Ratchet and Clank are household names for gamers of a certain age. They're icons of the PS2 age.
And even now, after a couple of disappointing releases in more recent years, their names carry a fair amount of weight in nostalgia value.
Bringing the original trilogy to Vita, then, makes a lot of sense. At a time when the Vita schedule's a little bare, there are worse ways to plug the gap than to re-release three of the PS2 era’s most popular and fondly-remembered games.
Yet another re-release may feel like a disappointment to some. However, coming from someone who never played the games on PS2, Ratchet & Clank’s enduring uniqueness shouldn’t be underestimated.
Head in the stars
Not only is it a series of 3D platformers - a rare thing in itself in today’s gaming landscape - but the Ratchet & Clank series is one which embraces its own silliness.
It has the confidence to chuck in new ideas whenever it fancies, and features a varied cast of smartly-observed characters.
Even the 2002 original feels fresh on Vita - and that’s without the influence of nostalgia. It tells a knowingly hokum tale of far-flung futuristic space adventuring, with its tongue firmly lodged in its cheek
You play, primarily, as Ratchet - a loudmouthed mechanic of a cat-like species known as Lombax. Clank, a super-intelligent, well-spoken robot, is also along for the ride.
It’s a fairly clichéd odd-couple pairing, but it’s still fun to see their unlikely relationship evolve throughout the trilogy.
But it’s in the wider characterisation that Ratchet & Clank continually impresses. Insomniac Games really runs with the schlocky sci-fi theme, and populates its world with great characters.
A pro hoverboarder called Skid McMarx, for instance, is a beautiful example of Insomniac’s love of innuendo. Or the primary antagonist, Chairman Drek, whose destructive scheme is about as laughably malevolent as it is possible to be.
And how about Captain Quark? A galactic 'superhero' - in the loosest sense of the word - and TV personality, whose presence allows for a playful pastiche of cheesy '50s-era sci-fi.
Insomniac has a real knack for character design, and it shines through all three games.
The pace of change
But while good characters are timeless, the passage of time often has a harsher effect on game mechanics. Indeed, in the first game especially, the platforming now feels a little floaty and imprecise.
The camera, too, has its fair share of problems.
Inverted by default - an industry preference that’s since been reversed - it sluggishly pivots around Ratchet, almost seeming reluctant to respond.
It’s tolerable in wide open spaces, but often frustrates in tight corridors full of enemies.
But these issues are to be expected, and forgivable considering how old the trilogy is. It almost feels petty to even bring it up, considering how well the series has aged.
It’s frankly remarkable how good it all looks on Vita - stunning futuristic cityscapes greet you from the second you begin the trilogy, with a level of beauty which beggars belief for a 12-year-old game.
It still plays smoothly, too. The platforming’s mostly solid, the weapons feel weighty and creative, and Insomniac’s constant drip-feed of new ideas means you’re forever on the brink of a brand new excitement.
Second the best
The second game seems to find the best balance of weapons and ideas, and feels like the highlight of this package.
It features the likes of the Tractor Beam, which is an object-manipulation gadget which opens up a world of environmental puzzling. And the Chopper, a shuriken-esque weapon which ricochets around, satisfyingly thwacking any enemies in its path before exploding.
But the formula’s solid throughout all three games, really.
There’s an inherent pleasure in bashing things with a wrench, blowing stuff up, and collecting a ridiculous amount of bolts in the process.
And if you like the sound of that, then the Ratchet & Clank HD Trilogy will serve you well.