Review - Jak and Daxter Collection


Review - Jak and Daxter Collection
Three last gen platforming greats for the price of one... what could possibly go wrong?
Sony Computer Entertainment
Naughty Dog/Mass Media Inc.
Release Date:
Age Rating:
Another day another HD Collection, this time it’s the turn of Naughty Dog’s classic PS2 franchise, Jak and Daxter. While the developers behind the blockbuster Uncharted series were behind the originals, the porting duties have fallen to Mass Media Inc. this time of asking. If you’re not familiar with them, then join the club – they don’t exactly have a sparkling resume, with games such as Muppets Party Cruise, Nicktoons Movin’ and GBA ports of Rock ‘N Roll Racing and The Lost Vikings to their name. Of course, we’re not ones to hold track records against anyone, and we’re sure they did a stand up job on those projects, even if we haven’t played any of them.

Speaking of not having played games actually, I’ll be the first one to throw my hands up and admit that the Jak and Daxter series completely passed by me first time around, so I was probably looking forward to this collection a little more than I should have been, particularly after hearing so much about the it down through the years. However, I was also very careful to keep in mind that these collections can often be something of a letdown, especially when it comes to approaching them without the rose tinted spectacles of long term lovers of the series in question.

Despite my initial trepidation, jumping straight in was the only sensible course of action – so that’s exactly what I did. Given that this collection can be downloaded individually on PSN, as well as the complete collection purchased as one payment or in stores, the best way to approach this review is probably to split it into its three parts.

The first of which is Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy. This title serves as our introduction to the series, giving us our first taste of the kind of action we can expect. Immediately you’ll notice that the game suffers with a distinct case of “last generation camera”, but once you get your inversion settings right, and play around with the right thumb stick for a while, things feel pretty good.

The action is akin to this generation’s Ratchet & Clank series, although not as polished for obvious reasons. You’ll spend your time running, jumping, diving and meleeing through the game’s colourful levels, taking on all manner of irritating and all too frequent enemies. If you’ve played any action oriented platformer in the last few years, you’ll immediately settle in to what’s asked of you, which is quite encouraging given the fact that the game is pushing eleven years old at this stage – it’s not ancient, but given the genre, the fact that it holds up so well is a testament to the Naughty Dog staff.

Essentially, it’s all about collecting a number of different items, either by finding them in the wilderness of each level, or by completing different tasks in order to claim your rewards. The most common of these items are Precursor Orbs, which are littered around each level. You can use these orbs to purchase more important items, called Power Cells, around which the majority of the game is set. These Power Cells are also found dotted around the levels, but they’re much less common. Finally, collecting the seven Scout Flies found in boxes in every level will reward you with an additional Power Cell.

And what would a platformer be without power ups? In The Precursor Legacy Jak will be able to power himself up to superhuman proportions by collecting Blue Eco, glowing balls of pulsating blue light. When hopped up on blue eco, you’ll have a limited amount of time where you can run faster, jump higher and attract any collectables in your immediate vicinity s that you don’t have to waste valuable time running over them to collect. In addition to this, there are a number of different things within the game that cannot be activated unless you’re Eco’d up to the eyeballs, such as doors or platforms.

Obviously things do get a little more in depth, as you make your way through the levels you’ll be tasked with a number of different objectives from the locals, which will usually be rewarded with yet another Power Cell – and guess what your prize is for defeating the bosses? That’s right! A POWER CELL! Woo!

Joking aside, The Precursor Legacy is a fine, if slightly dated introduction to the series that occasionally lacks direction, but it’s definitely well worth checking out whether you’re a newcomer or a series veteran. There are some slight issues with the game’s presentation that might irk some, but none of them are frustrating or annoying enough to taint the experience any great amount. The worst things we came across were long pauses for dialogue with characters to load, and the occasional disappearing Jak after you find a Power Cell. Neither are game breakers, and even if they can be a bit of a pain in the ass at times, the fact that they’re the worst things about the game speaks volumes.

