It's About Girth, Not Length

Oh, Size Matters alright, but it's still all about how you use it, and High Impact Games' portable Ratchet & Clank adventure rocks.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: February 21, 2007
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What a perfect example of a talented development studio begetting an equally talented spin-off studio Ratchet: Size Matters is. Like the folks at Ready at Dawn, who left Naughty Dog to start independent PSP projects and ended up adopting the Jak universe for Daxter, the boys and girls at High Impact Games have graduated from Insomniac Games and lovingly taken the reins of the Ratchet franchise. And like, Daxter, Size Matters is a beautifully recreated portable take on the action platformy goodness of its console big brethren.

Size Matters, carrying on the proud tradition of double entendres, aptly describes the approach to converting the bigger-screen versions of the Ratchet world; pint-sized though it may be, it still manages to cram double-digit hours of exploration in the single-player game (provided you run through things twice, which I'll get to in a bit). plus includes an online multiplayer component that would do the series proud. Neither part of the game is any direct affront to what you'll find on the PS2, but both together form one of the most compelling reasons to own a PSP that the young portable has yet seen.

Serving as a canonical continuation of the storylines threaded through the first four Ratchet games, the game starts with R&C finally catching a little much-needed R&R. Lounging on the beach, they're pestered by a enthusiastic budding photo-journalist in the form of Luna, who begs them to show off a little while she snaps pics for her school project. This also serves as the game's tutorial level, slowly acclimating you to now-familiar moves like long and high jumps, wrench throws, and quick picking weapons from your list. Of course, in grand fashion, it also lets you take a peek at the first of many skill point challenges and Platinum Bolt nooks to come, but that's only if you've scooted around the game for a while or are running through things for a second time.

See, like all Ratchet games, you're free to revisit areas later on if you so choose, but like the early Ratchet games, the focus is split almost equally between platforming and using all of those fun little high-powered toys you get throughout the course of the game. There are a few returning items, and the new ones just sort of tuck in with them, but it's the variety in weapons, from rapid-fire Lacerators to wide-shot Concussion Cannon to the familiar Suck Cannon to more outlandish things like the Sniper Mine and Shock Rockets that keep things so interesting.

Just as they worked in previous games, upgrades to Ratchet's hit points -- sorry, Nanotech -- and weapons upgrades keep you wanting to mix things up a little. As you gain experience with weapons and they level up, becoming ever-stronger and finally morphing into an all-powerful version of themselves, the game continually rewards you with a sense of progression. Even after you've beaten the game, you can jump right back in with tougher enemies and yet another tier of weapons (in addition to the RYNO for a ridiculous price). There's almost never a lack of something to upgrade, and you'll need it later on.

If there's but one criticism I have of the game, it's just that it's far too easy at first. It's only in the final act of the game that the difficulty suddenly spikes, and slipshod checkpoints will have you dying and retrying particular sections a half-dozen times or more before you finally make it through. On the upside, this means Ratchet will likely level up his Nanotech a few times, but it's still frustrating. Restarting the game in Challenge Mode only exacerbates things because enemies are already bullet sponges to start with, and get more insane from there.

In grand Ratchet tradition, though, it's not just about double-jumping and spraying weapons fire into crowds. You'll have grind boot sections, you'll hoverboard race against a recurring character (the latter of which are smack-dab in the middle of that sudden spike in difficulty), you'll even pilot Giant Clank in a couple of shooter segments that are a blast and really show off the PSPs muscle. With a near-constant stream of things to do, there wasn't a single point in the adventure that I felt like I was just trudging through things. Part of it might be the way the game saddles you with a single load screen when you first visit a planet and then never pauses again as you blast your way along. Integration of new gadgets like the Sprout-O-Matic that let you turn plants into ladders or hookshot pieces is seamless and just clicks, making puzzles intuitive but fun.

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