As one of the most marketed games ever released for the PSP, Ratchet and Clank (R&C) Size Matters launched to an audience with high expectations and does not disappoint. This rendition of R&C is not a port from one of the previous PS2 titles but was developed by High Impact Games from the ground up specifically for the PSP. Size Matters sports online multiplayer action, crisp graphics, awesome sound, no lag time during intense action, and surprisingly low loading times. A game this big on the tiny PSP shows that, unlike its namesake will have you believe; Size Doesn't Really Seem to Matter. Take that Freud!
Gamers were first introduced to Ratchet (an alien known as a Lombax) and Clank (Ratchet's multi-functional robot side-kick) on the PS2 with four titles (Ratchet and Clank, Going Commando, Up Your Arsenal & Deadlocked). The franchise became known for their wise-cracking characters and off-the-wall imagination you'd expect from an acid-tripping crowd-floating hippy. Size Matters is the first R&C game I've had the opportunity to play and consequently I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I'd seen the television advertisements (which had people using the various inventive weapons found in the game with hilarious consequences) and seen the print adverts but really didn't get what the whole thing was about. Size Matters takes up where the previous games left off with Ratchet and Clank taking a vacation after their PS2 adventures. While on the beach they are interrupted by a little girl named Luna who is a little overcommitted to writing a report about her hero who just happens to be Ratchet. Ratchet and Clank agree to fight a few robots so that she can get some good photos for her report. Luna ends up getting herself kidnapped which is when the non-stop shooting and racing adventure begins all the way from Pokitaru to Quodrona. No, really!
The R&C franchise has been defined by its off-the-wall creativity and whacky weapons. Size Matters carries on the same tradition and as a first time player I was surprised to see such a diverse spread of enemies and firearms. As you make your way through the game defeating enemies, you collect bolts which can be used to buy upgraded weapons and ammunition at various kiosks located conveniently throughout the game. During your adventures you acquire new armor that you can switch at will depending on what enemies you're up against. I'm far too neurotic to play around with different armor combinations; I'd be so convinced that any change I made would actually put me at a disadvantage so it's safe to say this part of the gameplay is a definite plus for the interested gamer but not a big deal for gamers like myself.
During my first hour of gameplay I admittedly found R&C kind of repetitive and boring. I was reminded of the old Crash Bandicoot games as I continually jumped over this, shot at that, and if I got hit too many times just started from my previous load point to try it all over again. The wackiness in the game took a little getting used to as well because there's a fine line between being original and adding filler just for the sake of it (and just when you think you're used to the game they put you in this weird dream sequence... definitely watch for that one). As I pushed on through the game and made it to the next world I found there was thankfully far more to the game than I had originally perceived. As it turns out, what R&C does right is offer various different types of gameplay. From the generic jump and shoot sequences you are also treated to battles in vehicles, races on a rocketboard, and my favorite sequence of flying through space as a gigantic Clank. Variety is definitely the spice of life and being given the freedom within the game to attempt various challenges to gain extra armor and weapons was a lot of fun. The quality of the game development was most noticeable during the short loading times and absolute lack of lag as enemy after enemy was hurled into the chaos. The loading takes place with a brilliant screen of R&C's ship flying through space to whichever planet you're currently on (definitely much better than the old school loading screens who, while telling me how much loading is left, are always boring to watch). The multiplayer offers a wide variety of games from the must-have Deathmatch modes to others where you work in a team to complete various tasks before the opposing team. There are 7 different online game modes you can play which really are quite fun and extend the replay factor of R&C.
The graphics in this game are top notch and with the impressive surface rendering it's like being in control of your own Pixar movie. Right from the R&C introduction screen it's easy to see the brilliant colors, detail, and attention to shading pushing the visual level of the PSP even higher. The cinematic sequences showcase the quality of story development that I will, in the future, hold all other games against. The clarity of the textured surfaces such as Clank's metallic body, the water, and the sky are on a higher level than anything I've previously seen on the PSP. There are minor ghosting effects but to be fair, with the amount of action and spinning one way and the next in this game, it could have easily been a lot worse. The sound effects and voice work are really very well done in both sound quality and lip synching. The music however, does get repetitive from one stage to another and got annoying pretty quickly; I'm still waiting for a game that will let me play a selection of mp3's off of my memory stick during the game. I can't think of anything better than a little Barry Manilow while playing R&C... did I say Barry Manilow? I totally meant Slayer...yes...Slayer.
The controls for R&C are laid out the best they could've been for the PSP, which for my awkwardly large hands isn't perfect but could be worse. Using the analog stick can be tough from time to time as you constantly move in circles do deal with barrage after barrage of enemies. Strafing is intelligently designed to be used with the D-pad which is the way it always should be (some games want you to hold down the L button and move side to side). The L and R buttons are used to re-arrange the camera which can be a bit tricky amidst all of the action but once again is the best way to do it on the PSP. Ratchet has the ability to jump, summersault, and if you hold the X button Clank can pop out a propeller for those tight spaces where you need an extra boost. The Square button is used for Ratchet's trusty axe which I find came in most useful with non-projectile hurling enemies. And the Circle button brings out whichever wacky weapon or gadget you currently have equipped. Weapons in this game include the Lacerator (hot plasma gun), Acid Bomb Glove (a personal favorite), Concussion Gun (fun for midget enemies), Agents of Doom (little robots that attack on your behalf), Scorcher (flame thrower), Suck Cannon (what better ammunition then sucking in enemies and debris and firing it back out?), Bee Mine Glove (bee hive grenades), Sniper Mine (long distance crossbow), Shock Rocket (electrical violence is always fun), Mootator (turn your enemies into docile bovines... weird), Static Barrier (a force field), Laser Tracer (laser cannons are cool), and the RYNO (a missile launcher used in the Challenge Mode). The controls aren't hard to learn or remember but be a little patient during the first part of the game because your first monster killing session is also a tutorial. I would hit certain points during the first stage trying to figure out what I was supposed to do and having no idea. If this happens to you, just walk around until the voiceover in the game gets initiated and tells you what to do next.
As a PSP owner you owe it to yourself to pick up R&C Size Matters. It's a quality game and sets a new standard for what we as gamers should expect in the future for our system. It may not be as revolutionary as Donkey Kong Country was for the SNES (which completely redefined what people thought supposedly outdated hardware was capable of), but this game is a great starting point to prove the nay-sayers of the PSP wrong.