Review by NeoTS

"Where It All Began"

Jak & Daxter is the game got the ball rolling for platformers on the PS2. Sure, there's nothing truly revolutionary about it. But it featured a lush, seamless world of jungles, alpine forests, snowy mountaintops and creepy caverns. More importantly, it featured a duo that won't be forgotten soon. The first time we even see Jak and Daxter together, you can tell they definitely have a good friendship, and will be fun to play as them. These guys kicked ass in classic fashion, while bringing a unique humor to the game that became a staple for the series. This was the game that made people realize that platformers could wow a gamer, and the genre had plenty of life left. Since then, the genre has expanded and shifted, and it owes much to this game.

As the title drifts over the screen, Samos the Sage wonders aloud about who the Precursors really were, creators of this earth. He alludes to the fact that the answer may lie on the shoulders of a young boy, oblivious to his destiny. This is Jak. Going against the wisdom of Samos, Jak and his buddy Daxter pilot a boat out too Misty Island, just to snoop around. This is a lurker base, and they get a glimpse of two strange people giving them orders. They vanish, so they set off to explore. As Jak defends them from a lurker attack, Daxter falls into a vat of Dark Eco, and he comes out as something else... a furry little ottsel who rides on Jak's shoulder. Make no mistake, he can still talk. And so, with the help of Samos and his daughter Keira, they set off on an adventure to find two sages who can reverse his fate. Their journey through this beautiful world is certainly one for the ages.

They may be a duo, but Jak definitely does all the work. His attacks are fairly basic, a straight punch, a spin attack, an uppercut and a jumping smash attack. Since this is a classic plaformer, that's all he really needs to get through the game. There are some sections of the game with a large number of enemies, but it's a lot of fun once you get rolling. Jak really controls beautifully, every single one of his movements feel tight, like you're always in absolute control over him. Eco is the life blood of the planet, comes in four forms, and can be used to power up different aspects of Jak's abilities. Blue eco will make him run fast, and will open ancient precursor doors. Green eco refills Jak's health. Jak can only suffer four hits before biting the dust, so you want to have it as full as possible at all times. Red eco makes Jak stronger, allowing his punches to break down walls and dispatch enemies much quicker. Lastly, Yellow eco allows Jak to actually shoot it out of his hand, becoming a projectile attack. All of these power ups mix right into the platforming, making for some very intense sequences.

Jaks world is very large, and not linear with the exception of the racing stages. Yeah, yeah, I'll get to those. Before Jak can advance to the next area of the world, he needs to collect a certain number of power cells to charge up his A-Grav Zoomer, a speeder that zips over the surface of the earth. Each area of the world is split up into sections, both with their own tasks, or missions. For example, teh first area has a village, jungle and a sandy beach, all with their own objectives. Talking to people about the environment usually opens up some missions, and some you'll need to find all by yourself. Some of these missions are fairly simple, like chasing a crowd of seagulls or chasing an owners pet in an attempt to get it back for him. Some are fairly complex, becoming small levels in their own right, such as navigating a pitch black cave by hitting crystals, or raiding a Lurker fort atop an icy mountain. It does a lot to keep things interesting, as no two missions are exactly alike. Throughout the environment, precursor orbs are scattered, which can be traded to other characters for a power cell. There are only two mini-games, but they're both a blast to play. Each area of the world is connected by a straight course meant to be raced over by the A-Grav Zoomer. These are some of the most fun I've ever had in a videogame before, racing over a bed of lava before you overheat and explode, and hunting down flying Lurkers trying to block your entrance by laying a bomb. The Zoomer handles quite well, and is the highlight of the game when it can be used. Jak also get's to ride around, and occasionally fly, a Flut Flut, a large bird. This is also a lot of fun, and it makes for exceptionally jumping sequences later in the game.

This game is a looker, make no mistake. The world is completely seamless, littered with all sorts of details, and there is even a day to night cycle. No two areas feel the same, snowy mountains, swamps, meadows, beaches, it's all fantastic the way it manages to really incorporate these setting into a sort of natural way. At the base of the mountain, you can climb it, or delve deep into it's cave. There are sunken ruins, and of course, the creepy Misty Island to explore. Villages are littered with people, all of whom are just a little crazy. The enemies are basic, like crabs, frogs, and things of that nature. Lurkers are creepy, with their bugged eyed expression. But Jak and Daxter are the real stars. As Jak lunges forward to punch, Daxter gets left handing in mid-air while his arms stretch out to grip his shoulder. Jak doesn't talk, so watching his facial expression can be half the comedy of a scene. The music is really cool, and manages to capture the feel of each area. All the music feels very natural thing. The jungle has drumbeats and the snowy mountain has a slower, softer melody to it. All the voices, even for the minor characters are excellent. Each character has their own personality, and the voices display that. Of course no one has more personality that Daxter. He talks almost constantly, but it's always funny, and livens up the game quite a bit.

There's plenty to do in this game. If you want to get 101% complete, you'll have to complete all the missions, and collect all the items. It's a lot of fun, and can be done in a single playthrough. Basically, this is the game that started it all. The series definitely has come a long way, but the charm of the first game hasn't lost anything at all over the years. If you like platformers, you'll need to play this game, as it's one of the best out there.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 02/21/06

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