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Game Profile
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
PlayStation 2
PUBLISHER:
SCEA
DEVELOPER:
Naughty Dog
GENRE: Platformer
PLAYERS:   1
RELEASE DATE:
December 04, 2001
ESRB RATING:
Everyone
IN THE SERIES
Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier

Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier

Daxter

Jak X: Combat Racing

Jak 3

More in this Series
 Written by Adam Woolcott  on December 03, 2001

Hands-On Preview: Naughty Dog's latest is about to be unleashed.


Say what you will about the Crash Bandicoot character, but there's little arguing that Naughty Dog knows how to make good games. With 3 Crash platformers and 1 kart racing game to their recent credits, the talented American developers are preparing to unleash their first non-Crash game in 5 years with the 3D platformer Jak and Daxter. As the release of this game draws ever so close (tomorrow, if you're reading this December 3rd), I've recently been able to get a hands-on preview of this highly anticipated PS2 game, thanks to PlayStation Underground's free handouts (and we all know, free=cool, unless it's a free copy of Superman 64). And after a good amount of playtime with J&D, I must say I'm impressed at ND's latest achievement.

The story of J&D is quite simple; some sort of evil force is turning regular people into..things, and you, Jak must go to the Precursor Islands and figure out what it is. Daxter, a former normalite who's been turned into some sort of ferret, I guess, accompanies you. And then the game starts, with the quipping Daxter in tow, on a unique platforming adventure.

J&D's level structure is mission based; before each level you are assigned a handful of tasks and you need to accomplish all of them to fully complete it. The demo I played had around 5-6 tasks, from collecting a set amount of items to finding and unlocking important things. Hopefully this won't be like Spy Hunter where you have to beat all the tasks in one shot to really complete the game, and you'll be able to complete them at your leisure.

The controls felt extremely solid once you got used to them; Jak has a forward dash-like punch that sends an enemy careening across the screen, as well as a trick where he uses Daxter to do a spinning-whip type attack. And of course, you can jump around and hang from ledges in case you miss a platform. There isn't any falling to your death jumps like true platformers, but the flavor is still there.

A lot of the times you're collecting green orbs to replenish your health meter, or collecting all the eggs scattered around. Pausing the game gives you a chance to see how many you've collected if you want to collect all of them (Gotta Catch ?Em All! ..oh sorry..), as well as do a health check.

Your health is shown by a green heart with 3 sections; once all of them run out you're a goner, and Daxter will take a nice friendly smartass cheapshot at you for further embarrassment. However you can regain health by collecting the green orbs scattered around inside chests or after killing the enemies.

Jak even has a vehicle to race through particular parts of levels; a nice touch and a great way to mix up gameplay; similar to how well they varied things in the Crash Bandicoot games (well, 2 and 3 anyway).

Visually, the level I got to play was very nice and cartoonish ? it doesn't look realistic because it's not supposed to, but for a cartoony game, it's very detailed. The much-hyped talk of no load times and being able to see clear across other areas is there; I could see up a good while scoping out what's ahead, enemies and all. The other ballyhooed effect is the night to day time shifting; and it's also pulled of masterfully. When the game begins it's daytime, but after a good while of wandering around scoping out the scene, it will slowly change to nighttime, complete with sunsets and changing colors in the sky. It's all fluff really, but it adds a lot of coolness to the game.

However, in a lot of ways. J&D resembles Crash; from the jungle-like music to the level structure, to the characters (besides J&D that is) are all things that could fit into any Crash Bandicoot game. Not that it's a bad thing; and there's still plenty to help this game stand out. And, like Crash before it, the voice acting for the characters is quite good, and avoids the "cheesy" stigma.

Final Thoughts
There has been lots of talk about J&D the last few months since it was unveiled around E3, but as the game approaches, I can say much of the hype has come to fruition and it looks like Naughty Dog has another hit on their hands. If you're not sure and don't want to spend too much money testing it out, I believe it's on the Winter 2001 Jampack, or if you're a PS Underground member, you possibly got a free demo in the mail. Either way, if you enjoy platforming games, give J&D a try.


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