This should be called Ratchet & Clank: Play With Your Kid Brother. The duo of cat-like critter and his mini robot sidekick are a natural fit for co-operative multiplayer gaming. In All 4 One, Ratchet and Clank are joined by Quark (a green, jutting-jawed cartoon space hero) and Dr. Nefarious (a green-brained evil robot). Instead of fighting each other as per usual R&C procedures, now they all get to be heroes in a new galaxy.The new galaxy is clearly much cheaper. The graphics in this new galaxy are terrible. Giant monsters look like twisted balloon animals in a windstorm - over-inflated and over-animated. A small child character with a voice provide by a frightened child refugee from the casting department guides my adventure as I jump and blast my way through this low-rent digital world.
The four characters function almost identically. They can all jump, attack, shoot and vacuum (with a vacuum cleaner) across landscapes that look like they were leftover from the latest LittleBigPlanet variety pack. There's very little difference between handling Ratchet - the hero who gets the game named after him - and Dr. Nefarious - who wants to reduce Ratchet to a pile of ashes. In All 4 One they not only settle their differences, they barely have anything to distinguish them from each other at all.
Oh, sure, Dr. Nefarious gets an invisibility cloak while Ratchet can send out a doppelganger bomb. But for the most part, every character moves through the same level in the same pattern as everyone else. A few goofy weapons are the only things that separate the classic Ratchet & Clank characters, which is too bad, since over-the-top weaponry is one of the ways that the franchise has always distinguished itself. Without the shooting, it's just a zanier version of Mario.
The entire thing begins to feel like a very dull party game as players co-ordinate sucking each other into vacuums and twiddling their thumbsticks in the same direction. Yes, there are occasional hordes of enemies to vanquish. One player can usually wipe them out alone, or some coordinated button pressing between players can result in super-charged attacks. But most of the game's serious obstacles (enemies and puzzles) can be solved by one person, leaving everyone else free to scamper around collecting treasures. All for one, indeed.
THE GOOD: This may be the dullest Ratchet & Clank in terms of action, but the comedy writing is still sharp. Plenty of good political jokes are tucked into the snippets of animation that play between the game's levels. The voice acting during those segments, however, is hit or miss. At best it sounds borderline professional.
THE BAD: Trying to play a game of All 4 One is like setting up an account in a chat room. This makes some sense if players are using an internet connection and it's 1998. A more streamlined way of bringing players together might make it easier to sit down and play All 4 One, though it wouldn't help the game itself.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Ratchet & Clank are dumbed down and divvied up in All 4 One.
Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One
Rated Ten+; PlayStation 3