Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters «

When I reviewed the PSP version of Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters, I had plenty of complaints. The game, while solid enough, was so rife with technical problems that it proved a serious disappointment to this Ratchet fan. So when I got the opportunity to review the PS2 version, I was excited. I figured the reintroduction of the second analog stick would make the persistent camera problems go away and fix the inconsistent control issues. I figured that would smooth out the difficulty, making it easier to take on the hordes of enemies that swarm near the end of the game, and harder to suffer cheap death that comes from the occasionally poor level design. I figured the move to the PS2 would, at the very least, allow for a bit more detail in the bland levels.
I could not have been more wrong. Compared to the PSP version, this is a step down — that’s disappointing enough. But compared to other PS2 Ratchet games, it’s a sharp kick in the nuts.

[Click the image above to check out all Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters screens.]

The addition of the second analog stick, which should allow for more precise controls by handling camera and aiming, actually makes things worse. Just as you’re getting used to relying on the right stick, you’ll run into a situation where it just doesn’t work. To clarify: You wiggle the stick and nothing happens. This problem crops up at exactly the worst times, like when you’re being backed into a corner by an advancing troop of enemies who you keep missing thanks to the imprecise aiming. You can end up wedged into a corner with a spectacular view of the top of Ratchet’s head, enemies happily pummeling you into oblivion, and no way to do anything about it.

This might not be quite so obnoxious if the camera weren’t as hyperactive as it is, but it seems to delight in showing you things you have no interest in looking at, like the ground, a blank wall, or a cheap and untimely death. And once again, the addition of a second analog stick seems to hurt more than help.

That’s not to say Size Matters is a complete disaster. This is a Ratchet game, after all, and it retains many of the elements that make the series successful: namely, the vast array of upgradeable weapons, the wacky gadgets, and the varied gameplay. The ability to upgrade all your weapons (culminating in a final, superpowered version of each) is as fiercely addictive as ever, and the pursuit of titanium bolts and skill points adds a level of challenge for completists.

[Click the image above to check out all Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters screens.]

But even these, the high points of the series, cannot be praised unreservedly here. The weapons, for example, feel woefully underpowered even when maxed out; the gadgets aren’t terribly compelling; and the minigame-style diversions are the worst of the series. (Most offensive are the hoverboard races. They were obnoxious enough on the PSP, but here they’ve morphed into evil incarnate, thanks to comically unresponsive controls, truly horrendous level design, and incomprehensible collision detection.)

And the visuals are even more disappointing. Previous PS2 Ratchets have shown off some of the most impressive technology on the system, but with Size Matters, the designers appear to have done nothing more than transfer the bland, oversimple architecture of the PSP version directly. Compared to, say, Up Your Arsenal, the game looks laughably bad.

So the big screen is not kind to Size Matters; flawed as it is, the PSP version is easily the better choice. It may not live up to the standards of the rest of the series, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to like.


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