To collect or not to collect, that is the question

It's easy to be cynical when a publisher brings out an HD re-make of classic games, accusing it of slapping on a fresh lick of paint to an old title as a way of eeking one last drop out of a last-generation franchise, but every now and then an HD remake comes along and it's welcome: Ratchet and Clank HD Trilogy is one of those.

Starring perhaps one of the PlayStation 2's most loved duos, Ratchet and his robotic side-kick Clank, the HD trilogy packages up three classic games: Ratchet and Clank, R+C: Going Commando and R+C: Up Your Arsenal into one tidy package, also bringing with it Trophy support and 3D gaming - if you own one of those swanky 3D TVs, of course.

I've been playing through the HD Trilogy for the past week and while Sony will probably tell you that the R+C games were all about exploration, the platforming and the story, but for me those games were about one thing and one thing only: smashing stuff up. Crates, robots, anything you could - just so I could collect the bolts that spilled out then go and upgrade my weapons or gadgets to cooler stuff. Forget the evil plots and threat to mankind, I just loved smashing stuff and collecting bolts.

The R+C games were probably some one of the only games that I'd actually scour every inch of a map just to find stuff to smash. I wonder if Insomniac, the developer behind the Ratchet and Clank games, ever realised that people would do that: Somehow I think they did, otherwise why would they put so many breakable crates in the game, right?

Of course, Ratchet and Clank isn't the only game series to feature in-game collectibles: we've seen lots of games over the years include lots of collectibles - ranging from comic books, pigeons, treasure maps and feathers to audio recordings, dog tags, intelligence information and diamonds. Most add to the gaming experience but often, they just miss the point of what a collectible is all about.

A collectible, to me, must make sense, provide some tangible benefit and move the narrative of the story along. A horror game that has audio logs from missing staff members works because it can provide a valuable insight into what went wrong before a horrific event. Don't just put a collectible in because you can. Coughing up an achievement or trophy just because a player collected 50 collectibles out of a possible 700 isn't a reason for celebration. It's just rewarding gamers for their persistence.

Some games just get the idea of collectibles plain wrong, too. Take the horror action game Alan Wake for example. It had you collecting coffee thermoses. COFFEE THERMOSES! I mean what was that all about? Was the coffee to help keep Wake awake as searched the forests and abandoned saw mills for yet another thermos (as well as fighting off ghostly baddies, of course)? 

So, today, I'd like to hear your thoughts on in-game collectibles? Are you a completionist freak who must hunt and collect every single collectible in a game or do you not bother trying to track down even one of the 700 pieces of data scattered about a game world?

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