Title: Ratchet and Clank Size Matters
Developer: High Impact Games, Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Type: PSP
Download: 762 MB
NA Availability: Digital Download
EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes
The Ratchet and Clank series is something that I’ve always gotten nostalgic about, because of how much it resembles base gameplay from the 3D Platformer “Golden Era” of the PS1 and Nintendo 64 days. Whenever I play one of the games, I’ve got that Crash Bandicoot and Spyro feel with how you play.
There’s a lot of buzz going around for the series because it is headed to the big screen in its own movie. Aside from this, a game version of the movie, which is actually a reimagining of the first game of the series, has recently come to and gotten stellar feedback on the PlayStation 4.
Taking a look back, the PS Vita has had a trilogy for the series as well as a port or two of some newer games that really didn’t perform well. Looking past the alleged Vita version of Into the Nexus, we look even further back through history to give handhelds more to play of this series. Coming from the PSP era and my personal introduction to the series, here is a retro review of PSP title, Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters!
Size Matters is the final game of the “Original Series” for the franchise, before the “Future Series” began with Tools of Destruction, so this takes place sometime after the events of Deadlocked. The duo are enjoying a vacation on the beach of a tropical planet when a young girl named Luna approaches them. Wanting them to show off their skills for a school project, the two are pulled into a fight with strange robots and go after them, whom have kidnapped Luna.
The journey of the game is about a civilization and myth called the “technomites”, which are supposedly a race that created all of the technology in the universe. As the journey continues and they pursue after Luna, they are involved in a plot that involves the two of them that’s much more than a simple rescue mission.
I would rate the story as enjoyable. It’s not as galactic or universal as the previous games in the series, but with the way it comes through the final act, it does make sense and its enjoyable, through and through.
Size Matters is a 3D action-platformer with puzzle elements thrown into the mix. As you explore each area, you will be platforming as well as fighting off enemies with an array of gadets and weapons. There are some other elements as well in mini-games, like board-racing and arena vehicle combat.
Progression goes in the form of planets/worlds for you to explore. The story drives this, planting you on a planet to explore to spawn the next story event. You go through, see story events, and then the next planet opens. However, you can freely go back to most of the 10 available worlds later on.
As you explore each world, you will be platforming around, until you get to the end. Reaching the end is a matter of platforming, fighting enemies in your way that have doors locked, participating in mini-games to get items or advance the story, and using items and the environment to solve puzzles to open new areas, like unlocking doors or growing plants that can throw you to an unreachable ledge.
Weapons are your biggest assets in the game. You can find and buy several different weapons that essentially function as fire-arms, and can even be used in third or first-person fashions. However, you start with only one. Each world that opens up will open up new weapons and items to you in the vendors that are placed around the game. Typically, one new weapon will open up to purchase in each world with bolts you gain from fighting off enemies and destroying environment objects. These weapons are also placed in a strategic way that said weapon is very effective against that planet’s native enemies, throwing out an objective of building up enough bolts by the time you get to the end, so things can get a little easier for you.
Bolts are also used to buy ammunition. Every weapon you find, savor the non-combat weapons, has limited ammunition. The only way to refill ammo is by finding ammo crates around levels or finding a vendor and paying to refill your ammo.
The final customization type of item you can find is armor. Armor pieces will either be given to you or found as you play through the game and armor sets cause a lot of different effects. The Wildfire Armor, for example, will allow your wrench to be set ablaze, catching every enemy you hit on fire to do more damage. However, these effects require a full set of armor, and not mixed and matched from several.
Actual combat is a mix of melee fighting and shooting. You have a giant wrench that you can whack enemies with for close-range combat, and your other weapons are generally all for long-range combat. Each weapon differs, from a sniping laser rifle that shoots exploding mines to a gun that shoots a ball of acid that sticks to the ground, continually damaging all enemies in the vicinity. Some work better on some enemies but not others. Many bosses, however, require the use of specific weapons to be defeated.
Weapons can also be upgraded. Once you use a weapon for so long, it upgrades into the next tier of 4 tiers. Each upgrade makes it stronger in a variety of ways. Some will just do more damage, while others will have more concentrated blasts or a longer range. Ratchet can upgrade, too, gaining more maximum health after defeating so many enemies. Similar to an RPG leveling system without actual levels.
Past the normal progressions, you have mini-games. These all consist of different genres. The game has a game where you shrink and go inside locks to open doors, having you skid down rails. Some other mini-games, having you racing on hoverboards and flying a ship-sized Clank through space. These all have optional missions you can also do to collect Skill Points, but only the first of each are required for various plot reasons.
This continues on throughout the 10 different worlds you go through. Across the entire game, your first run may take you as long as 7 hours, which is debatable. This is about the same length as the previous game, Deadlocked, but a good 4-5 hours shorter than games of the main series. For the first attempt at a handheld Ratchet and Clank game and for the current $9.99 price tag, it’s got a good amount of content to it. Just don’t expect it to be a 12-hour journey.
Controlling the game is pretty easy. To get it out of the way, this game is compatible with the PlayStation TV and the usual PSP treatment with controls is the same here. The L and R trigger controls can be used with both sets of triggers on PS3 and PS4 controllers.
Moving Ratchet (or Clank) around is done with either the D-Pad or the Left Analog Stick. Camera controls are set for the L and R triggers, which can easily be redirected to the Right Analog Stick for a very comfortable console-like feel. L will rotate the camera left and R will rotate it to the right.
The face buttons are pretty easy to figure out, though they are explained to you. X is used to jump, double-jump, and use the helicopter-like glide. Triangle is used to switch between your grapple weapon and the last special weapon you used. You can also hold down Triangle to open a wheel to manually select another special weapon. Circle fires your special weapon and Square attacks with the wrench.
There is one thing I have a problem with here, and that is the camera. Only moving horizontally isn’t all that much of a problem, but it gets hung up on walls, enemies, and other objects with great ease, making maneuvering around crowded rooms very difficult to do, especially while fighting at the same time.
Visually, the game’s story scenes are right on par with the PS2 games of the series. The gameplay engine’s graphics are just a little less so. Still, for a PSP title, it has a lot of detail and looks pretty nice. Even stretched out on the PlayStation TV, it still looks good.
There are two things that I have issues with here. First of all is the most minor. At some random times, part of the audio would cut out. You can be fighting a boss, and the sound effects of your weapons will mute, but nothing else will, only to come back a minute later.
The other is the more crucial issue. When the game tries to auto-save or launch a scene, it struggles. Sometimes, it will freeze for a moment or two before launching them. The problem is that it’s not always successful in launching them. One boss fight wouldn’t launch at all. It tried to launch and then it just didn’t, requiring me to restart the game. A few other times, it struggled so much that the game crashed and closed on me.
Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters was the first success in retaining the console’s gameplay on a handheld. While the game does have an annoying camera and some technical glitches, it’s not a bad buy for the current price of $9.99. At its heart, it is a classic Ratchet and Clank experience, through and through.