Sunday, October 28, 2012

Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy HD - Review


Jak and Daxter was the second series created by Naughty Dog and released back in 2001. Sadly, even though it gained quite the fan base, Jak and Daxter became one of them classic games that many people may have overlooked. Since at the time it came down to deciding between the Nintendo GameCube and the Playstation 2, many fans bought one of the systems, and completely ignored the other. Basically, from a fan's point of view, it came down to either getting Super Mario Sunshine, or that game with the funny looking guy on the cover.

Still, that doesn't matter now! Jak and Daxter has been rereleased in HD on Playstation 3 as a part of the Jak and Daxter Collection! If you missed out on it the first time around, here's your chance to finally check it out!

The Story of Two Idiots:

Jak and Daxter's story is actually pretty light, and because if that there really isn't too much to discuss. Basically the game opens up with our heroes, Jak and Daxter, going to this strange island even though the Green Sage Samos told them not to. The two are kind of the adventurous happy go lucky friends who rather just go where they want, joke around, and have fun, so they really aren't the type to just listen when told not to go somewhere. In fact, they'd rather go just because they were told not to.

After arriving at the island, Jak and Daxter come across a strange pool of black stuff (which turns out to be a type substance called "Dark Eco"), and Jak knocks Daxter in by mistake. Soon after, Daxter flies out of the Dark Eco as a mutated creature that looks like a mix between an otter and a weasel (an ottsel). Not knowing what to do, Jak and Daxter then return back to the Green Sage's house, and ask for help.
And so Jak and Daxter's adventure begins, and the two set out to find someone who can turn Daxter back. The only catch is that they'll be required to find quite a few energy cells if they want to power up their bike and advance through the volcano.


Throughout the game Jak and Daxter meet a wide verity of characters, which each have their own mini story or mission, but really that's about it. The game's story is very lighthearted, and it is also filled with quite a bit of comedy. Every character normally is a part of some stereotype. From the hillbilly in the woods, to the mayor who is full of himself, even if you don't laugh at these characters when you see them, you'll at least crack a smile. Heck Daxter alone is enough to make you laugh with his off beat personality. He's sure to have some bad news to tell at your funeral, the news that since you're dead he has no one else to help him get back to normal.

The Old World Gameplay:

Unlike Naughty Dog's previous series, Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter entered the world of fully 3D action platforming adventure games, but at the same time it also retained some of the previous series' gameplay. Really, if I were to sum up the entire gameplay in a few words, it would go something like this. "Jak and Daxter is what you get when Spyro and Crash have a baby, that became best friends with Rayman 2, and grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons." Yep, that truly does sum it up. If you've ever played Spyro or any of the other PS1 classic series, you'll feel right at home with Jak and Daxter.
In Jak and Daxter Jak is actually the only playable character in the game, and he actually does control a lot like Crash did back on the PS1. He's got his basic movements, he can jump and double jump, he can roll, he can do a jump kick out of a roll, he can jump into the air and dive into the ground, he can punch forward, and he can do a very Crash like spin attack. Everything is kept simple, and it really doesn't take too long to get used to the controls.

On the down side, Jak's jumping feels a little bit lacking at first. Jak seems to have a bit more weight to him than most platforming heroes, and his forward jump tends to lack momentum. Sure there is the roll jump, which you have to use if you want to make it across some gaps, but because his jumping feels so heavy you'll most likely find yourself double jumping and air spinning a lot.

The second main feature Jak has, is his ability to use different types of eco as power ups. Throughout the game there are a few different types you'll be able to pick up and power up Jak with for a few seconds, and all of them are key if you want to complete most of the "levels." While blue eco makes Jak move twice and fast and allow him to open doors, others such as yellow eco actually give him the ability to shoot energy balls. These power ups can be found allover the map, but sometimes you have to solve a puzzle or two before you unlock them.

As I said before, unlike in Crash (where levels were set paths you follows), Jak is an open world styled platforming game. The entire world is connected, there are NO loading screens, and the entire gameplay is based around exploring the map. Normally each large area branches off into a few other large areas which will then normally have smaller areas within them. For example the starting area has a path which will lead you to a jungle area, but at the jungle you'll be able to go to ruins. Each area is quite large, and they are ALL packed full of items that you need to collect.


Like in games like Spyro, when you enter a new area in Jak you will find that there are a lot of items laying around, and quite a few goals that you need to complete. These goals/missions will normally be given to you by talking to different characters on the map, but sometimes you'll come across missions such as "kill all of the flying enemies" as well. Either way, if you complete any of these missions, you'll be rewarded with an energy cell, and you'll then be one step closer to moving on with the story.

Although energy cells are the most important items to collect, you can also collect "Precurser Orbs" as well as robotic flies (which there are 7 of in each level). While Precurser Orbs (strange objects left by the ancient Precursers) are mostly used to buy energy cells (normally you'll have to give 90 to one of the people in town), the flies are a mission of their own. By collecting all 7 flies in each area, you'll be able to complete the final "challenge" in that area, and get the last energy cell.


Now the good news is, you actually don't have to collect everything in the game unless you want to, and if that is the case, the game actually keeps track of everything you found in each area. In other words, if you get to the end of the game and you have 1999/2000 orbs, you don't have to worry about searching the entire game for it. Simply hit start, scroll through the area list, and see which one you're missing. It's a fast and easy way to check what you've done so far, and it really helps keep the stress of completing everything down. That doesn't mean the game is easy though.

