"A derivative, decrepit, dull disaster. (Hooray for alliteration!)"

Introduction

I recieved the original Jak & Daxter when I got my PS2 in '02. I enjoyed it for about a week or two, and just stopped playing at about halfway through it. It was an average, next-gen ''collect fifty-thousand things to get to the next area and collect a million more things'' platformer, and couldn't really hold a candle to Klonoa 2 and Ratchet & Clank 2. Despite that, I didn't really regret getting it for Christmas, and I'd still recommend it to platformer fans today.

I rented Jak II when it initially came out in October '03, and played it for about 45 minutes before shutting the PS2 off. Mind you, I NEVER shut games off so ridiculously early into the game -- no matter how difficult or horrid a game is, I'll at least try to play it until my limit is reached. My limit for Jak II was quite low, and I vowed to never play it again.

Recently, I decided that maybe I was rash and too harsh; perhaps Jak II was one of those games that picked up after a while. I decided to rent it again and give it another try.
And I only dislike it more.

Gameplay - 1

Certainly the meat and bones of any game; unfortunately, Jak II only delivers the bones.

I agree with many reviewers in that Jak II tries to transcend the platformer genre by implementing elements such as carjacking and riding (a la Grand Theft Auto 3), firing different weapons (a la Ratchet & Clank), and transformation into a powerful ''Dark Jak'' (a la Devil May Cry).

And it does it very, very poorly.

For starters, the carjacking is superfluous. Vehicles are not necessary to travel around Haven City (and sometimes, traveling on foot is easier), and when you are required, you'll be glad that it isn't. Controlling the cars (and it matters not which one you pick; the only apparent difference between the cars are their appearences) is akin to riding a unicycle in a skating rink. Most of the time, you'll fail the mission simply because it takes so long for the car to make a turn and go at full speed. For example:

Player: Gee, I've been shot down by the Krimzon Guards several times, causing me to repeat this mission for the fourtieth time, but I'm so close to the goal now!
*A previously undetected vehicle zooms in from a corner and rams into Jak's vehicle, causing it to explode into oblivion*
Player: *lets loose a stream of expletives muffled by the sound of his/her PS2 controller thrown on the floor*

Additionally, navigating through Haven City is a chore, as the rotating map in the lower right screen is confusing and pulling up the more stable map in the Pause menu takes too much time. There's absolutely nothing to do in Haven City (aside from beat up/run over the city dwellers, which is mildly amusing for the first time and boring/annoying the rest of the time), so there's no need to plod around through its labyrinthine walls for the amount of time that the game forces you through.

Speaking of the game forcing you through things, Jak II implements a new mission-based gameplay path. However, the problem with this is that many of the missions are required to get further in the game, making the game extremely tedious and repetitive. At least you had a choice of choosing which tasks to complete in an area in the first game. You don't get that choice in Jak II.

There are only four weapons that you can get in the game (which is rather sorry compared to Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando's selection of 40+ weapons), and there isn't much difference between them aside from range and firing rate.

The Dark Jak feature is yet another half-baked idea borrowed from other games in an attempt to make this game ''revolutionary''. Collecting the Dark Eco required to power him up takes quite a while, and when you finally do let Dark Jak loose, it's a rather underwhelming experience. This phase only lasts a short time, and you can't stop in the middle and save the rest for later (which you could do in Devil May Cry, if I recall correctly), so you end up conserving the ability in anticipation for future use against enemies or a puzzle (an anticipation that is never realized, I might add). Gee, no wonder Erol considered the experiment a failure.

So, behind all the failed gimmicks, what's left in Jak II? Not a lot. The platforming pretty much remains the same as it did in the original. Sometimes, controls are unresponsive, and you'll try to execute a long jump only to come up short, but as I remember, this was a problem in the first game as well. This is my biggest qualm with Jak II -- while Jak & Daxter was far from perfect, it was a good game in its own right, and I had hoped that Naughty Dog would improve upon it and make a stellar platformer for the PS2. Instead, this game is stuck with a three-year-old platforming engine and several ideas which sounded good on paper, but came up short in the game itself.

