Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One

I like the Ratchet and Clank series, partly because it’s rare to find a game I can comfortably play in front of my wife without worrying about excessive violence and profanity. It’s a game I can happily play in front of my son, too, even if he’s not really interested enough to join in – not that he’s been able to so far, as it’s always been a single-player only experience.

So I was delighted to hear that Insomniac would be making a spin-off, revealed at Sony’s GamesCom conference today. All For One is a multiplayer-focused experience which sees the eponymous duo joined by Captain Qwark and former arch-nemesis Doctor Nefarious (not sure that really makes sense, and I’d rather have had SIGMUND, the robot from A Crack In Time, but there you go).

I was slightly disappointed, therefore, to see that the game isn’t due out until Autumn 2011 (a couple of sites misread it as this year; perhaps understandable given how polished the footage looked). But I’m also slightly concerned that it will be too focused on multiplayer.

The brilliant thing about the recent Toy Story 3 game – or its sandbox mode at least – is that it doesn’t really feel like you’re missing out on anything by playing it on your own. Add another player and it’s more chaotic and perhaps even more fun, but it’s still the same game. I’ve also heard from people I trust that Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light (due for release tomorrow on XBLA) offers a compelling solo experience, but that the puzzles are tweaked for co-operative play. That’s possibly an even better solution, though I might be slightly disappointed if I didn’t get to at least try it out with a friend.

My concern here is that the focus on multiplayer will come at the expense of the single-player game. More and more often these days games are being made with co-operative or competitive modes in mind, while others take development costs away from the campaign to invest in a token multiplayer offering that’s little more than an exercise in box-ticking, and played for mere weeks before being abandoned for the next big shooter.

My other worry is that the trailer talks about playing online with anyone in the world at any time. Which has me concerned that it won’t include a local multiplayer option. Given how much I’m looking forward to playing this with my son, I’d be incredibly disappointed if it’s not playable in split-screen (or even, as with the LEGO games, on a single display). Again, this is an aspect of modern gaming that’s being all too readily ignored by today’s developers. When even a local multiplayer staple like Mario Kart abandons its roots to look to the draw of online play, you know it’s time to worry.

If Insomniac can alleviate my fears, then they have my money, and All 4 One will be one of my most-anticipated titles of next year. Nintendo and Traveller’s Tales have pretty much had a duopoly on quality family-friendly games in recent years, and it’d be nice to see more developers join the party.

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