Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters (PSP)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I'm a casual gamer and I'm frugal with my time-and therefore frugal with my choice of games. I frequently irritate game store employees (already a surly lot) with questions like, "Is it big?" and "How long will this take a gamer of low to medium skill to complete when playing two to four hours per week?" If the answer is less than six months, I move on to a game that will offer me more substantial value.

The Ratchet & Clank series has always fit that bill. With scads of planet levels, huge environments, an ars(senal)-full of ridiculous upgradeable weaponry, as well as great dialogue, sound-effects, and voice-acting, R&C has always provided the gamer with a full, challenging, and fun experience. As far as I know, they've got the Lombax-mechanic-with-wrench-and-robot-pal niche sewn up.

Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters, is the rebuilt-from-the-ground-up-for-PSP installment and is simply more of the same-thank god.

Once again, the game opens with Ratchet & Clank on Pokitaru, retired from the hero business concluded in the last game, and once again they're pulled back in by circumstances beyond their control or, more accurately, by Ratchet's arrogance and gullibility. Oh, the hubris!

A scheme perpetrated by a seemingly innocent child takes them to the realm of the Technomites, a supposedly mythological race of microscopic creatures. The hitting and shooting begins immediately. Along with the old standby weapons, we're given the now-traditional slew of new ones, one of the best of the group being the Bee Mine Glove, which sends out a swarm of robotic bees to destroy their larger robotic brethren.

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In the switch from PS2 to PSP, we've lost the complete destructibility of the previous games; you can't spend all your time just breaking things to get extra bolts (still the currency of choice in Size Matters). There's still a fair amount of it, though, and the graphics and sound effects are beautiful.

Gameplay, as in any game that has always relied on dual analog sticks, takes a little getting used to, but not long in this case. It's still pretty much a jump in and get playing proposition, especially if you've played any of the other Ratchet titles. The buttons and movement are all the same.

Those familiar with this series know that, despite it's violence and subversiveness, this is not a children's game. In fact, at times it's ridiculously hard. In past installments you had to get pretty far into the game before you came across a boss battle that sent you running for the liquor cabinet. With Size Matters, I just put my chair outside the liquor store. It was almost enough to send me running back to LEGO Star Wars II for the solace of a truly mind-numbingly easy game. Mini-review: That game is awesome! End review.

The much-touted additions to Size Matters are really not a very big deal. Being allowed to play as Ratchet, Clank, or Captain Quark is just not that enticing when the multiplayer component is the same old "Capture the Flag" and "Deathmatch."

The mini-levels are a mixed bag. Changing to Giant Clank and performing space battles is a lot of fun, and the Robot Wars-inspired arena matches are a blast. But the basketball-type games are just plain boring, and Ratchet's hoverboard races are as welcome as a Bob Seger song on the radio. Imagine performing an obstacle course without your legs; the control is that bad.

In spite of the relatively uninteresting additions to the series that Size Matters provides, it's still a fantastic, full-fledged portable actioner, something that's been too rare on this platform or any other handheld.

Graphics: 9.0

Sound: 9

First Play: 9

Replay Value: 8.0

Gameplay: 8.5

Overall: 8.7