The Challenge of Jak:

Normally I would include the game's challenge under it's gameplay, but Jak and Daxter is a special case. The thing about this game is, it's difficulty is based off of the players experience with this sort of game. The game can be EXTREMELY challenging, or it can be EXTREMELY easy for you, so it really just depends.
Although Jak is more along the lines of a "kids" game, it is one of them games that may keep kids playing for months, or even years, because of its challenge. Since the game is open world without any real guidance, you have to use a lot of your own puzzle solving skills to really figure out just what to do. If you are a kid, say around the age of 10, playing this game, you may actually have a hard time figuring it all out. Nothing is very clear, and the game does require a lot of trial and error.


For example in one room there's a massive robot in the center, with a lot of different paths and walkways around it. There's also traps, bars you need to swing across, enemies, special powers, and switches you need to hit with them special powers. Normally you would just think to start climbing, but even that doesn't quite work since there's so many paths you can take, and many will lead you back to where you started a lot of the time. On top of that you've got the orbs and flies to worry about, as well as special boxes which can only be broken if you find the correct power up. No matter what your age is, this part is sure to be at least somewhat of a challenge, but even more so if you are a younger kid.

By using common sense you will be able to work your way to the top sooner or later, but it will still require quite a bit of problem solving. If you're someone who really hasn't played this type of game much, this process will most likely take you longer to go through, and you may find yourself being stuck for an hour or two. On the other hand, if you have played this sort of thing a lot in the past, you may be able to figure it out in less than 10 minutes.

Although Jak does require a lot of trial and error, the good news is that there are no game overs! Whenever you die you'll simply respawn at the closest spawn point, normally each sub area will have one spawn point, and you can then go back to doing whatever you were doing. Sure the enemies do respawn as well, but you don't lose any progress or any of the items you collected. This does help make the game a little bit easier, but it's really more of a double edge sword. Yeah you get unlimited tries, but you're going to have to fight your way through some challenging platforming sections because of that.

Another thing which may really get you confused is how well hidden some of the parts of the game are. Not everything is right in front of you, and the game really does force you to explore every single nook and cranny. In one level in particular I found myself searching for this one switch for a little over two hours. I searched every single place I could find, and I back tracked to the beginning just to replay the area over and over again still with no luck. It turned out the area I was looking for was actually hidden behind some trees which were up against a mountain which was covering up a hole to a secret cave. The entire level was covered in grass an trees, so really there was no real way to tell that them trees were special (unless you noticed the very light blue rock above them).

In other words, even if the platforming and combat is easy for you (enemies die in one hit, and you die in three), the exploration will still take some time.

Jak in HD:

Although Jak and Daxter: The Precurser Legacy HD is basically the same as Jak and Daxter on the Playstation 2, there are a few minor changes which may make this version worth getting (besides the fact if you buy it in the HD Collection you also get the other two games).

The first addition to the HD version of Jak is that everything has been revamped for the PS3. The game can now be played in wide screen, some of the character models have been touched up, textures have been updated for HD, and the game also has full 3D support (which should go without saying, but it requires a 3D TV).

The second, and final addition, is that they added trophies to the game, and that actually really adds to the game. Up until now there was really no rewards for collecting everything in the game (besides a few second long secret ending), but because collecting objects are now required for trophies, you may find yourself more motivated to do so. It's just really nice to get rewards for completing missions, in the game, and it's also really nice to be able to show off to your friends that you 100%ed the game.


Even if you don't like trophies, it's a nice little extra added in to reward you for playing the game. Heck that alone might make this game worth buying.

The Good and the Bad:

Jak and Daxter is really one of them games you will either love or hate, and because of that it also has some good and bad points.

The good news is, Jak and Daxter is a very solid platforming game. The world is huge and you never see a loading screen, the characters are VERY likeable, collecting objects actually becomes very addicting and makes you WANT to find everything, and there are also some really nice mini games! In one mini game for example, you actually get to ride a hover bike through some crazy courses to reach the next area. There are also a few other parts of the game which allow you to ride on the back of strange creatures as well, and even that can be pretty addicting. Everything just controls so well, and a lot of fun can come from these short segments of the game as well.


On the flip side however, Jak does have a few drawbacks. As I said before Jak's jumping does take a bit of getting used to, but what might really bother you is how slow Jak moves. I found myself actually roll jumping over and over again simply to pick up the pace and get through the areas faster. Sure his speed really isn't that bad, but in a massive world like this sometimes it's better if you can run a bit faster. Another "draw back" is that the game's story is pretty lacking and Jak is mute as well (which make the game have even less of a story). If you're going into this game expecting some great story, I'm sorry but you're not going to find it here... Mainly because Jak and Daxter is just the start of a series, and it is mostly used to set up future events.

So in the end, Jak and Daxter is one of them unique games that is either a love it or hate it. If you're a fan of adventure games and platforming games, you may like Jak and Daxter, if you're a fan of games like Spyro on the PS1, or Banjo on the N64, then there's a pretty good chance you'll love it. If you hate platforming games, only want the game for the story, and you don't like collecting random objects, then avoid this game at all costs and look into the future titles. The thing about the Jak and Daxter series is that EVERY single game is different, so if you don't like one, just check out another.

I give Jak and Daxter a pretty good rating of 8/10. I personally had a lot of fun with this game, and it really brought me back to my childhood. If you're just now playing this game for the first time after all of these years, chances are you'll feel the same.


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