The Evolution of Ratchet and Clank
Alongside Nathan Drake, Ratchet and Clank are perhaps the best-known characters of the modern PlayStation era. It often seems inevitable that unofficial PS mascots will fade into obscurity, however, these two – mainly due to Insomniac’s immense love and dedication – continue to appear in triple-A titles over a decade after their initial release… and now they even have their own damn movie!
So how the hell did this Lombax and his nerdy robot sidekick go from quirky PS2 heroes to Hollywood stars? All will be revealed…
Humble Beginnings (1998)
Ratchet and Clank’s origins seem to go back a lot further than most would think. In 1998’s PS One exclusive Spyro the Dragon – also developed by Insomniac – a grunt enemy in the level ‘Gear Grinders’ can be seen swinging a wrench at the player. He’s yellow in colour and is accompanied by a small silver robot; with green eyes and a red light atop its head.
Insomniac’s notion of a game set in a crazy space environment initially led to the idea of a typical alien-like protagonist, however, over-sized eyes and a humanoid stance were the only characteristics that remained, as Ratchet’s design transitioned towards a more feline style.
Meanwhile, Clank appeared largely reptilian; with short stubby legs, a long tail, and big bulging eyes.
First Official Sketch (1999-2001)
This is one of the first sketches of Ratchet after his final design had been chosen. Insomniac and Sony of Japan had somewhat of a heated debate over whether or not Ratchet should have stripes on his ears; with Insomniac wanting them to remain plain. However, after some thought, Insomniac in fact decided that the stripes were a good suggestion.
So It Begins (2002)
The duo’s first in-game appearance came in the PS2 classic ‘Ratchet and Clank’. The game, as well as its protagonists, received wide critical acclaim, and thus Insomniac’s beloved franchise was born. Ratchet was much less ‘Disney’ than he had appeared in concepts, and Clank’s eyes were made to ‘pop’ with bright lighting effects.
Always Wear Protection (2003)
Ratchet and Clank 2 : Going Commando (Hahaha) saw Ratchet don armour for the very first time. I mean saving the galaxy topless was all well and good the first time around, but to ask the plucky Lombax to do it twice in a row would’ve just been ludicrous.
Coming of Age (2005)
The next real design change came in 2005’s PS2 title Ratchet: Deadlocked; a game which saw Insomniac adopt a slightly more serious approach. Clank was only involved as a bit-part character, while Ratchet was given full-body armour; including a helmet that covered his head and ears.
Back to the Future (2007-2009)
The pair returned to a slightly more ‘cartoony’ style for the ‘Ratchet and Clank Future Saga’. This series of games saw the characters return to their PS1 roots; presented as rough and tumble underdogs rather than established heroes.
In order to appeal to younger audiences, this adventure depicted Ratchet as a much softer character. Official artwork saw his usual grimace replaced with a good, old-fashioned smile.
Both characters received re-designs for this year’s self-titled movie. With bright colouring, exquisite detailing, and a rather large dollop of cuteness, the pair are more family-friendly than ever before. The tie-in game is bloody amazing by the way, I’d strongly recommend it.
I’ve been Jay Michael, thanks a million for reading! You can find me over on Twitter @Jayswriting and on the Rooster Teeth website at JayMichaelWriting. Stay tuned every Wednesday for more Evolution!