Despite its title’s declaration of intent, though, Rift Apart isn’t willing to stand on its own. That’s most evident in the game’s Anomaly puzzles, where you must interact with physical representations of all of Clank’s and Kit’s dimensional possibilities. This is predetermination in action. There’s only one acceptable route for you to guide these representations, like lemmings, down, and that’s the one that has them marching in lockstep along the same path that has defined every Ratchet & Clank to date. In the end, Rift Apart is a superficially entertaining but deeply unfulfilling adventure—one that, like the latest Star Wars trilogy, mistakes a shiny new coat of paint as reason enough to exist.
The more you learn about Selene across the game’s gripping campaign, the easier it is to relate to or, at least, agree with her observation that “I deserve to be here.” That line is also more than a little apt, as it perfectly sums up just how simultaneously rewarding and punishing it is to live in the world of Returnal. Each time you make a perfect jump and air-dash to avoid a cluster of bullets, you earn your way forward, and each time you awkwardly fall off a cliff or gawk as an explosive squid flies at you, you earn the right to try it all over again. The terse thrill of all that fragility makes this a timeless adventure well worth returning to.