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Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters (PSP)

Rated: 7+

Story: Ratchet is a big-eared, furry humanoid and Clank is a small robot who rides on his back. They are inter-galactic superheroes. (Well, they can jump quite high and use very big guns, anyway). The evil emperor of the technomites decides to create a clone army of Ratchets and take over the galaxy. Ironically, only Ratchet can stop him...

Gameplay: This is really a third-person shooter with a bit of platforming thrown in. There are also a few side-quests involving such things as duelling big robots, leading little robots through obstacle courses or racing on a glorified hoverboard.

Ratchet's arsenal can be increased by spending bolts collected from smashing crates and killing enemies. Each weapon also gains experience with use, becoming more powerful over time. Weapons include the usual suspects plus a few extras like the Suck Cannon which sucks up small enemies and then fires them back.

Save System: Auto-saved checkpoints.

Comments: If I never get round to buying a PlayStation 3 then I'm not going to miss playing Metal Gear Solid 4. I just can't be doing with the unending cut-scenes that are likely to fill it nor with the nonsensical chats with advisors back at base that are bound to be so inane they will make me want to crush my controller in frustration. I won't miss playing a host of Japanese RPGs for similar reasons. I certainly won't miss SingStar (and nor will my neighbours). I won't even miss EyeToy games - it's not like I've had the energy to play half the ones I have on PS2 yet.

Sadly, the games that are most likely to entice hundreds of pounds from my wallet are the latest editions of Jak & Daxter and Ratchet & Clank. Both series peaked with their second installments which provided balanced mixes of shooting, racing, exploring and platforming. Since then, Jak has been more about racing, Ratchet has been about the shooting. Platforming just isn't cool anymore. The gameplay in the two series is still usually varied and entertaining, however, and I'm fond of the characters. I always think I can't entirely be bothered with another one of their adventures but then I end up really enjoying them.

Well, until now that is.

Size Matters has a ton of issues. The levels are very linear and the camera can be unhelpful. The system of using the analogue nub to move normally and the D-pad to strafe works reasonably well most of the time but can make aiming erratic. The mini-games are rough round the edges and often not that fun. There are interesting gadgets to be found but they're seldom needed to progress and it's absolutely obvious when they are. The cut-scenes are less amusing than normal.

Size Matters is also very short compared to other R&C games. The main story would only last four or five hours if it weren't for a sudden, sharp increase in difficulty about two-thirds of the way through. Enemies become tougher and more numerous, checkpoints are further apart and instant death is always a possibility. A lack of bolts also means having to re-do earlier levels in order to afford the best weaponry (i.e. the Shock Rocket and Stasis Barrier) if you've wasted cash on useless stuff earlier in the game (i.e. the Suck Cannon, the Crossbow Thingy and the Kill-me-now-while-I'm-standing-still Laser). The boss battles are particularly, teeth-grindingly frustrating.

The whole thing just isn't up to the usual design standard of Ratchet & Clank. It's like this is a spare game put together by summer interns that someone at Sony found knocking around at the back of a cupboard and decided to shove out on PSP.

It's not a total disaster, however. The basic R&C gameplay is still there underneath and still fun despite various attempts to kill it. Nonetheless, Sony have dropped the ball again. The PSP really needs good, exclusive titles if there's any hope of it challenging the Nintendo DS. Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters doesn't deliver. It also sullies the name of one of the key franchises that Sony will be promoting to help to sell the PS3.

It's almost like they're trying to turn away my custom...

Conclusion: A poor entry in a fantastic series results in an OK game.

Graphics: Amongst the best on PSP. (Apart from the dream level - that's just migraine inducing. By happy fortune, I already had a migraine while playing it and all the flashing lights mostly cancelled each other out. You probably won't be so 'lucky'.)

Length: Short.

Frustration Level: High.

Rating: 3/5.

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