Michael Bross ‎– Ratchet & Clank

4 out of 5

Label: iam8bit

Produced by: Michael Bross

Ratchet & Clank has always trafficked in cliche.  It’s frustrating, as a fan, trying to encourage onlookers to sift past that ‘been there, done that’ vibe – the predictable platforming / puzzling; the cliched cast of kooky villains and assorted NPCs; the friendly, wink-at-the-camera humor – but across many, many games and yes, even the movie, I’ve been pleased as punch with what I feel is found beneath that surface: a sort of earnestness that makes all the simplicity feel charming, and an attention to detail that makes the cliched feel fresh.  Even the humor has this weird dose of sort of self-aware Bugs Bunnyness to it that makes the winks rewarding: you’re part of the R&C family while playing these games.

Michael Bross’ score to the PS4 remake of the original PS2 game also traffics in cliche: it’s riddled with the kind of heroic themes we’d expect of any-given overcoming-the-odds adventure, with the trills and lighter elements that mark it as, y’know, something with talking animals.  But… also also like the games themselves, the R & C score comes with plenty of something extras that nudge it into the same special zone as its digital mates: little notes of weird; little variations that remind us of Ratchet’s bumbling heroics;, or Insomniac’s creativity which has gifted us with countless amazing settings and insane weapons; or the gifted actors who bring to life all the many fun characters sprinkled throughout the series.

The A-side of R & C is all discovery and adventure, very lush and with interesting diversions into alternate themes and styles.  The B-side dips a bit too far into cliche in its mid-portion, losing a bit of identity when needing to score the big-budget action, but Bross regains the sense of charm when giving us Nefarious’ theme as the conclusion.  …Which really should be followed up by some kind of end credits track, as the theme is a strange way to end the album, but it is, at least, an awesome composition.

Iam8bit’s vinyl – solid orange – is simple, but it fits the game well, and the LP art by Mark Englert is really wonderful, again driving home the earnestness at the heart of the series.