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PSP Fanboy review: Ratchet & Clank


My first draft of this review featured a lengthy introduction ... and then I deleted it all so I could get to the point: you must buy this game. Whether or not you've played a Ratchet game before, you'll find that the game's fantastic visuals, excellent presentation, and downright fun gameplay make it a must-have for any PSP owner. While the game certainly has some flaws, the overall experience of the game is above and beyond most PSP games. Not since Daxter has a game on Sony's handheld exhibited such polish.



Your adventure begins after Deadlocked, Ratchet's last PS2 outing. While on vacation, you run into a little girl named Luna, a self-proclaimed fan that wants to see more of your hero-ish qualities. From the very opening moments, you'll see that the developers have really polished the game. The cutscenes feature fantastic animation, great voice acting, and a wonderful personality. The game starts on a great note, becoming instantly likable, even for those that may be completely unfamiliar with these characters.

While the game may be exceedingly charming, that won't make up for lackluster gameplay. Thankfully, High Impact delivers in spades. The game has a great sense of progression, teaching you the various elements of the game in a natural and engaging way. The first few levels of the game will always introduce new elements, keeping the game constantly feeling fresh. Your character will move on from simple melee attacks, to collecting weapons, armor, and more.



The game's controls are fantastic, even if they do have a bit of a learning curve to them. For the most part, the game's controls are quite intuitive. Jumping feels spot-on, as does using your melee attacks. Being able to quickly switch weapons via the Triangle button is also a much appreciated feature. There are two issues that players will have to deal with, however. While movement is handled by the analog stick, strafing is done using the D-Pad. Players will discover that victory will come from efficient use of both the analog nub and D-Pad, and careful switching between the two. While it may seem unnatural at first, it should become second nature after a while. Once you adapt to the controls, you'll see that it works far better than, say, the likes of Grand Theft Auto. The second issue for players may come from the camera system: you may feel like enemies are attacking from behind, or that the camera simply isn't where you want it to be. However, you'll also learn that you'll want to use the shoulder buttons and strafe at the same time: doing so allows you to effectively circle strafe around enemies. It takes some dexterity, but due to the great progression of the game, you'll find that this ability won't be too necessary until you've already mastered the controls.



Once you're feeling comfortable with the game, you'll be able to appreciate the game's incredible gameplay variety. The previous entries in the Ratchet series have been known for their incredible weapons, and Size Matters is no different. While you start with a generic blaster at first, eventually you'll acquire some fantastic weapons, including an explosive acid grenade launcher, a bee hive thrower, and a Ratchet staple: a gun that transforms enemies into harmless animals. These weapons all have unique attributes, and masterful players will find themselves switching frequently between all of them. Due to a great level-up system, players will never find a weapon to become obsolete. For example, your standard blaster will eventually evolve into an even more powerful weapon over time. By purchasing other power-ups, it can become one of the most useful weapons in the game, allowing you to dual wield rapid-fire pistols that unleash a devastating amount of damage. Your character evolves as well, through a simple level-up system that increases the amount of damage you can sustain, and an interesting armor system that lets you mix and match various pieces of armor for special abilities. Because level-ups occur so quickly in the game, the player will always feel motivated to try something new. By the game's end, you'll have amassed a huge assortment of goodies and power-ups that will make you feel like you're nothing short of a god. Size Matters delivers a truly satisfying experience that drives the player to keep on going.



While the main quest is satisfying and varied in and of itself, Size Matters goes above and beyond by delivering even more gameplay variety. You'll play a small segment of the game as Clank, Ratchet's lovable robot companion. These segments can include squad-based gameplay, or go into the realm of the completely unexpected. For example, you'll end up in a Battlebots-inspired arena where you'll have to destroy opposing robots, each equipped with unique powers. Or, you'll be flying in space as Giant Clank in one of PSP's most impressive sequences. These Star Fox-esque space segments are absolutely mind-numbing: the amount of particles and enemies that appear on screen is nothing short of breath-taking. While these are few in number, they're almost worth the price of admission alone. Also hidden in the game are a series of Lemmings-inspired puzzles that are a refreshing change of pace from the rest of the game.

However, not all the extras are so entertaining. Special note has to go to the hoverboard racing segment, which is easily one of the worst gameplay experiences I have ever endured. Thankfully, it's only required twice in the game. But, players that want to unlock all the armor will have to take the pain of a poorly constructed racing game that features some truly atrocious controls.


No!!!

Except the hoverboard racing, the single player game is an absolute blast to play through. However, many may find that the game is a bit too short for their tastes: about 5-10 hours of play, depending on your skill level. But, with an expansive list of collectibles and secrets, players can easily extend that time. Like a classic RPG, the game even features a New Game + of sorts, allowing you to keep all your power-ups in a second playthrough. It's certainly a worthwhile experience.

But for those that tire of the single player campaign, High Impact has delivered a refreshing surprise: an Ad-Hoc and Infrastructure-enabled multiplayer mode. For a detailed explanation of multiplayer, please read my earlier hands-on preview. While the multiplayer mode certainly won't win any awards, it's still a rather engaging experience that adds a great deal of value to this already impressive game.



Conclusion
Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters
is yet another "killer app" for the system. It's not a port, nor a rehashed game: it's truly fully-featured, and it works splendidly on the go. The graphics are absolutely stellar, especially in the later areas of the game, where dozens of enemies will fill the screen with no effect on the framerate. The gameplay is incredibly satisfying, covering a wide variety of play styles. And, if that wasn't enough, there's also an Infrastructure multiplayer mode, so you can play against your friends worldwide. (And local Ad-Hoc mode too!)

Have no doubt: Size Matters lives up to the incredible amount of hype it's been receiving. Anyone that has ever proclaimed themselves a PSP fan should be required, by law, to get this game. It's just that good.

PSP Fanboy Score: 9.0

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