Review: The long eared hero, the orange haired sidekick, and the massive adventure ahead...
For some time, it's been known that Sony kept their lips sealed about an upcoming PlayStation 2 title from the makers of the Crash Bandicoot series, Naughty Dog. Supposedly this game was to be one of their best. And up until E3 came, the word was out, and Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy was hidden behind the curtain no more. Ever since then, the game was advertised even more so than the game of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. The truth behind it all is...I can't see why not. Jak and Daxter is one game that's too addicting to put down!
Ditching the whole Bandicoot franchise, Naughty Dog's new creations, Jak and Daxter, are a whole new ball game. The story begins when both Jak and Daxter, ignorant of the village sage's wisdom, enter into Misty Island, a dangerous territory filled with monsters called Lurkers. While there, the two youths discover something big going on. A secretive plan from a mysterious figure has the clan of "Lurkers" under his control. The Lurkers are a race of lizard creatures, amongst other things. The two friends -- Jak and Daxter -- trying to not reveal themselves to the Lurkers find a different location on the island, where a vat of dark eco is placed. But as always, trouble occurs, and a Lurker solider spots the two. Jak, trying to defend Daxter and himself, ends up knocking Daxter into the pool of dark liquid by mistake. In goes Daxter, and out comes a muskrat. Now the furious village sage, Samos, informs them that the only way to turn Daxter back to his original form is to find one sage hidden far away into the valley's depth. To get there, they're going to have to embark on a journey, past the danger of Lurker armies to reveal his location. Are you or are you not prepared to grow a few thousand blisters from one of the most involving tales ever created?
Much like the Crash Bandicoot games, Naughty Dog's new title features assorted gameplay in the Crash style. You'll play as the character Jak, with a helping mouth aided from Daxter on your back, as you're able to spin, jump, double jump, swim, crawl, dash, and even launch onto a pole and twirl right off of it. The control of Jak is fairly simple, and almost entirely versatile from the start of the game. Even without the prompt setup from Samos and his daughter Keira in practice mode, Jak's movement is easily absorbed within minutes.
You'll find out that the game isn't too easy or too hard. The premise of the actual gameplay has you collecting objects for the most part, and fighting hordes of enemies to achieve them. Basically, there is a huge world of others like Jak with problems. In the game, you'll need to locate these towns' folk through exploration of the levels. Specifically, in order to unlock certain areas, or to obtain an object, Jak and Daxter will have to complete each of the level's adroit puzzles. For example, a woman bird watcher has her eye on a giant egg. She's afraid that the Lurkers plan to tamper with it. Your job is to travel form the village all the way to the beach area, climb a hilltop, and use your spin attack to knock the egg to the ground. Your reward is a power cell. These power cells you'll collect by completing distinctive tasks from each area that requires a level of skill you'll gain as you progress throughout the game's entirety. And these cells are then later used for instances when you've got to power up a machine in the game to remove a boulder in the way, or even restore power to a transportation device. Most of the time, though, to garner up a mass of power cells, you'll need to collect a different item named precursor orbs. The orbs are scattered across level flatlands, floating in mid air gaps, barred inside sealed boxes, hovering over lava trails, and even at times in underwater locations. Using each of Jak's skills is key to collecting each and every one of them. The collection of these and every other item in the game will never make you feel like you're trying your best for nothing.
Along with the collection of orbs in these levels, you'll also gain such useful items like green, blue, yellow, and red power cells. The green, used for health, fill Jak's limited life bar. Each time Jak is hit, you'll have to collect 50 green power cells in order to fill up one of his three life spaces. The blue cells, used for making Jak run quicker, also opens up doors, and powers up jumping platforms that once could not be accessed. Yellow cells mark Jak's ability to shoot fireballs. With this power, you can break open boxes of orbs to collect and even kill enemies from a good distance. And as for the red cells, they're used to make Jak's attacks more powerful. Gigantic monsters cannot be defeated sometimes without the aid of a red cell. In effect, you can't beat the game without using the proper items needed.
