Review: Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is the best family game of the year

The latest Ratchet & Clank game is fabulous fun for all the family and a great showcase of the PlayStation 5's power.

Rift Apart is a game which made me desperately wish I was about 11 years old and taking turns playing it with my sisters, brothers and parents on the weekend.

I just cannot imagine a better family game being released this year.

It's consistently funny and relentlessly entertaining, striking a wonderfully balanced tone great for all ages and making it a joy to watch others play as well as play yourself.

After an epic opening set-piece at a celebratory parade goes fantastically wrong, we're quickly whisked away on a journey through many dimensions - sometimes as Ratchet, sometimes as Rivet - a fellow Lombax - and sometimes as wee Clank.

Every realm is dazzling and they're wonderfully varied, from sinister robot totalitarian planets, to weird alien biological garden ecosystems to trippy, cosmic 'dimensional anomalies' made completely of light.

As promotional videos have teased, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart really pushes things visually in a way that simply wasn't possible on machines older than the PS5. The graphics are just gorgeous and there's sometimes so much happening onscreen that it's kind of mindboggling.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart review screenshot.
Photo credit: Insomniac Games / Sony

The amazing aesthetics combine with the 3D audio and haptic feedback of the DualSense controller to all add up to a truly next-generation experience, the ushering in of a new era of family gaming that is super exciting.

As is the case with all Ratchet & Clank releases, the firepower is truly awesome and a big part of the gameplay's attraction. The battles have a good rhythm to them, building to regular boss battles requiring satisfyingly varied combat techniques.

The new 'Rift Tether' function is really fun and reminded me a lot of the teleport function in Dishonored, where you can teleport short distances.

This new title also marks a vast elevation in the storytelling of Ratchet & Clank games, which have traditionally been more about the action gameplay than anything else.

Sure, it's all very silly and cartoonish as Doctor Nefarious gets his hands on the Dimensionator and our heroes have to save the universe while having a laugh, and most characters are goofy. But there genuinely is something for all ages in this.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart review screenshot.
Photo credit: Insomniac Games / Sony

Like a great Pixar movie, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart carefully balances entertaining children with entertaining older players, so neither group will get bored with playing it, or crucially, while watching someone else play it.

Kids of a certain age will laugh at the jokes and get caught up in the action, finding the characters endearing enough. But for the adults, the multi-dimensional Lombax story and the character arcs of Ratchet and particularly Rivet, these deliver on a surprisingly deep emotional level.

Even when a kid in the room is playing, adults will consistently be marvelled by just how amazing this game looks and how technically impressive it all is, too.

It's an easy game to watch others play due to just how wonderfully cinematic it is, helped in part by the original score by Mark Mothersbaugh of Thor: Ragnarok fame.

For accomplished gamers, I'd recommend putting this on the hardest difficulty setting from the get-go, lest it all seem a bit easy. This can be changed at any point, so swapping between players in a room can chop and change with no penalty.

All traversing mechanics can be mapped simply to the O button for players who struggle with the basics too.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart review screenshot.
Photo credit: Insomniac Games / Sony

Developer Insomniac Games really has knocked it out of the park with this one. As much fun as I had with it myself, however, I really do envy families who will be able to play this together.

As a group PlayStation experience with the right sisters, brothers and mums and dads, this would be such a massive delight - the sort that could form memories that reflected back on warmly for years.

Five stars.

  • Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is released in New Zealand on Friday.