Review by LegendaryFrog
"Bigger and badder, Jak II is one of the PS2's best games."
It's not often that a sequel to popular game takes such a drastic change in style. The original Jak and Daxter was a pretty standard but very enjoyable platformer. It followed the standard formula of jumping and collecting, and with some racing thrown in for good measure. Jak II takes everything what was great about the original and times to by 10, and then to top it off, adds so many game modes into the mix it's hard to decide how to categorize it.
Gameplay and Design (9/10)
Unlike the open ended, original game, Jak II is completely mission based. You play levels not because you go there via exploring, but because you're told to. Most of the time you'll have a choice between 2 or 3 missions, but in the end you HAVE to do them or else you can't progress. While this make sense due to the every story heavy nature of the game, the natural progression found in the original and many other traditional platformers is gone. Is that a bad thing? No, it's just different from the norm.
The difficulty has been raised a great deal. While the original had it moments of hardness, overall it was a fairly easy game. There are parts in Jak II where you might have to try a dozen times to complete a mission. The original was short too. About 5 hours. Not Jak II. The first time thought it took me 20 hours to beat the game. 2nd time though, only 14.
At its core, Jak II is still a platformer, and much of the gamplay is centered on the standard concepts. As Jak explored Haven City, he won't run out of things to do, that's for sure. There's a lot to go over, so I'll split it into sections.
Platforming: The platforming elements in Jak II play identically to its predecessor. Jak can jump, double jump, swim, roll, high jump, punch, and kick. Nothing special here. Jak's jumps take a bit to get used to. You might find yourself missing easy jumps because you miscalculate how much distance Jak has to jump, which isn't as much what you would expect. You'll have to learn to time your double jumps, that adds a bit of height and distance. The same with he long jump, which requires a roll before the lump. The first time I attempted one I rolled into a hole.
Jak has 2 attacks, punching and kicking. A punch sends you in a strait line but a kick attacks all directions. Jak can also jump and dive into enemies. Although you might find yourself using the games weapons more often, using the hands on technique still work and sometimes even works better.
Jak can absorb small amounts of Dark Eco and transform into a beast simply called Dark Jak. As Dark Jak you wiz around the screen destroying anything that stands in your way. You can gain more Dark Powers by collecting Metal Head Skull Gems, but these moves generally are to finish off everyone on the screen and look fancy. Becoming Dark Jak is rarely needed, but if you Dark Eco meter is full and you're in a tight spot, it does help out.
An element mixed directly with the platforming is the shooting. Jak can now wield 4 different types of guns, turning the game into a 3rd person shooter. You equip your gun, simply press the appropriate D-pad button, or press R1 to fire the last weapon selected. The 4 types of guns, which cleverly, have the same color as the Eco in the first game, have different function.
The Scatter Gun is like a shotgun, having a wide blast radius but short range... perfect for close quarters. The Blaster Weapon is a standard single shot rifle. It can be fired in succession, and there's a neat trick if you kick an enemy then fire, you'll automatically lock on to a nearby enemy with the rifle. Mastering this will help you out greatly. The Vulcan Fury is much like a chain gun... it can wide out a great number of foes but it eats though ammo like nobodies business. Lastly, there's the Pease Maker... a relatively useless powerhouse weapon that only has about 5 shorts and fires balls of energy. This weapon is obtained late in the game and I never bothered with it.
Being the bulk of the gameplay in Jak II, thankfully the weapons work out well. There is no locking on and aiming, instead if your relatively lined up with your target, it'll auto aim in that direction. Ammo is scattered about the levels via crates, and you'll rarely be ammo-less.
Jak can borrow any of the vehicles, called Zoomers, in Haven City go for a joy ride, go on missions, or run over people. Aside from various side quests and the occasional mission that requires you using a Zoomer, the only point of using one is to seed up your progress though the city. Haven City is huge, and to walk would be insane. Why not hop on a Zoomer and get there quick? The problem is you'll be running into things a lot, and you'll probably alert the guards.
There are also several missions that take place in Haven City, and on most of them you'll won't to use a vehicle. These missions range from picking up money or transporting people to safe locations. If you cause trouble, you'll alert the guards. Staying to fight is pretty silly because there will be a never ending series of Krimsom Guards on your tail... even though they're aim is as precise as Stormtroopers, they're bound to hit you sooner or later.
At one point Jak obtains a Hoverboard. Once he has it he can use it whenever he wants, but mainly he'll be using it in areas with wide open spaces to chance and to grind on stuff. It isn't very deep. You can do some tricks, but it's just for show. (or perhaps to gain more distance.) Its fun, and it helps you get around faster, but aside from its usefulness in certain missions, it's not a big part of gameplay.
There are about 4 places in the game where you are required to race. It's probably my least favorite gameplay mode, but it plays fairly well. It controls much tighter than the Zoomer, .so it'll defiantly take a bit to get used to. It's pretty strait forward, the only special thing you can do is obtain powerups that give you a boost of speed. You'll also find out that it's not about racing, but finding shortcuts. It's not a major part of the game, but its there and it works.
