Subtlety is not a term one would associate with Insomniac games. From the bright and delightful absurdity of 2014’s Sunset Overdrive, to the exhilaration of zipping through tight spaces between NYC’s buildings in Marvel’s Spider-Man, going all-in with all the things is what I’ve come to know Insomniac for and I love every one of their games I’ve played. PS5 exclusive Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart follows this trend but for me, it’s the first of their games that felt like just a bit too much for me with accessibility. I’m often able to play games for a couple of hours at a time, with Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, I’m finding I have to limit my time with it to 15-30 minute increments because it’s just so much all the time.
If you’re here reading an accessibility review, you’ve no doubt seen that Insomniac released full details on the accessibility features in a Twitter thread on May 20th. While they’re not quite as robust as those of The Last of Us Part 2, they are still quite a feat. During my week with the game, however, I found myself wanting for a few necessary features that are lacking.
Let’s start with what’s great though, because there is quite a lot.
Above you have a comparison of the high contrast background on and off, with the shader options on. Ratchet/Rivet, collectibles, interactable items, and enemies can be assigned a customizable shader overlay, greatly improving visibility in the often very busy levels. As in TLOU2, I found myself toggling this on in enemy-heavy areas as well as when my brain needed a break. Even better? You can assign various accessibility toggles to the D-pad for instant access any time you need it. High contrast mode turned out to be a boon to deaf/hoh accessibility too but more on that in a bit.
One of my favorite features, not just in this game but quite possibly any game that has game speed options. You can choose from 100% (regular gameplay speed), 70%, 50%, and 30%. You’ll find yourself zipping along grind rails and gliding over lakes on very fast Speedles and for me, the ability to slow the game down to 50% (and even 30% at times) in those instances was the difference between me enjoying the game and giving up on it. Game speed also helped out, albeit a small amount, in combat too, as I found it necessary to slow things down when I became surrounded by enemies.
The subtitles are phenomenal. Highly customizable with text color, background color, and size, they were easy to read 100% of the time. The only issue I found with the subtitles was that at times they, too, proved to be too much. In busier areas like cities, all dialogue is captioned. While this is normally ideal, in the busier areas of Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, the fact that there was no visual distinction between unimportant NPC chatter and main dialogue, I quite often found it difficult to determine what I needed to pay attention to and what I could just skim and move on from.
The above clip from Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart illustrates one of the glaring issues I had with both deaf/hoh and cognitive accessibility. There is no visual indication for enemies outside of your field of vision (which is most of the time because enemies always surround you) and there’s no assist available for instances in which you face multiple enemies that one of them is about to hit/shoot you and you need to dodge. Both of these issues together made it impossible for me to play on any difficulty level except the easiest one in which you’re invincible which isn’t how I want to have to play a game designed for everyone.
The first two difficulty levels, Rookie Explorer and Rookie Recruit are essentially the same with the exception of Rookie Explorer making you invincible. But the difference felt like a Souls game versus God Mode. On one level, before I gave up and turned on Rookie Explorer, I died 13 times just trying to navigate the level without any visual cues for nearby enemies. I generally don’t care about difficulty levels. I happily play on the easiest difficulty, but it felt kind of bad having to play a game rated E 10+ by the ESRB on “God Mode.”
Another trouble spot I ran into was navigating the different worlds in Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart. The large waypoint icons were fantastic but there’s no guideline to aid in getting to the waypoint, nor can you place custom waypoints anywhere on the map. This left me getting lost quite often, opening the map every few seconds to ensure I was going the right way. Some worlds feel a bit like a puzzle, trying to figure out how to get to high places, how to reach the collectible you’ve marked on your map, and while you can skip the actual puzzles (and I did because I loathe puzzles) you can’t get any help in figuring out traversal, which caused me frequent frustration.
While I had my reservations about the DualSense back in November, over the last seven months with it, I’ve come to love it. Its haptics are, for me, a big part of the future of deaf/hoh accessibility. And they’re incredible in this game as well, with one caveat. As with everything else, they can at times be a lot. “Experiential” mode explains that with it on, you’ll feel EVERYTHING in the controller, and wow do you.
Normally, this is great, I love that sort of immersion, but with the previously mentioned missing visual cues and navigation help, I had to turn “Experiential” vibration off because it only served to confuse me when I couldn’t quite figure out what I was meant to be doing.
Other Things of Note
I mentioned that I often toggled on the high contrast background to make Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart just a bit…less…and I ran into an issue with the rifts you can tether to in order to traverse platforms. The above comparison shows one ready for you to tether to and in the high contrast background, it’s not much of an issue. But below, the rift is there but you’re not quite facing the direction to activate it. Not an issue with high contrast mode off but with it on, you see the nearby rift becomes very difficult to spot.
The simplified control options are a massive help in a game that is in many ways, a lot. While I didn’t find myself relying on them as my issues were with cognitive and deaf/hoh accessibility, I did check them out and they will go a long way in helping players with limited mobility, hand pain, or just small hands.
In Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, two accessibility features I really appreciated were Simplified Traversal and Camera Follow. Simplified Traversal lightened the very heavy cognitive load and Camera Follow helped with high-speed navigation tremendously.
There were quite a few toggles that I turned on that made a challenging game a bit easier, including aim assist, auto-aim, and lock-on. There are just so many enemies that my attempts to play with default aim assist and lock-on off went very, very badly.
I also really appreciated “Hoverboot Auto-Pump” and the “Hoverboot Mode” set to toggle instead of hold, as there were simply too many buttons you have to use to successfully use the Hoverboots otherwise, particularly for my small hands.
Despite the fact that there are a few features I need in order to really enjoy Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, I still very highly recommend it for accessibility. There are toggles and options for everyone and it’s likely most players will be able to find a sweet spot of options that work really well for them. And if not, there’s always Rookie Explorer mode so you can still enjoy the game and fantastic story without feeling like you’re being punished.
Want more Ratchet & Clank: A Rift Apart accessibility coverage? Check out Steve Saylor’s video in which he discusses the game with Stacey Jenkins and me here: https://youtu.be/EDP0j8P6eQw and Stacey Jenkins cognitive impressions video here: https://youtu.be/8P2JfCr5cHA
A review copy of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart was provided by the developer / publisher.