Ratchet and Clank are a couple of the many mascot characters who have shown up in the PlayStation 2 era. When Sony lost Crash Bandicoot as their mascot after their deal expired with Vivendi, they compensated — and then some — with three distinct "mascot platformers" in a row. Sly Cooper's mix of stealth elements as a master cat burglar, Jak and Daxter's silly exploration style (which veered off into gunplay action with Jak II), and, of course, Ratchet & Clank. The Lombax and his little robotic sidekick have definitely had their adventures, what with stopping an increasingly hilarious array of villains from completing various galaxy-threatening evil schemes. The cast of characters has built up over several games and built up an excellent reputation among PlayStation fans as one of the consistently best series on the PS2 — a reputation Insomniac Games happily carried along to the PlayStation 3 with Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction.
Sony, however, could not leave well enough alone. Daxter had been a great hit for the PSP, so why not try Ratchet & Clank on that console? Indeed, Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters proved to be an excellent PSP offering, in spite of a few hiccups. Unfortunately, it then suffered the indignity experienced by Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, another major PSP hit, by getting ported to the PlayStation 2. Suddenly, every minor problem with the PSP iteration was blown up on your television screen, turning an excellent game into an utter train wreck.
Since the PSP iteration did nothing new compared to other Ratchet games on the PS2, the story line and gameplay for Size Matters are very much at home in this PS2 port. You step on a planet. You're told where to go. There are robots and monsters that appear to be made of bolts. You have a decent wrench with which to fight your enemies, although you're encouraged to use the variety of collectible weapons to blow up, suck up, sheepify, and generally get rid of anything that gets in your way. Gadgets introduce puzzles of varying complexity (typically including at least one lock-picking puzzle), but otherwise, the game is all about running through stages and destroying things. Maniacal laughter is optional, but recommended.
Unfortunately, Size Matters fails to really encourage maniacal laughter. The troubles begin with its plot. A little girl walks up to Ratchet, who is on a very well-deserved vacation after his previous adventures. She's a fan, but she's not after an autograph. She'd rather get photos of him fighting, so he beats up a random bunch of carnivorous robots. Yes, this is about normal for Ratchet. That girl then gets kidnapped by more malicious robots, dropping an artifact of the mysterious Technomites, and washed-out superhero-turned-villain-turned-good-guy-turned-even-more-of-a-washout Captain Quark is apparently stalking the duo. Suddenly, things are not so normal. Looks like another galaxy-saving adventure's about to start. (Oh, and what's with this fauxfamily.com contacting Quark and claiming to be his real family, who abandoned him as a baby?)
The plot doesn't sound bad at all, but the problem is in how it's told. The cut scenes are quite simply not as expressive, and thus a lot of the humor inherent to the patently ludicrous scenes is lost. This is only the beginning of the complete pile of graphical fail that involves taking resources designed for the PSP and porting them to the PS2. The snoozer of a frame rate has also been ported over, too, in a series where fast, smooth frame rates have been the norm. Things that look amazing on the PSP look to be pre-Dreamcast quality when placed on a big screen, and everything suffers as a result. Ratchet's animations are less expressive and fewer in number, his guns don't produce the hilarious variety of explosions, the monsters are less interesting, stage puzzle elements are more boring, and even the villains are nowhere near as expressive or entertaining as Dr. Nefarious or Gleeman Vox from prior entries.
Just in case failing to produce quality graphics didn't ruin things, the game proceeds to offer plain-Jane, boring descriptions for all 21 of the weapons and gadgets. At best, all of the weapons are renamed versions of less-interesting weapons from previous games, and in far lesser number to boot. There is also a complete lack of any humor outside of the cut scenes, which is a cardinal sin for a series where regular laughs and creative weapons are critical elements.
Furthermore, levels are shorter and less interesting, with only the solo Clank segments to add any real semblance of variety to play — and even that is nothing new, with only a couple of new puzzle elements to mix things up from previous games. Size Matters has far too many instances of doors being locked until you kill every monster, thus artificially extending levels. Unlike the previous games, where you wanted to fight because the fights were entertaining and just running through was, by design, a bad idea, Size Matters shoehorns you into having to fight when you'd rather go on with the plotline. The fights have become even easier, perhaps to make up for the fact that the controls are ludicrously less smooth in this iteration.
For a finishing touch, the multiplayer portion isn't even fun. The vast and challenging online multiplayer in the original was replaced with four-player ad-hoc play, co-op and competitive options for the PSP. This gets downgraded to two-player, two-mode throwaway multiplayer in the PS2 version, and neither option has much entertainment value. You can't even wring fun out of this game when you have a buddy to help you.
When the fights lose their entertainment value, Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters for the PS2 loses too much of what it had to make it good on the PSP. The graphical downgrade should not have this much of an effect, but it seriously does, particularly when put in the context of the overall series. It quickly becomes quite obvious that the game has been ported from the PSP, and any claims of "remastering" should be disregarded. The beautifully hilarious Ratchet & Clank series did well when it was ported to the PSP, but devs got lazy porting it back; the best features of the portable version are gone, and nothing has been added. What works perfectly on the PSP works very badly on the PlayStation 2, and Size Matters is proof.
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