Insomniac Games: The Masters of the Fourth-Wall Break

Insomniac games continues to demonstrate an unparalleled ability to create products that are self aware and toy with their audience’s expectations.

Image via Insomniac Games / Sony Computer Entertainment


What I like about the 2016 reboot of Ratchet and Clank is the fact that it so openly embraces that it’s a reboot. Littered throughout the game are easter eggs, callbacks and fourth-wall breaks. Ratchet and Clank is unapologetically a Pixar-inspired, self-aware game, and it’s damn good. Insomniac Games seems to be continuing their studio’s trend of communicating with their players through clever in-game systems and mechanics, but also with pretty amazing writing. On top of this, they are the masters of the “nod to the player,” calling attention to what their medium of entertainment is: fun.

In Sunset Overdrive, every single time you died, your character would respawn with any number of animations and tropes from other games (think coming out of a green pipe a la Super Mario). Similarly, Ratchet and Clank and Sunset Overdrive are both genuinely funny games, with smart and quirky moments everywhere. In essence, Insomniac is nailing the family-friendly vibe with their games.

Image via Insomniac /

Image via Insomniac /

Insomniac’s recent titles remind me of watching Disney movies as a grown up. On the one hand, these films are meant to be family-friendly viewing experiences, so they contain light-hearted humor, brightly colored environments/characters and a likeable protagonist. On the other hand, for the adults who listen closely, jokes about politics, violence and sex are frequent enough to keep them entertained for the 90-minute experience. I get this exact same vibe from Insomniac’s Ratchet and Clank duality. For younger/newer fans of the series, there’s enough Pixar-quality visuals and fun gameplay to get you invested in its universe and characters. For returning fans, the game serves as an homage to older Ratchet and Clank titles, including weapons from later entries and adding them to the existing weapons arsenal of the first game.

Insomniac’s ability to capture the feel and essence of older platformers is impressive. Just as Insomniac is aware of the players ingesting their games, they’re also very aware of their franchises’ histories and genetics that stem from the first generation of 3D platformers.

Colin gives you his hands-on impressions of the new ‘Ratchet and Clank’ reboot.

Ratchet and Clank (2016) is reviewing well, and I’m loving it. The AAA game space right now is dominated by open-world, third-person, action-adventure games, with RPG’S and shooters getting honorable mentions. Not only does Ratchet and Clank differ from these games thematically, but it is also an E-rated, single-player game. I hadn’t purchased an E-rated game in probably 10 years. Growing up and purchasing an E-rated game feels akin to turning 21 and ordering water at a bar. It’s hard to escape that feeling that once you’re old enough play M-rated games or watch R-rated movies, those are the types of experiences you should be ingesting. Yet Ratchet and Clank (2016) does a fantastic job of reminding you that’s not always the case and that games are, first and foremost, meant to be fun.

Too often now it seems that games are made with agendas in mind, meaning to draw attention to a specific issue or concept. That’s all well and good; games should do that. As forms of artistic expression, games sit at a privileged place of being able to shape public discourse. That being said, it’s nice to see something come out that is plainly and simply: a game. There is no hidden agenda in Ratchet and Clank (2016)—no underlying message or universal theme. It’s a game about a weird cat/rodent man running around the galaxy with his robot pal collecting money to buy increasingly strange weaponry. You see what I mean? It’s just good ol’ fashioned fun.

Have you played the reboot of ‘Ratchet and Clank’? Do you feel that platformers still hold an important place in today’s games industry? Tweet me @Flagcap. And be sure to follow us @YouNerded.

About Colin Kolhoven (18 Articles)
Pikmin chasing gaming personality at You can find my videos on my YouTube channel, Flagcap Games. Happy Gaming!

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