By Harold Goldberg
Everyone loves a parade, and as I played a thrilling new PS5 game from Sony and Insomniac, I thought of the 76 trombones and the “big parade” in the old Broadway show and movie called “The Music Man.” It’s the stunningly lively parade in the air that got me in “Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart,” which sees release today.
The best offering in the long running series begins with a parade honoring Ratchet as a hero. The idea of a parade is all about proud showiness: even the smallest Memorial Day parades are about spectacle as well as remembering war’s ravages and heroism. Here in New York City, we weren’t able to gather together and see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in person because of the pandemic. While that’s a small thing compared to the horrors suffered and endured when we were the COVID-19 epicenter, being inside the most gloriously imaginative parade ever to be seen in game history has been a welcome diversion, one that once again fills me with the wonder needed to keep writing about games more that 25 years after I began.
There’s something a bit “Bioshock Infinite” here, and I don’t mean the early plot point about Ratchet trying to find Clank. It’s about flying in the air on a parade float, the way you soar around fantastically in Ken Levine’s game. Here in Ratchetland, there are parade floats around you, above you and to the side of you as you zip through this city of the future.
Yes, you’re trying to fight against baddie Dr. Nefarious, who has about as much depth as the single-minded Kaos in Activision’s toys to life series “Skylanders.” And yes, there’s the Ratchet staple, wild, silly, always satisfying weapons.
What makes this a completely worthy PlayStation 5 game is the depth of environments and the characters in the background doing fascinating things like selling odd wares in a market or dancing with abandon in a disco.
Before the club scene, though, when I was on that parade float, I got stuck because I’d forgotten an essential Ratchet move. But I didn’t mind much; I took the ride over and over again, checking out the crowd in grandstands below or the flying cars in traffic patterns above me or the funny, sometimes mildly creepy, cartoon balloons.
I’m just hours in, but I know there’s a cornucopia of action and joy to come: Devo founder Mark Mothersbaugh’s empathetic, bouncy score, a touching, tragic story from Rivet, Ratchet’s female counterpart, nine planets to explore – and war.
For our last journalism class next week, we’re going to bring the PS5 to the homeless residence at which we mentor to show off this action packed parade sequence. Students will enjoy it immensely, I’m certain. While mentoring journalism with the New York Videogame Critics Circle prevented me from completing “Rift Apart,” just as sure as Ratchet has an arsenal of weapons, I’ll be back soon to finish this heartbreaking and heartwarming epic, which right now looks like one of the best games of the year.
Journalist/author Harold Goldberg is the founder of the New York Videogame Critics Circle and the New York Game Awards.