Review by stonedwal

"The adventures of elf boy and weird marmoset thingy!"

Since the rise of the 32-bit consoles, 3D platformers have been a favourite genre amongst fans of the various systems. Nintendo had Super Mario 64, and Sony had Crash Bandicoot. When the developers of Crash Bandicoot, Naughty Dog, decided to sell the rights to the Crash games to Universal, they had to think of some original characters to fill the void which Crash left.

Enter Jak and Daxter.

While they aren't the most original characters in the world, their quirky little adventure is exactly what the doctor ordered for the lagging Playstation 2 3D platformer library (especially after Traveller's Tales blew the Crash license). I was never a fan of the Crash games on the Playstation (nor a Playstation owner, until the PS2), so I don't know how this new game compares to Naughty Dog's previous 3D platforming efforts.

First thing that will strike you when playing Jak and Daxter is the rather nice looking visuals. The environments featured in the game are absolutely massive, yet a lot of detail has been put into them such as bump-mapped sand on the beaches. The other highlight of the environments is that they're quite varied, yet at the same time they are formulaic...the typical 3D platformer environments - jungles, beaches, volcanoes, caves..a little something original may have helped, but what is provided is satisfactory. The characters are quite intricately designed, no detail is spared. Jak looks somewhat human in his characterisation, despite his long ears (Gelflings from the Dark Crystal). Daxter has a little more hair than Jak, in fact, he resembles something that looks like a mix between a marmoset and a weasel. The character models have some nifty effects to them, such as kicking up dust, or dripping with water after going swimming. Overall, the graphics are very good. I didn't experience any drops in framerate, or any stuttering to disrupt the 60 frames per second pace of the game, which is quite amazing once you see the draw distance which is featured in the game. The camera in the game isn't actually all that bad when compared to the awful cameras which plague some 3D platformers (Sonic Adventure >_<). And, finally, everything is anti aliased (not as many jaggies :D).

Music in Jak and Daxter is a more cartoony affair, it seems to be somewhat inspired by Disney cartoons (as with a lot of things in the game). The music has a tendency to reflect the mood of the environment you are in, but is also dynamic (that is, it might change if something dramatic happens), so the Jungle music is going to consist of a lot of African drums...you probably know the deal by now. Sound effects are also quite cartoony, consisting of your usual ''biffs'', ''bonks'', ''clangs'' etc. that you would expect from such a piece. Voice acting is the only inconsistency in amongst all the sound. First of all, Jak doesn't speak...ever. Second, Daxter speaks a lot, in fact, too much. He does enough talking for both Jak and himself. Daxter is very annoying, much like the whiney character in cartoons who talks to much, and tends to get the duo into trouble - Dagget in the Angry Beavers and Timon in the Lion King are viable references to Daxter's character. The acting itself is actually very good as a whole, but the dialog isn't.

Story is a bit of a downfall as it is a very basic tale, but that's to be expected in a platformer. Jak and Daxter were two young mischevious boys with a sense of adventure. While the boys were trekking on Misty Island, Jak finds an ancient artifact which proceeds to blow up in his and Daxter's faces, knocking Daxter into a pool of Dark Eco. When Daxter emerges, he develops quite a body hair problem - he's been turned into some sort of weird marmoset/weasel type creature. Upon their return to Sandover Village, the Green Sage informs them they must seek Gol, the master of Dark Eco, if they wish to return Daxter to his normal, less hairy state.

Jak and Daxter plays much like any 3D platformer would, but seems to be more like Donkey Kong 64 than Super Mario 64, in that there is a lot of collecting to do (but not as much as Donkey Kong 64...thank heavens). You need power cells to get various devices in the game to work so that you can find Gol. Each person in an area will have various tasks for you to accomplish to get these power cells, or you might be lucky enough to find them on your own. Also, there are 7 scout flies on each level, which will earn you a power cell once you find them all (Banjo-Kazooies Jinjos). There are also Precurser orbs scattered around the map - you collect these to exchange to various people, or the Precurser Statues for more Power cells. In amongst all this power cell collecting, there is the opportunity for a little fun, such as riding the A-Grav Zoomer, riding Flut Fluts, and racing the A-Grav Zoomer.

Controlling Jak and Daxter is a very easy process. To begin with, analog movements are very smooth, not just on Jak, but on the camera as well. X is your jump button (with a double tap being a double jump), which will be the button your finger is usually going to be pressing. Circle is a kick spin, much like Link's sword spin in the Legend of Zelda games, but instead of swinging a sword, you swing Daxter and your feet. The Square button provides a rather formidable punch, which will no doubt be the main source of your enemy disposing. Triangle throws the perspective into first person, which will fulfill your needs to endlessly gawk at the environment, and at Kiera's chest. Various other moves can be pulled off with combinations of the buttons, but I'll let you discover these for yourselves.

Jak and Daxter does suffer in the lastability department - its just too easy. The game can be done in about 2 days by a fairly decent player. There is the option to go back and collect everything for a different ending, but this is not vital to the ending of the game. Be wary, if you're looking for a long 3D platformer, you might be waiting a while. If you have younger children, or are a younger child, then I advise picking this game up.

Now, to the business end of things...

Graphics: 9.0

Very clean. Good environment variety, nice character models, consistent speed, huge draw distance...the list goes on. A little more originality in the environments would have heralded a less formulaic feel.

Sound: 7.4

Cartoony. Music changes based on environment, but this has been done to death basically. Voice acting is good, but the dialog used is annoying, especially for Daxter. It would be nice if Jak actually said something, too.

Story: 4.3

What story? Very formulaic as far as 3D platformers go.

Gameplay: 7.9

Once again, very formulaic (yes, I do like that word). Not as dragged out as Donkey Kong 64, but just lacking a little something. Fairly standard play as far as games in this genre go.

Control: 9.4

Very smooth and easy to control, and thankfully, no camera induced problems.

Lastability: 5.3

Can be finished quite easily, and there's not much to go back to. 10-15 hours will see you through it.

Ground breaking-ability: 6

Not really breaking any new ground for the genre, but showing some direction for the genre on the next generation systems.

Pro's

- Nice Graphics
- Not as boring as DK64
- First decent 3D Platformer for the PS2
- Great Control

Con's

- Nothing we haven't seen before
- Daxter's frequent dialog
- Jak's lack of dialog
- Formulaic

Does this game belong in my collection? Depends

If you are a platform junkie, or a parent with younger kids, pick it up now. People looking for a lengthy outing might want to avoid it. It's not really a must play game, but it is the first of the good Platformers on the PS2.

Overall: 8.2 (Adjusted to 8, not an average (duh))

It's been done before, but this time with prettier graphics and consistent speed. I don't know if there will be a sequel, but other developers are using the engine that was designed for this game (Ratchet and Clank). Maybe (or hopefully) they'll get it right next time.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 08/11/02, Updated 08/11/02


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