Review by Dune Tiger

"A contender to take Rayman 2's throne."

It's been a long time since the 3D platformer took a good leap forward. I used to be one of those people who always thought platformers belonged in 2D only. That was until I played Rayman 2 (Dreamcast version).

It was way ahead of Naughty Dog's then-current endeavour by the name of Crash Bandicoot, and it played like a dream. It had the standard collect-the-floaty-object and the standard ''ride the out of control machine/animal'' fare, and polished both aspects of the 3D platformer to a beautiful shine.

And it seems quite right that Naughty Dog borrow from a game that sets a high mark.

Only in terms of gameplay, there are so many improvements over the Rayman 2 gem in Jak and Daxter and I've always been one of the first to truly believe that gameplay makes or breaks a game.

The key to 3D platformers is that control MUST be intuitive and responsive. Naughty Dog has pretty much hit the nail on this one. The animations never get in the way of control, which is a good thing. They've thought of every possible link to every possible animation, and thus, when you decide to suddenly change directions, the response is realistic. Jak has to stop in his tracks to do a full 180 or he has to keep running forward in a circle. It's these kinds of little things that make the game play extremely well.

Moreover, movement itself translates extremely well. Rarely do you ever fumble for a button (although I've had a few encounters with a non-responsive double jump where you press the button a second time and nothing happens) and Jak's agility is extremely well-represented. The standard Naughty Dog spin-move makes its appearance, screaming of Bandicoot-itis, but there are also straight punches, uppercuts, and diving headbutts to add to the arsenal of weapons.

Not to mention the subtle jumping puzzles as well as the obvious puzzles that appear in the game, nothing seems out of place. In most parts of the game, figuring things out takes only a little bit of pondering in the realm of logic. Not a single puzzle really seems to stick out as a puzzle placed simply to be placed.

And for the obsessive-compulsive type, there's more than enough things to collect, and while most of them are easy to come by, some of them are cleverly hidden (usually a very small number so as just to tease you from getting a perfect clearing) so as to keep you in your seat for a while. For those who are impartial to 100%-ing the game, there are enough things that are easily found so that you can simply progress through the game at a faster pace.

Graphics, to the opnion of many, but not myself, also make or break a game, but not to worry; Jak and Daxter is one of the most beautiful platformers I've ever seen. Obviously, to keep a constant framerate, high-resoltion textures don't enter the picture here, but the cartoonish look fits the equally cartoonish humor. Animations (especially the lip-synching) are especially fluid and the character designs are consistent with the world presented to the player. The artists for this game are definitely to be commended. Everything that appears in the game rarely seems out of place in regards to design and with so many interesting characters that need to be unique, that's quite a feat to accomplish.

The characters themselves carry professional voice talent to deliver classic Saturday morning humor to your ears on top of the occasional physical comedy. Daxter, the furry little sidekick of the game, is obviously meant to steal the show, spouting entertaining one-liners whenever possible. But don't let that fool you. The humor is paced perfectly, never laid on too thick, and it proves to be a great draw to the game. The game itself is definitely leaps ahead of the Bandicoot series not only in gameplay but in plot as well.

And the plot goes a little something like this: Two young guys lookin' for trouble go where they're not supposed to go, one of them gets transformed into a furry creature, and now you, as Jak, have to find a way to turn your pal back into the man he once was. It's a cliche, sure, but it's an entertaining one and it's pulled off quite expertly. Hats off to Naughty Dog.

There is, however, one gripe that I have to bring forward, and that is the issue of the camera: it's horrible. There are many points in the game where you'll want to backtrack or set yourself up for a very precise jump, but the camera just does a poor job of aligning itself to you. It works quite well when you're running long distances, but with no auto-align, you're forced to manually turn it so that you can make the job of hopping on pillars easier. Moreover, when you start running towards the camera, it takes quite a long time to revolve itself around to your back, so you'll be running blind for quite a while without manually adjusting it. Of course, having the control on the right stick is a great idea and it works quite well... except when you're stuck on a cliffside or next to a wall and you need to see where you're trying to go. The camera refuses to ride against the wall and instead waits for you to take a good run away from it before following.

Aside from that, Naughty Dog has polished the game to a near-perfect shine with its great characters, great humor, and great gameplay. And a near-perfect shine deserves a near-perfect score. If only the camera wasn't so bad, this game would be a perfect one.

Take it to heart and don't miss out on it.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 01/14/02, Updated 01/14/02

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