Over the course of five games the Ratchet & Clank franchise has crafted its own identity and a large following as well. It's odd, then, that the duo's first outing on the PlayStation 3 finds them facing an identity crisis of sorts. The game just can't decide what it wants to be. The story tries to be epic in its scope and appeal to an older audience, but the game is extremely easy and the story's premise is thin and the ending disappointing. The core gameplay of shooting and platforming is as solid as ever, but it's diluted by too many uninteresting minigames and unnecessary gameplay mechanics. Although these issues prevent the game from achieving the same high level as previous entries in the series, it's still a very good game.
Like the rest of us, Ratchet learns about his fate from the television.
A good story would have been nice, but this sort of game is really all about gameplay, so it doesn't hurt too much that one of Tools of Destruction's weakest aspects is its story. You play as Ratchet, the last of the lombax, which are a race of catlike creatures. Apparently one living lombax is one too many for the game's villain, a feisty, diminutive, big-headed alien named Emperor Percival Tachyon. He has a bit of a Napoleonic complex, and his goal is to finish off the lombax once and for all, so of course you've got to deal with that. But that's not your only goal. Ratchet knows very little about his race, but he learns that the lombax have some sort of secret, so he makes it his mission to discover it. Clank, Ratchet's robot sidekick, has his own issues to deal with. He's been interacting with some cute little aliens called zoni that only he can see. Naturally, everyone thinks he's nuts every time he brings them up. The game's script is well written and the dialogue is quite funny, but the story is barely fleshed out enough to give you reason to go from one level to the next. It's not helped by a cliffhanger ending that does everything but plaster "Find out the exciting conclusion in the sequel!" across the screen.
Thankfully there's some really good gameplay along the way. Like in the previous games, the action is viewed from a third-person perspective and is primarily a mix of platforming and shooting, with an emphasis on the shooting. One of the game's best aspects is the controls, which are simple and very responsive. You'll be jumping around and blowing bad guys away in a matter of seconds. As always, Ratchet has a large arsenal available to him, but he starts off with only a blaster, grenades, and his trusty wrench, the latter of which he uses to pummel foes. He'll have to purchase the good weapons and armor with the game's currency: bolts. These can be collected from fallen enemies or found by smashing crates. The weapons Ratchet can use are extremely varied: There are grenades, rockets, spikes, blasters, a whip, bouncing saw blades, and a whole lot more. The game does a nice job of encouraging you to use different armaments. Not only are certain weapons more useful against specific creatures, but as you use a weapon, its level will increase and it will get more powerful. You can also improve weapons' range, ammo-carrying capacity, rate of fire, and more by collecting crystals that some enemies drop.
Ratchet also has a lot of gadgets at his disposal. These can be purchased from a vendor or found throughout the game in crates. He can release a swarm of nano bees that will attack anything that gets near; toss up a disco ball and blast his enemies as they dance; use a leech to steal their health; turn foes into penguins; and even break out a holographic pirate outfit for those occasions when he needs to be all piratelike. Switching from one weapon or item to another is done by pressing the triangle button and then selecting a different item from one of three screens. It's possible to fill all three screens, and the game lets you switch out items, but the mechanic for doing so is poorly implemented. Although the game does a good job of encouraging you to use different weapons, devices, and gadgets (there are over 30 total), you'll find that there are a handful that work extremely well (and some that are useless), so it's possible to get into a rut of using the same attack patterns over and over because they're so effective. This makes an already easy game even easier.
If they really make you angry, you can get back at your enemies by turning them into cute little penguins.
There's a lot more to Tools of Destruction than platform jumping and shooting--perhaps too much. There are so many different gameplay mechanics that you get the sense that the developer didn't say "no" to any idea that was presented during the design process. Some of these mechanics add to the experience, but others feel as if they're here just because they could be. On a few occasions, Ratchet will roll around in a gyroball similar to the Super Monkey Ball series. To open certain doors, he'll have to dress as a pirate and do a brief dancing minigame. There are two or three times when you'll have to jump into the water and swim through mine-laden tunnels to get somewhere. Sometimes Ratchet will hop on rails and grind his way across a level while jumping gaps, and dodging trains and missiles as he goes. Every now and then, when you're flying to another planet, you'll actually have to fly your spaceship and shoot down enemies in brief, not-all-that-fun on-rails Star Fox-like sequences.