness, but those who want to unearth a deep and fruitful merging of genres will be left as unsatisfied as those expecting me to say something funny to round this review off…

The Good: Nice merging of classic R&C gameplay and tower defence, beautifully lush graphics, Inventive arsenal of classic weapons to collect

The Bad: Not brilliantly balanced should you play alone, Humour a tad shallow, Barely scratches the surface of what could have been done

Gameplay: Gameplay - 7 out of 10 7
Graphics:   Graphics - 8 out of 10 8
Sound:      Sound - 6 out of 10 6
Overall:     Overall - 6 out of 10 6