Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters Review
What was originally nothing more than a solid action/adventure platform title for the PS2, has quickly amassed a series of games and a very dedicated following. Arguably, not even Sony thought that Ratchet and Clank would become the wonder it is today. But with the PlayStation 2, Sony's audience seemed to be incredibly receptive to the console's 1st party adventure games like Jak, Sly Cooper, and Ratchet. Well, if you're waiting for Insomniac to take the wraps off of their PS3 Ratchet title and want a new Ratchet and Clank game - then look no further than Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters for the PSP.
Easily the most amazing thing about Size Matters is that, in the game's case, size doesn't matter. Regardless of what Sony platform it's on, Ratchet and Clank looks downright fantastic! As soon as you begin the story mode you're greeted with a nice little introductory scene. Initially, I thought the scene was CG and had immediately noticed just how nice Ratchet looked. But as soon as the intro was finished, I quickly realized that it was real-time cut-scene with a few minor enhancements. The in-game detail on Ratchet is terrific - he's sporting a plethora of polygons for a smooth look, and some splendid texture work to make for an impressive character model.
Size Matters is probably the best looking iteration of a PS2 series to be brought over to the PSP. I'd wager that Size Matters looks nearly every bit as good as the very first Ratchet and Clank game, which says a lot. Your surroundings will have those same smooth textures that the series has been known for, with detailed scenery and a host of enemies. Size Matters makes good use of its framerate, as I've yet to see it dip below 30 frames per second, no matter the action on screen. Likewise, special effects and such are rendered in true Ratchet and Clank fashion, so expect to see all of that successfully carried over, as well. There's no doubt about it, but R&C: Size Matters is one of the most visually impressive PSP games out there - it's about the closest representation of a PS2 game to date.
The tried-and-true formula is certainly what keeps gamers coming back to the franchise, but also the new additions added to every iteration released. So if there's one thing we've learned from this series is that it doesn't get stale. It continues to stay fresh by retaining it's signature gameplay, but still delivers new content/features not previously available in the games before it. You can still purchase weapons throughout various parts of the stages, and you still defeat enemies the same way you did: with a gun or a melee weapon. But this time around there's an upgrade element present that allows you to enhance Ratchet and Clank's armor and capabilities. So when things start getting a little too hairy and you're struggling to stay alive, it's probably because you need to upgrade. Or if your dying too easily, it's probably because you're not fighting enough, thus not collecting enough bolts, which means you can't expand your life-bar. Being a solid warrior will yield you with rewards, as you see.
One of the biggest attractions to R&C: Size Matters is Clank. Clank's playable segments, not only has you playing as Clank in a regular stage, but also has you playing a variety of different kinds of mini-games. You'll encounter a Battlebots-like playground where Clank will have to take control of a robot and defeat other bots around him. Another level is instantly reminiscent of Lemmings, as Clank will have to guide little robots to safe-houses. The puzzle takes place on a two-dimensional plane, and will require some clever thought to complete. Lastly, you'll also be able to travel into space and shoot down enemies that stand in your way. But the cool thing about this mode is that Clank transforms into a gigantic form of himself; seeing that and playing it is pretty badass because it's just so unexpected.
Likewise, that's what this game is. A lot of it is unexpected. The dialogue, for starters, is hilarious. If the first couple of scenes and exchanges seal it for me; there's just a ton of well done humor, and it never feels forced. This lighthearted feeling makes the game's atmosphere much more accessible and easier to get into. And in case there were any doubts, the game is fun. But it's even more fun and engaging with the dialogue and the cut-scenes. The cut-scenes lend themselves as motivation to play more and more just to see something funny. Ratchet and Clank is the type of game where a quick pick-up session turns into a long trek in the story mode, and then a few online games before you decide to turn off the unit.
And speaking of online, Size Matters doesn't fizz out like a lot of other PSP games do. Because R&C has amassed such a dedicated user-base who enjoy playing the game online specifically, High Impact Games developed online multiplayer for Size Matters. Up to 4 players can compete per battle in either Ad-hoc/LAN or Infrastructure/Online modes. Setting up the games, picking a player, choosing your name, etc., is very rudimentary stuff; so if you've played an R&C game online before, you know what to expect here.
Knowing what to expect also goes for the controls. You'll get used to them immediately, and you'll also have a few control options to tinker with in case something doesn't feel right to you. The experience still feels rather tight even when it's not via a Dual Shock controller. The only quirk you may come across is the occasional camera issue - but the game also does have two camera options you can toggle between, so you may likely not face the issues. In any case, you can always reset the camera by pressing R and L, or you can pan the camera manually with R and L, instead.
Ratchet and Clank's audio definitely shines. I connected my PSP to standard PC speakers with a subwoofer, and the clarity is quite impressive. It's impressive both loud (with speakers) and quiet (with headphones), so whichever route you go about when playing, you'll certainly enjoy. Additionally, as mentioned previously, the dialogue is fantastic. The voice acting delivery is not only hilarious, but the timing is absolutely spot-on. A part of the game's rewards is not just its gameplay rewards, but also its charm and humor that unfolds during the cut-scenes. Perhaps the only weakness is that the game's soundtrack continues to be far too subdued, and doesn't have anything memorable like other great platform titles in the past: Super Mario 64, Sonic 2, Yoshi's Island, etc.
After playing Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, Daxter, Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror, the Socoms and now Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters...there was a question lingering over my head: is Ratchet the best PS2-to-PSP conversion thus far? And my answer would have to be a resounding 'yes'. Size Matters not only plays great, but it even looks fantastic. Visually it's on par with the first Ratchet and Clank for the PS2, which is saying quite a lot. But most importantly, Size Matters offers a package that is more than just enjoyable, but also highly replayable. With a humorous plotline, great single player, online multiplayer, and the ability to grow your characters, Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters is not just one of the best values on the PSP, it's one of the best adventures. Fans of the genre and franchise must own this.
2/19/2007 Arnold Katayev