Next up is the second game in the series, Jak II, which was originally released in 2003 – pretty much when the PS2 was really starting to hit its peak. While the first game was definitely a more cutesy and light-hearted affair, Jak II is a surprisingly dark departure for the series. Perhaps reflecting the fact that Jak has grown up a little bit, and isn’t the innocent 15 year old kid from the previous game (oh, and then there’s the little matter of the two years of experimentation carried out on him before the game starts... that’s enough to darken anyone’s spirits we’re sure), Jak II certainly has a more mature flavour. Of course that’s not to say that it’s without some of the more amusing moments that were to be found in the first game.

The main focus of the game has shifted too, and the action now takes place in Haven City, with the Eco-centric gameplay of the previous title out the window. Rather than powering up with the blue stuff, you’ll now find Jak a much more tooled up young fellow, mainly thanks to the Morph Gun – a versatile weapon with a number of different functions. Eco does however make an appearance, as you’ll be able to power up with Dark Eco in order to unleash Dark Jak, a more dangerous version of the protagonist who is able to cause an awful lot more damage to enemies.

The trade off for this metamorphosis is the loss of Morph Gun functionality, so there’s a definite tactical edge to how you approach your transformations. By defeating Metal Head enemies however, Jak has the opportunity to stock up on Head gems and, in doing so, unlocking extra abilities to utilise as Dark Jak.

The main gameplay issue with the first game, the somewhat iffy (at least initially) camera has been rectified to a certain extent (although that may simply be because we were so used to things after playing through the first game). It still has its moments, and you can tell that the whole dual stick approach to movement and camera angle hadn’t quite been ironed out flawlessly at that stage, but it’s a definite improvement and it ensures that you don’t find yourself miffed with the lack of vertical control quite as often as in the original.

Jak II adds in some additional features that help the series build upon its promising origin - the major one being the addition of vehicular gameplay. Unfortunately, these don’t tend to work quite as well as we would have liked, and the hover cars can be a right bugger to control at times. Even still, though, it’s a good attempt, and it really does help to drive the action (pun not intended).

A couple of important new gameplay mechanics are introduced this time, including the high jump and the rolling jump – both of which enable Jak to reach places that would otherwise have been well out of the way. Once you’re used to the basics, which are spoon-fed to you in the game’s tutorial-esque first level, you’ll wonder just how you managed to soldier your way through the first game without them.

Then to wrap up the package is the third and final part in the trilogy, Jak 3. Released just a year after the second game, Jak 3 is undoubtedly the pick of the bunch. The game begins with Jak being banished to the wastelands following his actions in Haven City in the previous game. With his banishment meaning almost certain death, Ashelin hands him a tracking beacon as she says farewell, ensuring that he, Daxter and Pecker are located by a rag tag group of Wastelanders who bring him to the city of Spargus. Once there, he meets the ruler of the city, Damas, who offers him sanctuary within his city walls should he complete a series of missions for him.

Jak 3 continues on with Jak II’s darker tone and ramps up the difficulty a surprising amount – something which received some negative feedback among the game’s sea of praise upon release. Graphically, the game is head and shoulders above the previous two, and with its HD makeover it looks rather impressive despite its age.

The vehicular based sections are expanded upon, and this time they’re not quite as frustrating to control. In addition to this, you’ll also be able to commandeer some big ass lizards to save yourself some time getting from A to B.

As a way to end the main series, Jak 3 really does tick all the boxes, and it’s easy to see how Naughty Dog began sowing the seeds of the Uncharted franchise from the fantastic cut scenes and really strong dialogue which is a cut above literally everything else on that generation of consoles.

As a complete collection there’s absolutely nothing here to stop us from recommending the Jak and Daxter Collection. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a fan of the game from the first time around, a Naughty Dog fanboy, or just someone who is a tad curious about what all the hype is about, this is an absolute must have for anyone who has even vaguely enjoyed an action focussed platformer!

If you’ve got a 3DTV it might also swing you to learn that the game supports 3D and supports it very well. It needs a little bit of tweaking in order to get it just right based on your own personal preferences, but it’s definitely one of the better attempts we have seen so far. Well done to all involved, because we have the feeling we’re going to be playing this for quite a while yet!

9 Stars: Recommended
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