Review by Razorskin
"Crash Bandicoot no more!"
After turning out a successful series of Crash Bandicoot games for the Playstation, Naughty Dog decided to make a fresh start for their first game on the PS2. Instead of rehashing the formula they had already established on the Playstation, they decided to take this new platformer title into a different direction. The premise is simple: Jak and Daxter must travel across the world, through various villages and lands to find a magician who will turn Daxter, who has been turned into a woodland creature by Dark Eco, back to normal. Along the way, they must aid the Green Sage in locating his fellow sages and fight the Lurkers that infest the land.
Having built this game from the ground up (codewise), Naughty Dog has managed to build immense environments with a variety of places to explore. Instead of the linear paths of previous games, they've gone with huge lands that are built with a massive amount of polygons, pushing what the PS2 hardware can do. Visual effects are well done and incorporate well into the whole scheme. Texture maps on the environment are excellently done, aiding the visual presence of the game. If you just stop and look around, you'll be able to see things off in the distance. Nothing is covered up with fog or darkness to hide pop-up. Kick the tires on this game and you'll find very little that doesn't hold up. Visually, this is one of the better-looking platformers I've seen. It's definently a step up from Naughty Dogs previous work.
Those familiar with Mario 64 and Banjo Kazooie will immediately recognize the style of platformer. Jak's moves are familiar for anyone whose played any of the previous Crash Bandicoot games. While these liberal borrowings might make a normal game feel unoriginal, it's done so well here that unless you're nit-picking, you won't care. Areas are filled with a variety of items to find and you always have a laundry list of goals to perform to collect Power Cells (which will allow you access to the more villages). Probably the most impressive part of the game is that all of the territory is connected, visually and gameplay-wise. Anywhere you can see, you can get to. With relatively no loading times (there is a pause before cut-scenes), Jak and Daxter can run from the main village to exploration areas seamlessly. There's no jumping into a portal to go from the main hub to sublevels here. Along with the basic platforming elements, there are a areas where you must ride a Zoomer (flying rocket) to either get to a location or to collect items in an area where you might not be able to walk. The goals you must achieve are also varied enough to keep Jak and Daxter from feeling like a fetch-quest. There's a lot to do and a lot to discover.
The voice-overs are done well. Since Jak is the silent protagonist, Daxter does more than enough to make up. Daxter's quips ad comments are fun to listen to and even sometimes useful. Music-wise, the game is fairly good, even though some of the tracks can get a little old after a while. The same goes for the sound effects. The sound of the Zoomer, while well done, can get old if you play on the respective levels too long. Fortunately, if any of these grow tiresome, you can choose to turn that respective item down in the Audio menu.
With a game as high-quality as this, it's hard to find much that's wrong. The few things that do stand out really are only things I wished had been resolved or were directly related to the sheer ambition of this game. There are some moments of slow-down when rotating the camera in the environment and sometimes you have to fight the camera to get a good enough view of your next jump or where you're heading. Also, any of the events with the Zoomer may prove to be a little frustrating because, frankly, the Zoomer handles like a parade float. Once you figure out how to move it around the courses, you should be doing fine. Finally, with as challenging and fun as the boss battles were, I wish there were more than the few littered about the game.
Plainly stated, Jak and Daxter is a fun game that offers a fair degree of difficulty. Any fan of platformers should own this game and those who aren't should at least rent it. Jak and Daxter may change your mind about platformers, especially on the PS2. This game is definitely one of the better games to come out this year.
Note: I rated this game an 8 because of the fact that it obviously borrows its moves and basic core from other games. If you have no problem with use of Crash Bandicoots moves and basic gameplay structure of the aforementioned games, then Jak and Daxter is an easy 9 out of 10.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 12/08/01, Updated 12/08/01
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