As I've mentioned, there are massive levels to explore. Including a jungle, beach, fire, swamp, underground city, amongst others, there is much to see, and much to do in the game of Jak and Daxter. It's truly amazing at how each of these areas intertwine with one another. You can literally be standing on top of a high peak in a snow covered area, and at the same time, be gazing at green palm trees and flowing rivers from afar. By way of connecting the level areas, what I mean is that you can walk from one spot to the next, and back, without any load times at all in the game. One example is how the only way to get to Rock Village is to go through the Fire Canyon area. Once in Rock Village, you can then climb up a mountaintop to access the Mountainside Pass, which leads into a volcanic area, or visit Precursor Baslin; a grassy knoll full of misshaped hills and water ponds, or even check out the Boggy Swamp and Lost Precusor City locales. Of course with no load times in the game, and as much info is pressed onto this DVD, you can see that the PlayStation 2's power is an awesome one.
Concentrating Jak's abilities on the level courses is a tough job to accomplish at times. In the game, you'll come across ever changing areas that posses a new type of challenge and enemy to battle. Most of the gameplay has Jak focused on jump skills. At times, you've got to get across a set of platforms that fall every time you touch them in a limited amount of time. Or in other cases, there's moving objects to leap across, hurdles of moving spike objects to dodge, blockades of enemies to deal a death sentence to, and of course the levels themselves, chock full of gorges and lava pits which you must conquer each one of them in order to reach a certain area to obtain the item or placement you're after. The difficulty level is raised constantly. Sometimes you may die about 20 times or more before you're actually able to accomplish a goal. But, this leaves all the more reason why learning to excel in the various skills Jak is enabled with is a game requirement.
Richly detailed, the world of Jak and Daxter is nothing but amazing. Each area, character, and everything else is totally interactive and alive with the character Jak and his bud Daxter. Character animations in their comical sense are indeed great eye candy in the game. Especially the two main characters, their motion together is wildly wholesome. When Jak spins, Daxter, always clinging to Jak's back, will grab a hold and lift into the air of a revolving motion. When Jak pounds his face into a wall, tiny yellow stars appear before his throbbing head. Enemy Lurkers, when Jak nears their presence, their eyes light up with delight, and trot towards you in pursuit. Still, as great as that all sounds, the graphics of the game continue to get better.
Environmental weather effects change through the course of areas. Day and night, rain and snow, thunder and lightning all affect the sky above. When Jak's standing behind a roaring torch, the way the transparent gas is aligned with Jak's placement is always highly detailed. Trudging through watery, sand filled, and swamp areas, the way Jak's footprints, and shimmering glow effects of liquid always look too real to be just a game. As much as I'd like to, I can't summarize how much Jak and Daxter's graphics are the way they are. They're like as if the word perfect were a video game.
Finally, the sound elements of the game are typically transcendent in that traditional platform way. The background music shifts from entering one area to the next, and always carries a theme to the level you're in. For instance, when inside a molten area, the beat will pick up into a fast paced drumbeat in comparison to the mellower lull of the sunny beach area. In addition to the musical score, the game is ripped with character noises galore. Chirping crickets, growling Lurker troops, and even the sounds from the very stars of the game all clamor together to make the game sound as fascinating as it could be. Jak, when pounding himself into a wall, creates a noise similar to the smash of a sledgehammer. In walking across any surface, sure enough, the way the crunch of sand sounds in comparison to a rickety bridge, each and everything affects what you do in all of the massive landscapes.
That's not all, however. The game has a myriad in selection of voices. People you meet in the game are voice acted, and the voices used all match their characters perfectly. A cheery voice for the lovable characters, a dumb voice for the stupid ones, a grouchy voice for the old, powerful voices for the strong, and so on, reveal just how much work went into the sounds of the game. There are lots of characters to interact with, and to find out what they have to say is always amusing with the addition of Daxter, who speaks in sentences that are always entertaining to listen to with his quirky animations.