Review by Archmonk Iga
"SCEA's PS2 mega-hit relies on mass collecting to maximize platforming."
Jak & Daxter came out EIGHT years ago... can you believe it? It seems like an eternity, yet only yesterday, that the PS2 was the next big thing in the videogame world. Its newest platformer was a game that would hit all the right spots and forever change the genre--great graphics, fluid controls, and a hilarious cast of characters. And while all of these things make J&D worth playing, newcomers to the game must also be prepared to collect, collect, collect.
In a strange world filled with strange people, two friends (Jak and Daxter) are goofing around near a pool of "dark eco." Daxter, being the genius that he is, accidentally falls into it and transforms into a strange rodent creature. So now the friends are going to have to find "power cells" to transform him back... but that may soon take a backseat to a far greater problem that Jak and Daxter will face.
Thankfully, the story doesn't try to hard. It's different (no damsel in distress here), which is something nice to see in the genre. At the same time, the main plot does indeed become a little more run of the mill, but by that point you really just want to continue the game to see the silly antics of our heroes. And that's the best part of it all: this game is very funny. While Samos (and the other sages) and Keira are silly enough on their own, the real comedian here is Daxter. I was skeptical at first, but thankfully this little rodent is one of the reasons J&D is worth playing. He makes a perfect companion to the silent Jak, and his comments along the journey are hilarious.
In 2001, these graphics were considered extraordinary. Now I don't base any of my scores off how old games are (unless they're re-releases), but in 2009, these graphics are still extraordinary. I just thought I'd say that.
The land is colorful and vibrant, oozing with an original style that still makes it look like a tried and true platformer. The characters have a very cool cartoon look to them, and they all move fluidly. And this was made in 2001? That is impressive.
Musically, J&D aims low, which does not necessarily bring its score down. The music segues nicely as you travel from location to location, but it is pretty minimal nonetheless. When you actually do pay attention to it, you'll hear nice little marimba island-esque ditties that enhance the atmosphere of the game.
The voices are all very well done, especially Daxter's--his voice actually fits him better as a rodent than as his normal self. The other characters' voices are all very fitting as well, and add to the cartoony vibe of the game.
J&D brings platforming back to the core. Jak will be jumping and running most of the game from point to point, because the majority of the time spent will be with collecting. The enemies are nicely varied but take a backseat to the collecting, which is a bit of a bummer because they're generally just a one-hit kill every time. Thankfully, the bossfights are all extremely enjoyable.
Instead, you'll be required to seek out hundreds of scout flies, precursor orbs and power cells, all of which are necessary to advance further in the game. While it can be fun to explore the beautiful levels at first, there's nothing more frustrating than seeing that you need just FIVE more precursor orbs to get that power cell you're craving. But the thing is, these five orbs are still hidden, and you SWEAR you've looked everywhere. At first it is quite rewarding to figure out how to get all the collectibles, but after awhile the ones that you can't find end up pissing you off.
Thankfully, J&D isn't 100% jumping and running to gather these collectibles. Jak can also use eco to enhance his skills--whether it's running faster to powering up electricity to shooting out fireballs, the eco aspect of J&D makes the game a lot more fun. In addition, Jak can also ride a cool hover vehicle called the "Zoomer," which, well, is simply a blast. Unfortunately, each kind of eco is specifically placed into the levels, so we can't use them at any time we would like. Also, the Zoomer is only in a few levels as well, but I think that the amount of time we spend on it is sufficient.
With all that being said, it doesn't seem that J&D makes any great strides to revolutionize the platforming genre. Most of the game is collecting, very little of it is anything else that comes with this type of game, and virtually NONE of the gameplay is anything new or fresh. It is a bit too simple, and can be very irritating when you can't find what you're looking for when you've scoured the entire area. It is hard to look past these flaws in an otherwise strong debut of an iconic series.
Another issue that plagues J&D is its length--the game can be completed within a weekend, even with all the collecting you have to do. There are 100 power cells that you can collect total, and while it is a pain to do so, it ends up consuming very little time. And all that you get for collecting all 100 is a short extra scene that's added on at the end of the game. Once you've gotten that far, the only reason you would come back to playing the game is for the comedy that takes place throughout it.
LASTING APPEAL: 4/10
J&D have become a big name in the gaming community, and their first venture into it is proof of why. It is an easily accessible game with its simplicity, but at the same time it is mundane and all-too temporary. Nonetheless, platform fans will no doubt find enjoyment in its beautiful graphics and hilarious story progression. Jak and Daxter may be a pain at times, but if it also has character--an important attribute that too many games today seem to gloss over.
Thanks for reading =)
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 11/04/09
Game Release: Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy (US, 12/03/01)
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