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Game Profile
PlayStation 2
Naughty Dog
GENRE: Platformer
December 04, 2001
Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier

Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier


Jak X: Combat Racing

Jak 3

More in this Series
 Written by Matt Swider  on April 26, 2002

Second View: Naughty Dog puts Banjo-Kazooie in the doghouse.

Jak & Daxter has finally made it's way to PlayStation 2 as one of the most anticipated games on the system, thus proving Naughty Dog is top dog among developers. The reason behind this is that despite the company's dropping its license of Crash Bandicoot, a series that helped solidify PlayStation as the number one console during its time, Naughty Dog has been able to entrance us with yet another platform title. While totally original, the developer has been able to recreate the same level of excitement found in its Crash run.

Creating a new game and turning it into a success isn't easy, especially in Naughty Dog's case. Here, we have a talented development company entering into a brand new platform with a fresh project that must surpass an already thriving videogame series of its own. Not only does Naughty Dog have to impress fans of its Crash titles that will be comparing them attentively, but be able to persuade those who are too reluctant to give a brand new game a chance.

The conception behind Jak & Daxter will likely remind gamers of Nintendo's infamous duo of Banjo-Kazooie, which was made famous by Rare in the late 90s. However, despite the fact that the models of the lead characters are presented in pair form, Jak and Daxter have many original and innovative qualities that are made known when sitting down to play. They move and interact in a different fashion than Banjo-Kazooie and to simply put it: D?j? vu, they not do.

The model of Daxter is the trigger of the storyline. When the pair explores Misty Island, Daxter falls into a pool of Dark Eco, which turns him into a small orange muskrat. As both Jak and Daxter set out to find a cure, they discover an evil plot causing their simple task to escalate into a rather lengthy adventure.

The design of each character within the game is said to be the product of focus testing that would appeal to all markets, and it has really shown it's success. The makeup of Jak and Daxter, as well as each friend and foe within, give off the appeal of Disney characters that come to life with fluid animation and bright colors. Along with the character models being detailed and full of bright shades, so too are the environments that surround them. Jak & Daxter takes full advantage of PS2's next generation palette with ample detail adding to its wide atmosphere. In addition to the huge stages to explore, little things are obvious within the special effects department. Amongst the different land surfaces, footprints will trail Jak while on sand of in the snow. Also, over time, the game changes from day to night, and while this doesn't affect the gameplay really, it does add to the awe you are already experiencing through each new level.

The true sticky area to every platform title is its camera. Never fear though, Naughty Dog has done the homework (I could go for a pun about Dog and eating homework, but don't despair, I'll just let you know it's there). While it's not at any perfection, you'll find it to be as good as it gets. Players can have full control of the rotation of their view and will also be allowed to take a look at things from the first person perspective to check the surroundings. This doesn't mean that players are free from mistaken pit falls or faulty jumps due to the camera; it'll still happen from time to time, but a rarity amongst other platformers. Despite the worlds being so large, colorful, and packed with the terrific effects, the game doesn't keep stopping you for annoying load times, putting the entire design of Jak & Daxter over the top.

Like almost every platformer out there, Jak & Daxter requires players to collect items and gives gamers chance to use special powers throughout their journey. Each level is filled with a multitude of precursor orbs that can be traded later in the game for the focus item, power cells. Once enough power cells have been gathered, players can open new areas and progress further into the game. There are also more types of eco besides the dark eco that turned Daxter into the furry character he is. For example, many areas offer blue, yellow, red and green eco, assisting the duo with special powers. The blue eco is the first type that you'll likely come across, which boosts Jak's running speed and allows him to spring on pads for a superior jumping range. Along with many of the blue eco stands is the task of running a jumping to a certain destination before a timed door shuts that would be too high or too far for Jak & Daxter to access on normal terms. In addition to blue, other types of eco range from red to give players a better offensive range and power, yellow, allowing players to shot flaming attacks, and of course green eco, which will increase Jak & Daxter's health during the game. From this, it's easy to compare the power cells to the coins, orbs to stars, and the assortment of eco to the number of special mushrooms in Super Mario 64.

Trading a bunch of power cells for a single precursor orb isn't the way to obtain an orb. In fact, many of the orbs you collect will come from objectives that must be performed. Along the journey, Jak & Daxter will come across dozens of characters that ask for help with a variety of requests. This is where the game really shines, because this happens to be a big part of the gameplay that offers a wide range of diversity and many of these objectives come across to be mini-games that you'll actually wants to indulge in and not trudge through.

It won't be tough for most to navigate our duo and pull off their moves either. However, there's little depth once players learn to master the basics here. Yet, that may be a good thing, allowing everyone to get down to the gameplay; the beacon of this shimmering title. The life given to Jak may not be enough at points, especially when enemies are abundant and a couple of hits will have you starting at the beginning all over again. While a few tries will likely do the trick, it can feel tedious and frustrating at times. Nevertheless, sitting down to play should feel nothing short of addicting in a few minutes of playtime.

Rounding out the lineup of impressive features is the sound department, and like the rest of the game, it sports nothing but the best. There's music that plays in the background fitting the game nicely, as well as quality sound effects matching the result of Jak & Daxter's movements. The voice acting happens to be some of the best I've seen on any console with Naughty Dog having the words symphonized with the graphical mouthing of them during the scenes. The only flat notion here in the scripting with Daxter seems like the only one with anything real interesting to say. I must admit, I do enjoy his witty snips and comments, however they will become a tad repetitive after a little while. Whether you find this annoying, it's the audio is first rate, much like the rest of the game.

Bottom Line
It's truly fascinating to play Jak & Daxter. The worlds are huge and colorful, exploring them will cause your eyes to remain wide open, and the ability to use the different eco and play tons of mini-games will add to the excitement. Chances are, if you enjoyed Crash even the slightest bit, Naughty Dog has another bowl of adventure that will make that Bandicoot seem like puppy chow.

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