February 1st, 2007, 19:01 Posted By: wraggster
One of the most consistent game franchises around would have to be Insomniac's Ratchet & Clank series. Each progressive title has managed to add new elements while maintaining an excellent balance of humor and solid gameplay that define the series. Many fans were a bit disappointed that Ratchet: Deadlocked focused on shooting without platforming and puzzle elements, but I'm happy to say after spending quite a bit of time with a preview build that the series has returned to its roots with the upcoming Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters for the PSP.
Ratchet and his robot buddy are taking a much needed vacation, having saved the universe now on multiple occasions. They meet a cute little girl named Luna who is writing a report on heroes and wants to see them in action. It isn't long before Luna is kidnapped, a legendary race of inventors gets involved, and once more R&C are pulled into a dangerous plot that sends them on a universe spanning adventure that the two of them really should come to expect right now. These guys get sent on universe spanning adventures if they stop by a convenience store for a slushie.
Aside from the PSP controls and slightly lower-quality graphics, the game looks and plays almost exactly like its PS2 siblings. Developer High Impact Games has done a great job of capturing the distinctive R&C feel, which isn't really a surprise considering High Impact was spawned from Insomniac. All of the familiar elements are in place here. Upgradeable weapons and gadgets, exciting mini-games, and novelty levels to mix things up a bit. My favorite so far would have to be the space shooter featuring Giant Clank, blasting his way through swarms of enemies to rescue his fuzzy lombax friend.
New to the series is customizeable armor. As you play through the game you'll come across armor pieces. Once you collect a whole set you not only look amazingly cool, you also get to use a special power. Collect the Wildfire set and your wrench attacks set enemies on fire, for instance. While I only managed to collect pieces from three sets and complete one, there sure were a lot of empty armor set slots waiting to be filled. Can't wait to see what they all do!
While some of the levels in the game tread on familiar ground, I've run across a couple that were quite new and different, including one I won't go into too much detail on that completely blew my mind. Flying chainsaws FTW!
The controls are actually pretty tight for a PSP platformer. I miss the second analog stick for camera control, but the shoulder buttons do the job adequately, and there's always a first-person view you can swap to if you want to look around or do some precision shooting. The small screen keeps pretty close to Ratchet as he fights, leading to being shot at off-screen quite a few times, but with the PSP you really are limited with how far away the camera can be in third-person before you start crossing into isometric territory.
Sadly I didn't get to try out the multiplayer options, but honestly I've always enjoyed the series more for the story and the characters than for online skirmishes.
All in all I am pretty excited about Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters. It's shaping up to be one of those titles I can point to in order to justify my purchase of a PSP in the first place. Like Ready at Dawn's Daxter before it, this game looks to bring one of Sony's best franchises to the PSP in a big way.
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