Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters is the upcoming PSP platformer starring the furry whatzit Ratchet and his robotic pal Clank. We got our first look at the game earlier this year when High Impact Games showed off a very early work-in-progress version of the title and were pleased by what we saw. At a recent press event in Los Angeles, Sony and High Impact showed off a significantly updated version of the game that featured a hefty amount of polish since we last saw it, and we got to try out some of its multiplayer modes. Given how well the game came across the first time we saw it, we have to say we're not that surprised by our updated look, and it's good to see that High Impact is delivering on the game's promising start.
The version on display at the press event let us start a new game from the outset of the portable adventure. As we noted in our first look earlier this year, Ratchet and Clank are on vacation when adventure comes calling in the form of a young girl named Luna, who's looking to write a paper on heroes. The simple request turns into a rescue mission when Luna gets snatched by evil robots, and it then balloons into an even bigger task for the pair when they discover a mysterious new villain.
The single-player levels on display were basically the start of the adventure, and they did a fine job of easing you into the game. The action and platforming felt about right, requiring you to alternate between melee attacks and smart use of your ranged weapons. While the role-playing-game-lite elements of leveling up your weapons are still on tap, the armor system has been changed up some. You'll now find pieces of armor to equip as you go. The armor will come in different sets that, once complete, will yield additional bonuses. There will also be hidden bonuses to discover by mixing and matching your armor.
Besides the Ratchet action, Size Matters will also take some time to shine the spotlight on Clank by featuring solo levels, where the pint-sized powerhouse strikes off on his own. Besides covering familiar territory that finds Clank rolling with a posse of robotic minions, the Clank levels will also have the metallic hero riding vehicles and, in one of the cool new twists, tearing through space in giant form. There are some cool new weapons added to the mix, including the funky sprout-o-matic, which lets you grow local fauna on patches of earth to assist you in reaching new areas. On top of all this, we want to make sure to note that the franchise's signature humor, quickly becoming a rarity in games, is intact on the PSP. The boys are still goofy and bicker during the adventure, which adds to the game's appeal.
In addition to the single-player game, we were able to try out some of the multiplayer offerings, which will support both ad hoc and infrastructure play. Besides the expected deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture-the-flag options, High Impact has put together something new for R&C multiplayer fans: the Iron Lombax Challenge. We were able to try out two of the variations of the new mode, Moon Cow Disease and another which made creative use of the homing mines, which are equal parts straightforward, objective-based action and killing-spree mayhem (if you're so inclined). The Moon Cow Disease challenge is a team-based affair that finds you doing your part to help the galactic fast-food market. Your goal is simple: You must load up two trucks with crates of meat so that the hungry masses can get their grub on. To fill the crates, you'll need to hoover up space cows, which are sprinkled throughout the level by UFO's, with your suck cannon. Once you've got a few in your weapon, you'll have to head over to a meat station and fire the cows into it. For every three cows shot in, you'll be rewarded with a crate that you'll need to haul over to the waiting truck. The team that manages to load up two trucks with crates wins. While this sounds straightforward, High Impact has thrown in some twists to keep things interesting. Besides being able to steal meat crates once they're made, you'll also find two conveniently placed turrets that will let you wreck all kinds of havoc. On top of that, you'll always have the option to concentrate on ganking your opponents.
The second challenge finds you attempting to destroy your opponent's base by using homing mines. These effective weapons have one significant catch: They're attracted to beacons that you must place in your opponent's backyard. This gets increasingly tricky, as the mines are enthusiastic about swarming to the beacon, so you'll have to be careful not to get exploded on your way to plant the beacon. Besides offering a crazier pace than the Moon Cow Challenge, the challenge makes for some amusing situations, as you find yourself tearing along to your opponent's base with a swarm of mines behind you, hoping no one slows you down.
Control in the game continues to be refined to get as much mileage out of the PSP's available buttons as possible. Though the portable system is short on buttons and an analog stick, High Impact is making smart use of what it has to work with. From what we played, the setup is working well so far, even in multiplayer, so we're hopeful the final game will handle well.
The visuals and audio in the game are shaping up nicely and build on the impressive first impression the game made on us earlier in the year. The graphics are more polished than the last time we saw the game, adding more effects and detail without sacrificing the impressively smooth frame rate. In addition to maintaining the quality of the console games, High Impact is having some fun with designing levels and is turning out some cool additions to the formula. So far we've seen a funky dream level with psychedelic graphics and a superslick giant-Clank shooting level that throws buckets of particles around onscreen. The only rough spot we've seen so far has been the game's camera, which got unpleasantly funky on us in a few spots, but that's to be expected in a work-in-progress game.
Based on what we've seen so far, Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters should be a very satisfying portable debut for the platforming stars, as well as a snazzy debut for High Impact if it keeps going in the direction we've seen. The game looks great and offers rock-solid gameplay that lives up to the standards of the PS2 titles while maintaining some unique qualities that build on the console games. Fans of the series, as well as PSP owners craving some good original content, will most definitely want to keep an eye out for Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters when it ships early next year.