Story - 4

Jak II's story was rather hyped-up on how it was ''darker'' and more ''mature'' than the first. Quite frankly, I've read fanfiction that had better plot development and characterization than this. I don't think I can really criticize the plot without spoiling it, but I will say that if the game's frustrating and tedious missions made you want to smash your controller, then the ending will make you want to play target practice with the disc. The game tried (badly) to give a dark and brooding story, only to wrap it up in smiley-face paper and top it with a shiny bow. It's a slap in the face to people who played this expecting more than the usual ''we saved the world, let's go play with daisies'' ending typically found in platformers.

An example of the many places the story went wrong is with Jak. Doing a complete personality 180, Jak continues the trend of Main-Character-Dillholery in video games, which basically involves making the main characters of a game into dillholes. (Most notable example of this is Squall Leonhart from Final Fantasy VIII.) I've no idea why game designers do this, because it fails to make us connect with the characters and give us a reason to complete their goals by beating the game. How can the people playing the games care about someone who cares about nothing? How is it plausible for Jak to come out of Baron Praxis's experimentations as a callous and cantankerous cad and then suddenly care about some character's sob story later in the game? Moreover, why IS he such a raging...well, dillhole in this game? I know no one's going to be Perky Pretty Pollyanna after being tortured and injected with Dark Eco for two years, but geez. Jak needs to take a pill or pet some kittens or something.

(For what it's worth, Keira and Samos remain relatively unchanged from the first, and Daxter is still a witty weasel/irritating fuzzball.)

Graphics - 9

Technically, the game's graphics are spectacular. Framerate is smooth, and in all the time I played it, I don't think I noticed any slowdown. It looks and moves smoothly, like hot butter. However, I also feel that the Playstation 2 is certainly powerful enough to handle spectacular graphics, and anything less than what you see here is not excuseable.

On an asthetic level, the game is ugly. This works for the backgrounds and level designs, as Haven City is a dirty and decadent dystopia. However, it doesn't work on things such as character designs, especially Jak's. I'm not sure what to say about it except ''Yuck''. And what's with Jak's booger-green goatee? (I suppose it's just a colossal joke as intended by Naughty Dog, as the first cheat that you can unlock in the game is the feature to turn the goatee off. Haw.)

Sound - 2

The background is monotone, nondescript, and repetetive until you're chased by the Krimzon Guard or doing battle with baddies. However, Naughty Dog has never really done well in the music department, so I'm willing to forgive them a little for this.

I don't understand why so many reviewers claim the voice acting is among the best in games. The characters all sound like they belong in B-action movies with the way they try to overdo the ''gruff'' angle. I've always wanted to hear Jak talk in the original game, and in this game I couldn't wait for him to shut up. His voice is bad to the point where I would literally wince every time he talked. I ended up switching the game's language to French with English subtitles because I couldn't take hearing the bad voices in English. (Oddly enough, French was the only language that the character's voices were palatable in. Hmm.)

Play Time/Replayability - 5

I don't know how long it takes to beat the game. I haven't done it. I've heard anything from twenty to thirty hours, which isn't a bad amount of time if you enjoy playing this.

There are several cheats to unlock by collecting orbs (such as Big Head Mode, reversed race tracks, scrap books, and the infamous goatee-toggle I mentioned earlier), but unless this game is a nigh-religious experience for you, you won't want to bother with unlocking every cheat. Plus, the cheats aren't really special at all and nowhere near as indepth as other games', such as Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando's cheats and minigames.

Final Recommendation - Avoid
I strongly recommend that you ignore the hype and heaps of praise that this game has garnered from other people and reviewers, and get a different game instead of this one. However, if you really are curious, I would definitely recommend that you rent before you buy.


Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 01/11/04


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