The Heli-Pack is a backpack gadget that first appeared in Ratchet & Clank 1, but has since appeared in Going Commando, Up Your Arsenal, Going Mobile, Size Matters, Tools of Destruction and A Crack in Time. It's spiritual successor is the Thruster-Pack, and has a distant cousin in the form of the Hydro-Pack.
It was originally bought by Ratchet from Big Al at his Roboshack for 2,000 . Ratchet and Clank were visiting the store in the hopes of finding Captain Qwark, who had shot a commercial at the store. While Qwark was long gone, Al was able to help by installing the Heli-Pack.
The Heli-Pack works by giving Clank special propellor blades; one big set out of his head for lift, and two smaller sets replacing his hands for forward thrust. Like the Weapons in all Ratchet & Clank games, how these blades are stored inside him goes unknown and unmentioned. Against what the player may think, the Heli-Pack does not give Ratchet the ability to fly.
The Heli-Pack is also unavailable on planet Oltanis due to the lightning storm in Gorda City, as the metallic Clank acts as a lightning rod. As a result, he has to stay inside the ship while Ratchet explores the city without him.
MovesThe Heli-Pack gives Ratchet a variety of moves and features that greatly expand his ability to traverse the environments. The simplest of these is the Glide. By holding down the Jump button (usually X) in the air, Clank uses the Heli-Pack to slow down Ratchet's descent. This allows him to glide over to areas he wouldn't normally be able to reach, as well as help ensure a safe landing. Another move Ratchet can use is the Boost Jump; by crouching and then jumping while still, Clank boosts Ratchet up into the air, so he can reach or grab ledges he otherwise couldn't.
By far the most commonly used move, however, is the Stretch Jump. By crouching and then jumping while moving, Ratchet will leap forward, with additional distance provided by the Heli-Pack. Not only does this allow Ratchet to jump much longer distances than normal, but it is also a faster method of travel than just walking, so as a result it is frequently used to reduce travel times across the levels.
The Heli-Pack can also be used for Clank's aid as well, as he can use the Glide move to help him cross gaps much like how he can help Ratchet using the same move.
Going CommandoThe Heli-Pack is initially unavailable in Ratchet & Clank 2 as Ratchet performs his beginning missions solo, while Clank is relaxing at his penthouse in Megapolis. After rescuing Clank from the Unknown Thief with the help of the Electrolyzer, Ratchet can take advantage of it once again. However it performs slightly differently in Going Commando; the distance Ratchet will travel with the Stretch Jump now depends on how fast he was walking and how quickly he crouched then jumped. Because of this, the Heli-Pack is not as useful as it once was and players may then prefer the Thruster-Pack, also earned at the same time. This technicality would remain in almost all later appearances of the Heli-Pack.
Once Ratchet earns the Charge Boots at the Megacorp Games arena on Joba, it is used for long distance travel over the Heli and Thruster-Packs. Like in the original game, the Heli-Pack is not available for one level, in this case the Flying Prison above Aranos where Clank enters the ventilation ducts and aids his and Ratchet's escape. They meet up outside where their ship is being held.
Up Your ArsenalAs Ratchet and Clank begin their adventure in this title together, the Heli-Pack is available right from the start, however the distance technicalities from Going Commando remain. It does, however, make a cutscene appearance near the end of the game on planet Mylon; Ratchet uses it to glide down safely after a skydiving sequence.
Going MobileThe Heli-Pack also makes an appearance in the mobile title Ratchet & Clank: Going Mobile. Because of the limited controls, this version can only perform a Boost Jump. To do this, press any of the Jump buttons (1, 2 or 3), then press it again while in the air to have Clank boost Ratchet up into the air for a bit. After hitting the peak of the jump, Clank will Glide Ratchet down towards the ground in the direction he is facing.
This method of Boost Jumping allows for Ratchet to still be able to Glide through the air, and is ironically easier to perford despite the more restricted controls.
As Clank has been relegated to a technical communicator in DreadZone, Ratchet is unable to have the benefits of the Heli-Pack. The ability to cross large distances quickly would therefore be earned when Ratchet completed the DreadZone Campaign on Kronos, where he gets the DreadZone Charge Boots.
The Heli-Pack makes a comeback of sorts in Size Matters, where the Heli-Pack is the only Clank backpack Ratchet can use. The technicalities seen in the second and third titles is now not present due to the lack of the Thruster-Pack in this title. As Size Matters was essentially a Ratchet game on a completely new game engine, the animation for the various Heli-Pack maneouvers differ from the PS2 titles.
Secret Agent Clank
As Ratchet and Clank are seperated for all of Secret Agent Clank, Ratchet cannot use its abilities. Clank, however, gets his own pack-like gadget in the form of the Jet Boots gadget, which allows him to High Jump and Glide much like the Heli-Pack.
Future seriesThe Heli-Pack returns once again for the Ratchet & Clank Future series on the PlayStation 3. In Tools of Destruction it once again has the technicalities present in Going Commando and Up Your Arsenal, making it again a bit of a second fiddle to the Thruster-Pack. However, for A Crack in Time, the Heli-Pack is the only Clank Pack available, and it does not suffer from the Going Commando distance aspect. Why exactly the other packs were removed is unknown, but it was most likely done due to the presence of the Hover Boots.
In Tools of Destruction, the level where Ratchet is without Clank is part of the planet Reepor, where the two are seperated after Tachyon gets the Dimensionator. For A Crack in Time, the lack of Clank actually extends to more than two-thirds of the game, because Clank is at The Great Clock. They are reunited when Ratchet rescues him on the Valkrie world of Vapedia.
In A Crack in Time, the Heli-Pack's abilities have been adjusted when playing as Clank; he no longer has the ability to Glide like he can with Ratchet. Instead, pressing the Jump button while in the air causes Clank to push himself up into the air, up to a total of three times. He will then glide for a moment, and then drop into a semi-freefall. This move not only allows him to cross large gaps, but also double as a sort of Boost Jump.
Heli-Pack vs Thruster-Pack
Whether or not to use the Heli-Pack or Thruster-Pack is left completely up to the player, but each has their own strengths and weaknesses. The Heli-Pack appears to be more primitive, and isn't as fast or, in later titles, as reliable as the Thruster-Pack, which also boasts the Power Slam move and the Hover feature in Ratchet & Clank 1. However, the Heli-Pack does not obstruct the view of the player when equipped, has a higher Boost Jumpm, and has a Stretch Jump that has Ratchet rise into the air for a bit, avoiding low obstacles. The Thruster-Pack also lets Ratchet fall faster to the ground than the Heli-Pack does, meaning a less graceful descent.
- Like most returning gadgets such as the Grindboots and the Swingshot, the Heli-Pack ability is never lost for no particular reason as in most games. Instead, it is available right from the start of most adventures due to Ratchet and Clank picking it up in the first game, and is never outright replaced by the Thruster-Pack.
- Interestingly, it is the Heli-Pack that replaces the Thruster-Pack on two occasions, rather than the other way around as would be expected.
- According to Big Al, the Heli-Pack would require standard XP18 sisterboards in order to function properly. It may also require some other unknown elements as well, as Al pops the question without asking any others, and after having seen Clank for a while beforehand.
- In the transistion to the Future series, the Boost Jump was renamed as the High Jump.
- In most menu previews in the games, the height of the main rotor is shortened so that it will appear in-frame. In fact the preview in Tools of Destruction has the side rotors face away from Clank's sides, rather than slanted away from Ratchet as in the actual gameplay appearance.