The Ratchet & Clank series has an almost magnetic charm to it. Mixing the graphical polish and wit of a Pixar film with compelling gameplay is a combination that has worked well for Insomiac’s platformer. Play any Ratchet & Clank game around friends and you’re sure to draw a crowd. Until now, enthusiastic onlookers have only been able to do just that – look. Not anymore. Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One finally lets you and three others simultaneously jump into the roles of a Lombax, two robots, and a dubious super hero. I recently had a chance to get my hands on this 4-player cooperative platformer at a Sony press event in Hollywood, CA and came away impressed.

Insomniac started off by catching us up on the story. All 4 One picks up right where the comic series and Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time left off – with President Qwark readying an acceptance speech for an award he didn’t earn as Ratchet and Clank tag along to make sure nothing goes wrong. Naturally, the ceremony goes awry instantly. Dr. Nefarious crashes the scene by freeing a deadly beast from stasis. The exotic monster attracts the attention of a creature collector named Ephemeris, who hastily captures Ratchet and his crew. They four characters are eventually released on planet Magnus, the world Ephemeris has been unloading his prized critters. This is the point the four protagonists realize they must band together.

Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One allows up to four players to put their heads together either online or on the couch. My time with the game was packed with co-op moments like none I’ve ever performed. Players use tethers to cling to one another for dear life, resulting in awesome chasm-leaping moments and near-death fall recoveries. Sucking friends into a vacuum and launching them to otherwise unreachable heights is also a great time, as is totally abusing this power and launching allies off cliffs. One of the game’s most unusual cooperative features is a four-man raft which requires players to steer the floatation down perilous rapids.  Communication is key in ensuring that each of the four propellers is powered at the correct time. One lapse in teamwork can cause catastrophic failure.

Insomniac’s signature weapons return here, my favorite being the Dark Star Fission rifle. When activated by all four players, this weapon creates a tether which greatly damages foes enveloped within it. The Arc Blaster adds a unique gameplay twist by allowing on player to put an enemy in stasis while another either attacks or revives a fallen comrade. Each character will have a unique ability as well. Ratchet sports a Decoy Gun to distract and attack foes, while Clank has a Time Bomb which slows down time and buys time for downed allies.

Later in the game Ratchet and friends commandeer a gigantic robot called a Guardian. Manning four turrets, the quartet lumbers through a valley in an on-rails shooting segment. This section is more than a shooting gallery, as an opposing Guardian shows up to give the heroes a run for their bolts. All four players must focus fire on the Guardian’s weak points as he winds up to attack, with generous slow motion aiding the process. Each step, punch, and leap these metallic titans take conveys a real sense of size and weight. I’m looking forward to seeing what other cinematic moments the game has to offer.

At this point in development Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One is looking terrific. This title has all the polish and story-driven content fans have come to know and love, with the added bonus of letting you bring friends along for the ride (don’t worry, the game can still be played solo). This new installment doesn’t arrive until this Fall, so there is still plenty more to learn from Insomniac about this ambitious title.