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Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters Review Rewind


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On 10/17/2011 at 12:00 PM by Chessa DiMola

A sidequest that implements some good gameplay concepts but has its share of problems.
RECOMMENDATION:

For Ratchet & Clank fans and anyone looking for a fun PSP game.

It was clear pretty early on that Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters was not created by the usual developers, Insomniac Games. When I touched my first exploding box, and heard a foreign countdown sound, rather than the one I was familiar with, I knew something was different. After learning that Size Matters was developed by High Impact Games, some of the tweaks and deviations from the norm made a bit more sense. It's like the Minish Cap of Ratchet & Clank; it fits in pretty well with the rest of the series, but definitely has its own character and set of drawbacks.

Size Matters begins with Ratchet and Clank attempting to get some much needed R&R while on vacation on Pokitaru. As the duo try to catch some sun, Ratchet meets a young girl named Luna, who explains that she is writing a report on heroes for school. After going through the basic introductory gameplay by helping Luna get a picture of robots, Luna is kidnapped and the duo set out to rescue her. Long story short, Ratchet and Clank find a mysterious object, Luna winds up not being a cute innocent little school girl, Ratchet gets kidnapped, and his DNA is stolen in order to create the ultimate warrior.

For the most part, Size Matters is your typical Ratchet & Clank experience; it's just a lot shorter. Being the first portable title in the series to release, I was impressed with the effort to include as many gameplay elements featured in the home console titles as they could. It has separate Ratchet and Clank gameplay, arena battles, giant Clank gameplay, rail grinding, weapon and health leveling up, and a pretty solid assortment of new weaponry.

While the munitions in Size Matters aren't particularly mind blowing, the assortment itself feels very balanced. In other Ratchet & Clank titles I often felt as though there was too much focus placed on one type of weaponry, or that there was an overall lack of good (or reasonably attainable) weaponry. In Size Matters, the weapons are found or released at a steady rate, they are reasonably priced, and the selection is conducive to disposing of enemies in numerous ways.

When playing other titles in the series, I often found myself running into open areas full of enemies, and attacking anything and everything at once. While I loved the frantic, fast-paced combat featured in most other Ratchet & Clank titles, I enjoyed the alternate approach to action in Size Matters.

Instead of constantly running and gunning through waves of enemies, Size Matters often forces players to take on a situation using strategy, rather than brute force. One of my favorite aspects about Size Matters was the increase in cover given to the player. Since many of the enemies I encountered could take out a good chunk of my life in one or two hits, I was forced to hide behind cover in order to avoid dying quickly. Combine this with an overall decrease in the number of ammo pickups available, and I was finally forced to use my weaponry in a very deliberate manner. I had acid grenades and bots of doom for lots of big enemies, a sniper for far away, and a shotgun-like weapon for battling droves of smaller enemies. While there weren't nearly as many weapons in Size Matters, the quality of the ones present more than made up for the limited selection.

In addition to a slightly different combat system, there are other staples of the series that are just a bit different in Size Matters. For instance, armor is found and/or won in pieces, rather than being purchased as a whole. Unlike the typical armor in Ratchet & Clank games, each piece in Size Matters is part of a set. As players earn pieces of armor, they can equip sections from a better series, which will provide better defense, but when they equip every piece from a series, the armor will provide a power-up of some sort. For example, one of the first sets players will acquire will allow them to set their enemies on fire when they attack. Unfortunately, some of these armor pieces can only be attained by completing challenges, like the racing mini-games. The races in Size Matters may not be as difficult and unforgiving as those in Going Commando, but they are still unfortunately required to progress at times in the storyline.

