Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is the best looking game of 2021. But looks aren’t everything, and solely relying on your obscene number of pixels and gorgeous ray-traced reflections means you run the risk of being defined as a hollow experience doomed to be forgotten. But Insomniac Games achieved so much more than that with its latest and greatest platformer.
From start to finish, this intergalactic adventure is awash with imagination, charm, delightful character moments, and a story that manages to ask some deep questions about the nature of guilt, friendship, and expectations. While the moment-to-moment gameplay hasn’t really changed since the PS2 days aside from a handful of exceptions, it remains a delight to play, so much so that I spent time seeking out the Platinum Trophy and ensuring I saw every single part of Rift Apart’s bold, beautiful world.
While the game is all well and good, I will admit that one single character drew me to Rift Apart more than anyone else – and that’s Rivet. The female Lombax stole headlines when she was first revealed and Jennifer Hale’s vocal performance imbues the adorable furry creature with an infectious level of energy that bursts throughout the entire campaign.
She’s wonderful, and I’m not saying that because I’m a closet furry projecting onto a collectathon platformer, I bloody well hope not anyway. I think she was hurled into the zeitgeist so suddenly because fans quickly came to the conclusion that she was a trans character, partly due to her lack of a tail since female Lombax – according to all that sick lore – are born without them. Just look at Angela. Unlike her, Rivet’s got a puffy tail of her own, so the fruity debates began.
The assumption was super reasonable, and given how Insomniac was clearly leaning into certain communities with its character designs, being queer wasn’t out of the question in the slightest. Rivet’s transgender identity didn’t turn out to be true, with Insomniac simply forgetting some of its own lore, but the developer also said it doesn’t mind if players project that identity onto her, carving a piece of subtext into her story like we’ve been doing to heighten representation in media for years.
Rivet is the star of Rift Apart, bearing the strongest character arc and a bouncy personality that far outweighs those of her titular co-stars. That and I simply identify with female characters more than their male counterparts, so I was more than happy to jump into this platformer and lose myself for a solid 15 hours. None of that time is wasted, with Insomniac producing a healthy selection of diverse worlds to explore each with unique enemies, traversal, and contributions to the story that flesh things out in so many ways.
Ratchet, Clank, and all of their mates still shine, perhaps more so than ever before, but Rivet steals the show and never relinquishes the limelight. The game itself is also an absolute blast due to how much variety there is across exploration and combat. Every weapon is a treat to use and upgrade, implementing DualSense functionality brilliantly as the controller pulses and vibrates to each and every action unfolding on screen. Not a moment feels wasted, even if you’re just returning to old planets to hunt down collectibles or uncover secrets that aren’t possible to reach without certain abilities.
This is an old school platformer in all of the best ways, and part of me needed that level of comfort in a year that has proven to be relentless. Deathloop, The Forgotten City, and Resident Evil Village are all masterful in their own right and push the medium forward in unparalleled ways, but Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart remembers the classic ideas that helped made this progression possible in the first place, harkening back to a simple time and enhancing it for the modern era. It might not be spoken of in the same breath as its contemporaries in years to come, but when it comes to how much unbridled fun I had with a game this year, Rivet’s debut adventure easily comes out on top.
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