After debuting on the PS2, the Ratchet and Clank series went on to garner huge popularity and critical acclaim, and four installments later, the franchise is making the move to the PSP. Of course, whenever a beloved series makes the unexpected leap to a handheld, fans always harbor a few reservations about the transition. How will it be possible to maintain the same format on a handheld? What are the developers going to sacrifice? What additions will be made? Well, after a recent Sony Media Day event, more details have come to light for Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters, and PSP owners now have a reason to celebrate.
This latest Ratchet adventure is taking on a new team in Impact Games, a group that consists of former Insomniac employees. That’s good news, obviously, simply because the franchise should be able to retain its former level of super-high quality. The game takes place after the last installment (Ratchet and Clank: Deadlocked), and our two wisecracking protagonists have proceeded to the planet Pokitaru for a well-earned vacation. But as expected, there’s no rest for the weary and heroic, as a young girl by the name of Luna comes looking for help. Things take a turn for the worse when she’s kidnapped, but the industrious duo find out who’s responsible, and embark on yet another intergalactic mission.
One of the questions we posed earlier, regarding how developers will keep the same format of the R&C franchise on the PSP, has been answered. Even though the controls can’t possibly be the same – due primarily to the lack of triggers on the PSP – the designers have worked hard to keep the experience as similar as possible to previous Ratchets. This means there should be no significant alterations in the gameplay mechanic, as everything from the camera to weapon use should be both rock solid and familiar. Now that we’ve mentioned weapons, a facet of the series that is usually deep and wonderfully imaginative, we should probably talk about those included in Size Matters.
There will be some returning weapons fans should immediately recognize, as well as a bunch of nifty new additions to the inventory. The wrench is back, which is no surprise, but you’ll also have the Bee Mine Glove (swarming metallic bees!), the Laser Tracer (burn, baby, burn!) and the Acid Bomb (acidic, deadly pools of goo get spattered everywhere). As for gadgets, the Swingshot returns to let you cross un-jumpable gaps without a problem. But you’ll also have the brand new Sprout-a-Matic, which lets Ratchet yank out vegetation and use them for a variety of tasks. Lastly, this time around, Ratchet will be able to equip armor such as helmets and boots, and a full suit of armor will grant you a special effect; mix and match for different effects!
The single-player quest should be lengthy, although we don’t know if it’ll run the typical 20-30 hours previous Ratchets have sported. But if you go through the game on your own and still crave more action, multiplayer is just the ticket. Size Matters supports both Ad Hoc and Infrastructure, and users can choose from regular Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Capture the Flag. Unique multiplayer weapon upgrades and modifications may also pop up when playing, and of course, there will be a goodly assortment of weapons scattered throughout every large level. This is one of those games that could offer a huge amount of multiplayer entertainment, simply due to the non-stop – and hopefully fluid – action.
There is one unique new mode, called Iron Lombax, which is a team-based approach to innovative multiplayer. Your team must complete a variety of tasks before the other team, and depending on which map you choose, the goals and objectives will change. So while one teammate is focusing on a prerequisite to the ultimate goal, the rest of the team can either assist, play defense, or tackle another necessary objective. This can lead to a huge number of possibilities when a bunch of Ratchet fans get together, and offers a nice alternative to the standard deathmatch. In the next generation, even handhelds are going to need such positive multiplayer aspects.
Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters is scheduled for a February 27 release in North America, and should add to a PSP library that’s still somewhat lacking. The handheld experienced a solid 2006 with several top-notch titles, but if Sony wants to push more PSPs, they can really use a promising, easily-recognized game like this one.
12/14/2006 Ben Dutka