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LONG BLOG

Traveller In Playtime – Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters

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Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters is a third-person shooter with platforming elements developed by High Impact Games and published by Sony for the PSP in 2007 and PS2 in 2008. Sometime after or inbetween the PS2 games, the titular duo is trying to take a vacation, but they get asked by a little girl named Luna to help her with a school assignment. But the partnership is not to last as Luna gets kidnapped by the mystical Technomites, so Ratchet & Clank set off to save her. Captain Qwark is also there for some reason.

A Tiny Tale Not Worth Telling

Being a portable side game with 10 levels to its name (if you're kind about what counts as a level), it should come as no surprise that there really isn't much of a narrative here. With so few levels, there seemingly wasn't any room to explore the series theme of overabundant space capitalism, nor give our heroes anything meaningful to do besides save the galaxy from a lame threat.

There is just the main plot, which admittedly has an interesting idea behind it, but the scale of the narrative just feels so small. Which is sort of the joke/point, but that still doesn't make it satisfying to experience. You wonder what the Technomites are about, find out, deal with them quickly and then the game is over. It's the absolute minimum needed for a story in the series, and sorely lacking the memorable side characters the series is known for.

And I have to talk about what they did to poor Qwark. He is characterized as an idiotic buffoon in the rest of the series, but here it's taken to another level. He has a side plot about trying to find his parents (which has a terrible payoff) and the way he is written makes him sound like a five-year-old child with separation anxiety. It's especially jarring coming after 3, where he is borderline competent. I can only imagine that they where wracking their brains trying to stick Qwark into the plot, no matter how forced it had to be.

Analog Sticks Matter, Game Design More So

Converting a PS2 shooter into a PSP shooter is no small feat and I am impressed with the resulting portable R&C experience, but it is clearly inferior. With no second analog stick, the shoulder buttons are used to control the camera, leaving the d-pad for strafing (or the stick, should you prefer). The end result works, but is quite janky (not helped by the iffy implentation of the stretch jump).

But after playing through the game again I realized that the controls aren't the problem. What is the problem is the weapon selection and the terrible balancing. The guns are simply too weak or have too little ammo for the enemies you're up against. Come endgame, most guns are frankly useless due to enemies having too much health or being able to fly. I actually felt the need to grind in order to beat the final boss without resorting to the patchwork solution of buying pricey remote ammo with the PDA, which also requires grinding, should you run out of money.

Not to mention that enemies deal absurd amounts of damage. There is a new armour system in place to try and mitigate this, but it's kinda annoying in its implementation. Instead of having distinct armour sets, each set has been split into 4 pieces and spread across the game. You can mix and match the pieces and you get a set bonus for a complete set, which includes extra defense and a special ability.

But the special abilities are nowhere near as good as the extra defense. So it's best to simply chase the strongest combo, which often involves using the secret combinations that use multiple sets together. There is no way to know what sets and which parts of said sets combine, so the only way to find the secret combos is to run the permutations, of which there are very many. Or you could just look it up and enjoy the extra defense until the game decides it's not good enough anymore.

It's A Small Galaxy After All

As previously mentioned, there are only 10 levels in the game, 9 if you don't feel like meeting the game halfway. There are some interesting level ideas present, but most are pretty standard for the series. The levels are short, with no secondary paths to make exploration more interesting, which would make the game a breeze if it didn't get so tedious later on. Filling that gap is a bunch of minigames of questionable quality.

Ratchet gets a new Hoverboard racing minigame, which removes the tricks from R&C1 racing minigame in favour of a boost system that lets you hover vertically over and under hazards. It's interesting, but not as fun or as tightly designed as it should be. In fact, it's pretty much a slog.

But not as much as much of a slog as the Clank arena. Instead of enjoying the standard combat system in an arena setting to grind for bolts and exp, you instead have to use a variety of lackluster vehicles as Clank to do combat. It's incredible just how little damage you do per attack in these vehicles. There's also the sport minigame Gadgebot Toss and a Lemmings clone to eat up your time, none of which are any fun. I suppose Clank's shmup minigame is decent at least. Man, there are a lot of minigames in Size Matters.

Lastly, I wanna talk about some glaringly obvious scripting and design errors in the game. Stuff like how you can get back a gun you haven't bought yet, how enemy AI in one level is broken if you go backwards, how one Skill Point can only be attempted once per playthrough and how you can cheat in the hoverboard race due to how the respawn location is determined. The fact that all of these obvious errors made it in tells me that the game needed another few months in the oven.

Final Judgement

MEH

- Welcome to my world, Enjoy your stay, But always remember, There is no return.


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About Kerrik52one of us since 3:12 AM on 02.28.2016

Greetings, one and all. I'm known as Kerrik52 around these parts and I'm Swedish dude with a bachelor's degree in computer science.

I play a lot of games, even the bad ones if they have something interesting to offer. I then write about them on this site for you all to read. I've written about a ton of stuff, but nowadays I mostly write reviews of games with the odd disscussion blog making its way out of my brain every month. My pride and joy is my From Software retrospective, which I highly recommend as a substitute to actually struggling through their first-person games on your own.

When it come to games, I'm mostly an action, platformer, horror, Immersive Sim and JRPG fanatic, but I try to keep my gaming diet varied from time to time. Here are some games/series I love:

Souls Games
God Hand
Resident Evil 4
Tales of
Ratchet & Clank
Devil May Cry
Legacy of Kain
Spyro the Dragon
Shin Megami Tensei
Anything by Falcom
Yakuza

I have a very low standard for movies, but I still have some distinct favorites. These include:

Coraline
Tintin
The Secret Life of Walter Witty
Pooh's Grand Adventure

Anime is a bite of a side-gig for me, but I'm a proud member of the Symphogear Choir.


Go ahead and share a piece of your world with me and I'll pay back in kind. Don't be deterred if I answer you with a wall of text though. I just can't help it sometimes.