In need of enhancement.
When writing about Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters, it would be easy to rehash the old games, pop in a few Viagra or Enzyte jokes, and slather the review with innuendo. Instead, I’ll keep this clean. I don’t want parents sending hate mail and accusing me of soiling the minds of their loinal fruit – as if Lindsay Lohan hasn’t nailed that coffin shut already. More than that, however, it turns out that size really does matter.
[image1]Size Matters is an “enhanced” port of last year’s little hit of the same name for the PSP, but the results fall short of the claims. Graphics are usually one of the last things I judge a game on, but the dull textures and blocky models of Size Matters have all the visual intimidation of a NERF blaster. Obviously, something got lost in the move from the wonder-screen of the PSP to 42 inches of plasma.
I switched the game to progressive-scan, fiddled with the TV’s settings, and pulled out my faithful standard set. Nothing made the game look any better. I loaded up the original Ratchet & Clank from 2002 for the sake of comparison, and it was as beautiful as ever. Graphics aren’t the only thing taking a hit in the downsize (upsize?), either. Size Matters is a respectable game in its own right, but it can’t quite get out of the shadows of its older PS2 siblings. Just think of it as the Stephen Baldwin of the Ratchet & Clank family.
The one aspect and true selling point of Size Matters that remains intact is the story. The famous duo are relaxing at the beach, sipping a few (non-alcoholic?) beverages, and building sand castles when Luna, an aspiring journalist, requests a snapshot of them for her school paper. Ratchet is busy smashing crates and leaping chasms for a few great snapshots when a squad of hostile robots snatches Luna and escapes into the universe, leaving behind a single clue – a strange artifact from the mythical Technomites.
It’s not Pulitzer material, but some gripping twists and turns - and a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor - had me hooked. Unlike the cut-scenes from most action-adventure games in the under-Mature pile, hitting the skip button wasn’t my first instinct. The series has some of the most talented voice-actors in gaming, and call me crazy, but I enjoy their work.
Space-borne research facilities, a whole planet dedicated to recycling robots, and the fabled city of the Technomites round out some of the locales Ratchet will visit. Dreamtime, a stage where reality and fiction blend into a Psychonauts-esque realm of psychological disorder, shows just how much potential this game had. The rest of the levels are decent, but the quick-play style of the handheld market isn’t as satisfying when I have a few hours to spare on the couch.
[image2]I’m not joking when I say that some levels can be beaten in ten minutes or less, and that includes hunting for secret items. After five years, I can still remember countless scenes of epic jumps, narrow escapes, and dangerous swingshots from the first game. At the time of this writing, it’s been one day since I beat Size Matters, and only two moments stick out as being vaguely memorable. That’s probably because they were the only good platforming sections that posed any difficulties.
Note to developers: If you’re going to pack in a ton of mini-games, make sure they’re enjoyable. All but two of the skyboard (think hovercraft) races scattered throughout the game are optional, and even though some great prizes await, I dread the idea of ever racing again. The opponents are easy, but the controls are obscenely unmanageable. Clank has fifteen challenges of his own, including demolition derbies and Lemmings-style puzzles. I beat them all in one straight playthrough, but I got some easy rewards out of the deal.
All these secrets and prizes that I’ve talked about contribute to one thing – combat. Weapons have always been the hallmarks of Ratchet & Clank, and thankfully not in the creepy “I’ll fill your eyes with buckshot if you step on my property” NRA kind of way. I know from personal experience that a lot of parents have skipped over the series because of its reliance on guns, but we’re talking about vacuum-Suck Cannons, Bee Mines, and transmorphing Mootators. At least that’s what I like to tell them.
The weapons arsenal of Size Matters, however, doesn’t quite match those of other installments, and many of the weapons are fairly useless. What’s the point of the Acid Bomb’s searing pools of liquid when half of the enemies are airborne and the rest are right at my side? The Suck Cannon has always been great, except now most of the enemies are simply too heavy to pick up. I suggest picking up the Shock Rocket and the robotic minions Agents of Doom, but otherwise, your Lacerator blaster and trusty Omniwrench will do the trick just fine.
Even though I don’t care for most of the weapons, the upgrades are a welcome sight. Simply using weapons builds their power levels, and upgrades can be purchased on top of that. How do double-barreled dual-Lacerators sound? Master Chief what? Ratchet can also obtain five different armor sets that reduce damage and bestow unique abilities, like shards of ice or bursts of fire from melee attacks. Some parts of the sets will be collected as you go; some are in hidden rooms, and unfortunately, two are from the skyboard races.
[image3]While I have a few issues with Size Matters, it deserves credit for the sake of extra content. Cheats can be bought with Skill Points gained from completing side-objectives. The secret, albeit poorly hidden, Titanium bolts can be used to purchase skins for Ratchet. When all is said and done, you could hit up the objective-based multiplayer games in co-op or versus modes. There’s even a Challenge Mode, for anyone who felt the first run through the story wasn’t quite hard enough.
Although it’s fairly short and none too pretty, Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters crams in a lot of content to tide over the fans without PS3s. Size Matters was well regarded on the PSP, and as far as gameplay goes, nothing has changed. Still, its one mistake was failing to realize that everything it accomplished on the PSP had already been done to bigger and better degrees on the PS2.