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.
Published: February 21, 2007
In fact, nearly every part of the game just works, and beautifully, which includes mapping a game that eagerly took advantage of dual analog sticks on the PS2 to the PSPs less than welcoming control scheme. Though it takes a little bit of getting used to, circle strafing with the shoulder buttons for camera and d-pad for back/forward/left/right movements becomes second nature -- especially if you hop online and try some deathmatch. Using the analog nub feels responsive and everything just clicks like it should after a few minutes of reconditioning yourself.
Online in particular is what makes or breaks the controls due to the pacing. I won't go so far as to say it's a worthy replacement for the DualShock 2, but with the ability to remap controls if you'd like and the proximity the d-pad and analog nub have to each other, jumping into a quick game is a simple matter. Likewise, buddy lists, block lists and matchmaking, while a little clunky, certainly work. It's only in the types of online games that things suffer a little. Deathmatch, Team DM, Capture the Flag and Iron Lombox are all that's available, and it's really the latter that's the star of multiplayer just because it can lead to absolute nail-biter matches in the two-on-two games (for more info on Iron Lombox and the other online modes, check out our earlier previews).
It is the sheer variety of modes, levels and locales that makes the game feel so solid, though. That, and the fact that it just plum feels like a full-sized adventure gone portable. Plenty of planets rife with their own look and feel touch on your jungle world, your future world, your resort work, yet none of them feel terribly clichÃ©d and a lot of that just has to do with what the art team pulled together. I remember early on worrying about the visual style on some of the later planets, but it was ill-founded; Size Matters boasts a terrific framerate, and looks consistently awesome -- particularly in the dream-like world that hits about halfway into the game and the farm world with a constantly changing day/night cycle.
The texture resolution is great, though I will admit that using the normal in-game assets for the pre-rendered movie sequences was a little weird; Ratchet's face always looks pixilated during close-ups, yet the rest of the characters look almost impossibly smooth. It's not a terribly jarring thing, but it was something I noticed just because the rest of the game was so slick. You don't quite get the massive start-of-level vistas that the PS2 games have, but there are moments that still made me "wow" aloud.
Aurally, it's just as strong. All the familiar sounds are here, from the thumping rotors of Clank's copter pack jumps to the sound of bolts being collected to the little whipping sounds when Ratchet double-jumps. David Bergeaud's soundtrack is as plucky and tinged with light sci-fi elements as ever, and it actually delves a little more into darker areas than usual, though I do sort of miss the nuances of Theremin and camp. In all, though, it's exactly the level of audio -- from voice actors to sound effects -- that I've come to expect from the series.
I keep finding myself defaulting to this response when someone asks how Size Matters is, but I can't help it: it's Ratchet, just... portable. I know that doesn't sound terribly enthusiastic, but it's not meant as a slight in any way. This is the same quality experience that you've played on the PS2 for four games now, and perhaps harkens back even more to the first two games than anything else, yet it's still Ratchet. If you love the series, this is an insta-buy. If you hate it for some reason (and I can't honestly think of what that'd be beyond Ratchet still feeling like a bunch of mascot rejects cobbled into one), the game probably won't convert you, but it doesn't change the fact that it is indeed awesome.
So awesome, in fact, that like Daxter or Liberty City Stories or WipEout Pure, it's worth buying the PSP for. It's absolutely a system seller, though obviously you'll want to be familiar with the series before you go dropping some $300 on the system and game. Still, if you haven't yet taken the plunge and you're fond of the Ratchet games, this is one of the easiest recommendations I've ever made. Go buy this game. Now.