Friday, March 27, 2009

Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters (PSP) Review

To celebrate the announcement of Ratchet & Clank's next big adventure on the Playstation 3, A Crack in Time, let's take a look at the pair's first portable adventure on the PSP, Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters!

The smaller they are, the bigger the adventure.

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Sony Computer Entertainment certainly has no quarrels with giving the green light to new Ratchet games. This year, two new Ratchet adventures join the four already developed in the span of five years-- Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction for the Playstation 3 and our focus, Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters developed by High Impact Games. With a new developer in the creation of this game, one might worry that the quality of past Ratchet entries wouldn't make it into this portable version. Well, let me cast all worries to the wayside. This is a fun Ratchet & Clank game just like the four before it.

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She's spunky and rambunctious, but is Luna all that she seems?

We begin watching the robotic wonder in Clank constructing a life-size sand model of himself. Ratchet, the gun-toting, heroic lombax (think of a mutated lynx only with James Arnold Taylor's voice) mindlessly crushes the sand sculpture as he gets ready to officially begin his tour of rest and relaxation on the sandy beaches of Pokitaru. Suddenly, a flash startles Ratchet out of his seat and to the sandy floor. Another series of flashes-- from the camera of a little girl named Luna-- blind our heroes. Luna wishes to see her heroes in action, and with that, the tutorial section of the game commences. Luna will instruct or remind our heroes of the various moves they can do. Ratchet starts off with all of his moves intact unlike some previous games. Ratchet moves with the analog nub and strafes with the directional pad. This can be switched in the options menu. When faced with multiple enemies, Ratchet can choose to smack his foes with his wrench (seriously, what kind of plumber needs a life-size wrench?), or he can opt to use one of the many guns available to him. He'll start off with the Lacerator, a weak but rapid fire enabled gun, but when he reaches new planets and areas, weapon vendors will offer new guns such as the powerful close-ranged Concussion Gun, the fire-spewing Scorcher, or the Mootator which will turn any enemy into a defenseless cow. Also, an RPG element allows frequently used weapons to level up, gaining new powers and strength.

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Ready... aim... fire!

At the conclusion of the tutorial section, Luna will be captured by some mysterious band of robotic thugs, and that will leave Ratchet and Clank to explore the rather linear first planet, blasting away foes in the process. Once they gain on the kidnappers, they leave the planet, taking their captor, Luna, with them. There's also a side-story involving the superhero-that-was, Qwark, who wishes to discover the identities of his parents.

Playing the second planet, the jungle of Ryllus, puts players battling carnivorous plants, to uses the Hypershot to swing from orb to orb, and utilizing a new gadget in the form of Sprout-O-Matic to water flowers that can help create new ladders, catapults, or bombs to break open weakened walls to reveal new paths and goodies.

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Star Fox-inspired on-rails shooting segments
break up some of the platforming fun.

There's a lot of variety in Size Matters, and that can be good or bad depending who you are. Perhaps you'd like straight up platforming action without all the extra minigames and non-Ratchet segments that the game occasionally forces you to partake in. For the entire last half of Ryllus, players take the form of Clank solely. The goal of this one-time segment is to guide a series of six robots to special gates, thus opening a final door to open the way for Ratchet. Clank can order his followers to attack other enemies, wait on pressure-sensitive switches, follow him around, or enter the aforementioned gates.

There will also be special skyboard segments where you'll race against three other CPU boarders on a 3-D racetrack, flying in the emptiness of space,
catching boosts, and avoiding hazards. Clank will get a chance to release all that pent of frustration from having to continuously smell Ratchet's farts as he rests on his back by entering into a Battlebots-inspired robot deathmatch and participating in a space rail-shooter. There's also a basketball-ish Gadgetbot Toss game to enter and puzzle-based Gadgetbot Survivor to sharpen your thinking skills. The majority of these are not necessary to continue, but completing them does give you bolts (the currency to buy new weapons and mods), and they unlock certain armor parts and weaponry.

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Going my way?

Armor gives Ratchet new defense boosts. He only has a finite amount of nanotech (health) to work with, so he'll need all the help he can get! There's four pieces to each set of armor. Some are easily obtained-- they're right out in the open. If you miss them, I question whether gaming should be your hobby. Others can be found in hidden locations or earned from winning previously-described events. Completing a set of armor gives Ratchet a special ability depending on the armor he's wearing. He can even combine armor from multiple sets to create secret new armor combinations.

Size Matters is coined from Ratchet using the Shrink-Ray on himself to enter areas inhabited by the Technomites-- an advanced civilization-- as well as accessing areas like inside Clank. Hm.. I wonder what it would be like for MY best friend to be inside my body. Never mind. I know him, and I don't want to know. Anyway... this element to the gameplay adds something new to the series.

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Ratchet & Clank Episode V: Attack of the Clones

However, just because you can shrink Ratchet doesn't mean you should shrink the game time either. For my first time I actually went through the game and completed it without much problem in approximately four hours. Although like any Ratchet game you should play through the game more than once. By beating the game, you have the option to enter Challenge mode, a harder version of the game where you can buy expensive but much more powerful versions of your old weapons. Everything carries over to the new mode, health, weapons, etc. Also, to add to the longevity of the game, there's titanium bolts hidden in each area (some devilishly clever as expected). These can be used to buy new skins for Ratchet. Additionally there's skill points which return. These are earned by completing various unspoken challenges such as completing a level without getting hit, defeating a number of enemies without dying, and breaking all of the boxes in a level. Use these to unlock cheats to add more to the game than one would expect.

Overall, Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters is a competent platformer and worthy addition to the series. I do feel it's the weakest of the five Ratchet titles currently available, but that's still great company to be in if I do say so myself. There's a wide variety of activities available, plus there's an added multiplayer mode consisting of deathmatch and capture the flag for up to four players online. The chat system is quite clunky using a keyboard of a phone instead of a computer. Pain in the Qwark to type a word much more a sentence. Regardless, this mode is pretty cool to have. Size Matters may be short, but it's a PSP title that no owner should be without (unless of course you have a lombax fetish that you still need to work out).

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.0/10]

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