Moving on, Size Matters introduces a unique puzzle that focus on flowers and is seen many times throughout the game. Like every Ratchet & Clank game before it, the puzzles are usually centered on the functionality of a particular item. In Size Matters that item is the Spout-O-Matic, and with it, Ratchet can utilize the behavior of certain plant seeds to his advantage. At first, players will only encounter one seed at a time, which they will have to water, guide to a plot of soil, and water again in order to grow. Once full size, each seed type will blossom into a plant with special abilities. Some throw Ratchet long distances, others act as bombs; some make ladders, and some sprout flowers that Ratchet can jump on. As time goes on, players often encounter more than one type of seed in an area, and they will have to use them in the right order and place them in the proper locations to get where they need to go. Though fun and original, the puzzles aren't exactly challenging.

One of the last small tweaks finally allows me to talk about the concept from which the game receives its name: changing size. The most common instance when players will change size is when Ratchet needs to unlock a door. Rather than completing a puzzle using an item like in other Ratchet & Clank games, players will shrink down until they're small enough to enter the lock itself. In here, they will complete a rail grinding challenge, during which they must avoid obstacles and hit flags that will turn off the electricity to the lock. Since I was never much of a fan of the traditional door opening puzzles, I was thrilled that Size Matters took something out of the experience I disliked and replaced it with something I loved.

Of course the game wouldn't be called Size Matters just for its door opening puzzle. Naturally, size is experimented with a lot, as players get to control a giant Clank, go inside a corrupted Clank as a tiny Ratchet, and explore tiny cities. Since some of the size altering sections takes one main character out of the equation, players will be able to experience a wide variety of gameplay.

Now, there may have been a lot that I liked about Size Matters, but there was a pretty even amount that I disliked. More important than anything else were the stiff controls, which in periods of intense battling (like bosses), often resulted in frustrating moments. I noticed that every so often, when I would switch weapons or purchase ammo with a special device, certain controls, like jumping, wouldn't work for a second afterward. One battle in particular had me dodging the boss' attacks, attacks from two other enemies on the platform, and trying to collect ammo at the same time. As I ran out of ammo for one weapon, I would switch to another in the meantime, and each time I switched weapons my jump control would freeze. Thanks to this, getting killed was incredibly easy. So for each attempt, I was stuck in a situation where the boss was nearly dead, all the enemies were attacking more aggressively, I couldn't control my character and in a state of frustration wound up frantically screaming “jump” at my PSP

There were also many moments of inconsistency concerning multiple facets of the game. Some sections were bright, vibrant, and intriguing (Ratchet's dream level is a great example) whereas others were very generic and didn't live up to the quality of their predecessors. Checkpoints were scattered at an odd rate, with some being fairly close to one another, others being far apart, and some that checkpointed me in one spot but restarted me in another. One boss battle in particular consisted of two boring initial chase sequences totaling between two and three minutes. The first time I actually arrived at the boss platform, she instantly killed me and I had to complete the whole sequence each time I attempted the battle. Even the gameplay was uneven times, filled with sections of strategic and dynamic combat followed by moments of mediocrity.

My biggest complaint, hands down, is the camera. It's positioned far too close to Ratchet which made it very difficult to get a clear view of my surroundings in addition to making combat an awkward and frustrating task at times. Early on, while climbing a magnetic rail, the game informs players that if they need to see better, they should just go into first person mode. If it was recognized that seeing properly in the game was an issue, it should have been rectified, rather than forcing players to deal with it. Without any way to zoom the camera out, this frustration often casts a shadow on sections that would have otherwise been nothing but enjoyable.

Considering the four titles before Size Matters didn't suffer from the majority of problems I mentioned, it seems pretty obvious that they're a product of being developed by a different studio. Most gamers at this point have seen what happens when you take a prominent series and allow someone other than the original developers to try and make a game that is unique, but also fits in the series. In all, I'd say High Impact did a pretty good job at doing just that, especially within the constraints of a portable platform. While Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters definitely has its share of issues, there's a lot of really great and unique elements players won't be able to find in any of the mainline titles. That being said, it's definitely a must-play title for all Ratchet & Clank fans.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


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Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

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