Review: Jak and Daxter Collection (PS3)
Jak and Daxter was to the PlayStation 2 as what Crash Bandicoot was to the PlayStation. Joining the ranks of God of War and Metal Gear Solid, Jak and Daxter now have their own place in the PlayStation 3’s remastered for HD collection.
I’ve never played the Jak and Daxter series of platforming adventure games. Having been a Crash Bandicoot person from the days of the PlayStation, I overlooked the antics of Naughty Dog’s PS2 heroes. This HD collection is comprises of the main trilogy of the series with graphical tune-ups and an increase in frame rates for smoother animation, as well as 3D stereoscopy for 3DTV displays and trophy support.
Everything else about the game remains the same. Jak and Daxter have no added features that will make the duo perform or look any different from what you would remember from the original versions on the PlayStation 2, besides the changes they receive during the subsequent sequels. I’ll be reviewing this based on my thoughts of the trilogy playing it for the first time and its remastered evolution. Let’s start from “The Precursor Legacy”, shall we?
Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy
The story begins with the delinquent duo travelling to Misty Island against the advice of the wise Samos. They spot the evil Lurker army and barely got out of the island alive, but not before Daxter is turned into an otter-weasel freak-o-nature. To fix Daxter up, the duo must now seek the help of the master of Dark Eco, Gol, who actually has some plans on his own.
Gameplay largely revolves around the collection of Power Cells, 100 in all, for Keira, Samos’s daughter, to fix up the Zoomer hovercraft with. Jak’s fictional world also revolves around Precursor Orbs and the powerful stuff known as Eco, which comes in various forms. Green for life energy, blue for speed boosts, red for attack boosts, yellow to shoot fireballs with and the nasty dark Eco.
The game was the first of its kind to allow gameplay in a massive, seamless open world without the need of loading screens, something of an impressive feat even today. I saw Jak and Daxter platforming much like an open world Crash Bandicoot. Jak even has a spin attack like Crash. There isn’t much graphical detail for a game made in 2001, though, and the remastered version doesn’t change that fact.
There were issues where the double-jumping was a little quirky and seeing myself plop into water when I mistimed a jump and eaten by a Lurker Shark was particularly frustrating, especially when you’re warped back to the start of the level after trekking a fair distance into the jungle. Needless to say the amount of checkpoints are sparse by today’s standards. The lack of an on-screen radar will also mean you’ll be fumbling through the pause menu to see where you need to be.
The second game was a totally different take on the original game. After the events of the first game, Jak and friends are inadvertently transported through a time portal, taking us from a cheery natural setting to the dystopian Haven City hundreds of years into the future. Suddenly a fun family-friendly game grew up and became an emo teenager who plays Grand Theft Auto all day.
You may think this is an odd twist of changes, but Naughty Dog managed to put it together rather well. A change in setting allows for a change in gameplay. Jak II awards Jak a larger health gauge, a vengeful voice (the silent protagonist speaks!) and the power to harness Dark Eco as Dark Jak for more devastating attacks.
In line with it’s new GTA-like features, you can “Hi-Jak” hovering vehicles and speed towards your particular destination, no longer having to trudge sluggishly behind Jak’s walking. Jak is also handed a gun you upgrade with cooler ammunition features as you progress in the mission-based gameplay. A welcome addition, as players can just take out enemies without the specific need of Yellow Eco from the first game.
The second game has a notch up on the graphical detail with the titular characters sporting new looks. The annoying bit about the lack of checkpoints still remain. On the plus side, there is a nifty auto-aim system that helps you blaze through enemies without the need to contort the camera stick and an on-screen GTA-like radar map.
Jak 3 continues from where Jak II left off, except Jak and Daxter have been exiled and thrown out of Haven City after being held responsible for its close destruction. Saved from a deserty death, he lives with the people of the Wastelands and get back on his feet.
The core gun upgrades of Jak II are reintroduced through separate gauntlet tutorial-like levels early in the game. The hovering vehicles have all been replaced by lizard-like Wasteland creatures, at least until you make your way back to Haven City, no secret there. Earlier missions will throw you out into the open desert wasteland driving massive gun-toting dune buggies.
Jak will also harness the power of Light Eco along with his Dark side. Light Jak has the ability to slow down time and regenerate his health. Jak 3 also features another boost to its graphical side in the trilogy’s largest map for a good long bout of load-free free-roaming.
I did experience less frustration over the checkpoints issue, but that could just be me having improved control handling. That aside, Jak 3 stays pretty much the same from Jak II. That’s probably a good thing. Why fix something that isn’t broken?
Jak and Daxter are inseparable. Jak provides the action and Daxter, the comic relief who quips sarcastic remarks even when facing a near-death situation. In case you can’t get enough of that, all the characters are fully voiced on all the cutscenes seen on all three games. There is plenty of story to be had here and that’s the great amount of storytelling that would build up to the future of Naughty Dog’s action-adventure games.
I must say I only played through the collection in one-third parts for this review, but having to experience all this, in high-definition graphics laden with animation improvements no doubt, means I will be going back. Jak and Daxter Collection is worth getting three of the best PlayStation action-platformers for its time on a single Blu-ray disc, especially if you haven’t played the trilogy before.
|SCORESHEET (out of 10)||OVERALL
|The graphics are all remastered and ready for HD at 720p, but still show a sign of age, with PlayStation 2 written all over them.|
|The fully voiced cast across the three games is still a charming aspect of any game. Daxter’s quips bring life to an otherwise dead-serious game.|
|The controls are nothing to complain about, although some frustrating “incidents” will occur over player deaths, forcing you to start over, like platformers usually do. Whizzing around in a hovercraft with no loading screens is always fun.|
|With a whole trilogy of missions and collectables, players will be fully submerged into the games for hours on end.|
|How the RGB Scoresheet works|
Jak and Daxter Collection is a Mass Media/Naughty Dog collaboration for Sony Computer Entertainment on the PlayStation 3. 3DTV Stereoscopic features were not tested. (Feels there should be a “The” in the title, doesn’t it?)