The Titan Suit:
For a few missions Jak will require the use of the Titan Suit: a personalized mech unit that smashes stuff. The suit is slow and bulky... but it adds some verity to the missions later in the game. One little nuisance is it seems to have the same amount of health you do. You would think a body of metal would increase your defense a little.
There are a couple parts where you fire a turret on a guided rail. It's a spoiler if I say more, so I'll stop now.
Yes, there are a couple of mini games to play to. They require quick reflexes. I don't want to spoil what they are.
That's a lot of genres plopped into one game. The best part is that they all work. Very rarely will 2 successive missions be the same. One might be timing jumps on moving platformers, the next might be a free for all brawl with a dozen different enemies. They don't feel rehashed or similar to each other either. Even if you spend a hour on a mission, and your about to throw your controller against the wall... you still have the urge to keep playing because it's rewarding. Every mission beat gives you satisfaction, and you're treated to a cut scene that develops the story more.
Definitely some of the best on the PS2. A great step up from Jak and Daxter, which showed its age a bit. Levels are huge, detailed, and full of life. Haven City itself is gigantic, with each of its sections looking different enough from each other so you always know where you are. Levels themselves are pretty standard: you'll be visiting your fare share of sewers and factories this time around. You'll also explore some spiffy looking Precursor Ruins and one of the most beautiful forests I've seen in a video game.
Character models are drastically improved from the first game. Every character in the game was a wide verity of emotions and facial expressions on par with some animated cartoons. New characters have a less kiddy look, but returning characters remain unchanged. Jak also sports long flowing hair and a goatee, as well as smaller eyes to give him a more mature look. It's surprisingly fitting.
Sound and Music :8/10
While the soundtrack remains close to the first game, there are a good deal of standout tunes. The themes used in Haven City are by far the most memorable, and you'll find yourself humming it when you're exploring. The game's music also changes dynamically when you take out your gun or hop in your Hover Board. It adds some nice verity.
Voice acting is also excellent. Jak now speaks, and his voice fits pretty well, especially with him more teenage look. The original voice actors from the first game return, and all the new faces have fitting voices.
The original Jak and Daxter focused on gameplay, and the story was kept to a minimal. Jak II, however, is entirely story driven. You don't do things because you need to collect Power Cells to advance to another level.. you do things because they progress the plot.
Soon after the events of the first game, Jak and the game bring the Precursor gate they found at the Dark Eco Silo to Samo's hut. After some tinkering around by Keira, she is able to power it up. Upon its activation, a fearsome beast emerges and the land is overrun by gruesome creatures. The crew is sucked inward, and are separated in a bizarre vortex. When Jak and Daxter emerge, they crash land in a gritty city. They are confronted by guards dressed in red. Daxter escapes, but Jak is less fortunate.
Jak is taken prisoner by Baron Praxis, leader of Haven City. and is subject to Dark Eco torture and experiments for two years. When he's finally freed by Daxter, he finds he can transform into a dark creature, and swears revenge on the Baron. Will he ever see his freinds again? Will he gain control of his dark powers? And will the mysteries of the Precursors finally be revealed?
The story of Jak II is MUCH darker then he light hearted first game. Instead of goofy looking Lurkers we have the insectioid Metal Heads. No more happy go lucky mayors or fishermen... this time we have Underground resistance members and Crime Lords. It's also very funny most of the time. It's easy to get caught up in the story and characters, and the fact that there's a great game attached to it makes it even better.
This is a lengthy game, but once you beat it there's not much need to play it over right away. You can go around collecting Precursor Orbs to unlock secrets, but there's no counter anywhere so finding them requires ALOT of exploration and mini games. There's also a bug that can keep you from beaten the game if you like collecting orbs, so I suggest looking that up so you can avoid it.
I see only 2 problems with Jak II. One is that Haven City is nothing more than a glorified hub world... there's nothing to do unless a mission is involved. It rivals The Wind Waker for most bothersome travel times. Second, is the difficulty. In reality it's a pretty good difficulty, but overall there are times where its a bit unfair and restarting gets bothersome.
There is a 3rd, but its not a fault of the game really. Its the fact the first game was so drastically different. After about 20 minutes with Jak II it doesn't matter anymore because your so caught up in the story, but as it stands it's almost like it's two different series.
Jak II was one of the best games I played in 2003. It had everything I liked about a game: great graphics, story, sound, humor, length and challenge... and tons of verity and its fun to boot. It may have its flaws, but the good far outweighs the bad. And I knew I loved it when I drew fan art for it, something I almost never do for a game. Jak II comes very highly recommended.
And you know what's even better? Jak 3 is coming very soon... I can't wait.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 06/16/04, Updated 06/19/04
Got Your Own Opinion?
You can submit your own review for this game using our Review Submission Form.