Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is a tremendous example of accessibility iteration, and while this does not end up equating to full total blind playability, it is clear to me that Insomniac Games continues to learn. What does this mean? I’ll explain that shortly, but first I must put in the usual disclaimer. Ratchet and Clank: Rift apart was provided by Playstation for review. Alright then, let’s get to it!
One of the first things Ratchet and Clank asks you, after confirming your save slot, is which difficulty you would like the game to be on. Depending on which option you select, certain settings will be automatically activated. While I don’t particularly like accessibility settings framed this way, (something you can definitely feel free to consider in my “negative” column), it does serve to make initial setup a bit easier. Choosing the “rooky explorer” difficulty option activates simplified traversal, (a mode in which you can perform each traversal action with the circle button), strong aim assist, ledge guard, and invincibility during combat. A pretty good start, right? Yes indeed.
However, you’ll still want to comb through the settings menu, as there are other features you’ll want to activate if you’re blind. The most important of these is “look at waypoint,” which does exactly what it says it does, turning the camera to face your next waypoint with a press of R3, just like in Insomniac’s other titles, Spiderman: Miles Morales, and Spiderman Remastered. You may also wish to turn on Grind Assist, which helps you in situations where you’re grinding on rails, auto-pump gravity boots which ensures that you’ll be moving as quickly as possible when those are being used, and a couple other similar assists for different actions. Lots of very helpful stuff.
One thing that I want to go back to quickly, though, is another setting you’re asked about upon first creating your save. That is your control scheme. There are 2 options here, a standard option, and a simplified option. This hits good and bad with me. Why? Because that’s it. There is no controller remapping at all, only the choice between these two schemes. The good, though, is that the simplified scheme really is fairly simplified, reducing everything to the face buttons and R2, and allowing you to move your character with the D-pad. But even with all the assists that exist in the game, this simplified option just might not be enough for some. I believe this is one accessibility oversight that should be rectified, in a patch if possible.
Back to the accessibility settings though, there are a TON of positives. Plenty of options for toggles Vs. holds for all major actions, the now-expected subtitle and high contrast options, and so on. And to be 100% absolutely clear, no, there is no menu narration on any of this. It seems Insomniac hasn’t yet cracked that one.
Another feature I’d like to touch on is the vibration settings. Of course, you have the ability to disable vibration altogether or decrease the intensity if you like, but some questions arose regarding the “experiencial” versus “functional” vibration options, and I am happy to say I can clear that up, thanks to the game’s tool tips. Experiencial vibrations is the setting you want if you would like to experience every piece of haptic feedback the game has to offer. Footsteps, weapons fire, explosions, wind in your hair, all of that. Functional, however, reduces the amount of vibrations to only those which are cues for something. Taking hits, for example. While in some ways this might be good for the blind, it is different than Spiderman’s normal vs. Accessibility route, and I like it less. I wasn’t able to convince myself to play the game with functional vibrations, because I LOVE the dualsense and all it can do. I want to feel those awesome haptics, but also want to get specific cues for things, as we do in Spiderman. So, I went with experiencial, which is why I can report that the haptics are indeed pretty awesome.
So here we go. Settings are set, we’re ready to rock. I chose the simplified control scheme to try out, along with the Rooky Explorer difficulty to avoid potential frustration with a franchise I have very little experience with, and also to automatically activate those settings I mentioned. The game begins in true PS5 style, (which is to say it begins immediately), you watch a long cut scene, and you’re off.
The music is awesome. The audio design is fantastic. The voice acting is top notch. The haptics are amazing. And the story? Well, it seems OK, based on how far I was able to get. The short version here is that, in terms of the basics, what you can expect attempting to play Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart as a blind person is something that works about as well as Spiderman does in most situations. These features do appear to work, but not as well as we would like. While the “look at waypoint” feature does indeed turn the camera toward your waypoint, it is not especially scripted to follow the story, which means that it doesn’t always get you there quickly. While aim assist does effectively target enemies, (except, it seems, while you’re moving), it doesn’t target environmental objects you need to shoot in order to progress the story. This latter situation, unfortunately, is the one I’m currently stuck in in my own attempt to play the game.
Now, I have to talk about ledge guard because, well, I don’t understand its implementation. It seems to work some of the time, but really not much of the time at all. I’ve fallen to my death tons and tons of times while playing. Now, in the more story-heavy, less combat-intensive areas of the game, this doesn’t actually matter all that much, as the checkpoints are both insanely generous and immediate. So for a long time, I didn’t really care. But in the action-heavy sequence I’m stuck in currently, falling to your death does mean restarting the entire sequence. Again, loading is still super fast, but it does mean fighting with all the assists to get back to that point. Oh, and in the interest of specificity, combat invincibility only means enemy weapons can’t kill you. You can still fall to your death whilst in combat. Trust me, I know.
In conclusion, I will admit to some disappointment. Insomniac got really close to total blind accessibility with the Spiderman games, and I really was hoping that they’d get even closer with this one. That said, the results themselves are not wholly disappointing. Here, we have a huge amount of accessibility features, a list that actually IS larger than the Spiderman games, with tons of assists to help bring lots of disabled gamers into the Ratchet and Clank fold. This, despite my own personal disappointment, is a clear mark of progress in the realm of game accessibility, and Insomniac, like Ubisoft, is still very much on my positive list as a result. While this is a rift the blind seemingly won’t be crossing, I very much look forward to what Insomniac has in store for the future.
That’s all for this review, but if you’re reading this on the day of its publishing, please note that I will still be doing a Ratchet and Clank live stream on Friday, June 11 at 1:30 eastern over on www.twitch.tv/superblindman to showcase all of this, discuss where we are and what is possible, as well as what isn’t. And hey, maybe with chat help, we’ll figure some new things out, or get further. I will assure you that, if any of these impressions change as a result of that live stream, I will update this review. For now, thanks for reading!