Publisher: Mass Media Inc / Sony Computer Entertainment
One of the finest PS2 3d platforming series is back in what seems like the thousandth HD re-release for this generation. Jak and Daxter start out as two wayward youths exploring areas they were not meant to be and it seems for good reason, as Daxter is accidentally transformed into an ‘ottsel’ (a hybrid of otter and weasel). So starts a quest to cure Daxter which ultimately puts them on a path to a far greater adventure.
You control Jak as he runs, punches and jumps his way through levels mixing up platforming action, quests for friendly locals and even some vehicle sections. Daxter accompanies you but mostly offers only moral support or, more accurately, helps narrate out plot development, give out hints and makes a lot of one-liners. Mileage will vary on whether he is amusing or annoying but I found him to be far more tolerable in the second two games as a balancing agent to their slightly darker tone.
If there is a weakness with this series, it is that the first game has not aged as well as the others. While the HD graphics are appreciated, visually it is obvious with the first game is over a decade old. Another negative factor is that replenishing your health is annoyingly slow particularly as your main attack trusts you forward and leaves you unable to move for a second. Countless restarts occurred thanks to my own attack throwing me off a cliff or landing me right in front of a charging enemy. Finally, and this may sound like an odd complaint, Jak’s breathing is distractingly heavy. I found it very off putting that running even a short distance made him sound like he was having an asthma attack.
The second game starts with Jak being captured (and tortured / experimented on) for two years and gaining some nifty ‘dark’ powers and apparently some elocution lessons, as the previously mute character gains a voice and a new more hostile attitude. Although I rolled my eyes when I first saw this development, the resulting game actually worked quite well and the dreaded angst I feared would make the character unlikable didn’t turn out to be a problem. I am still not sure it was the right way to go but the lampshading jokes about the new found ability to speak certainly helped. The second and subsequent game also removed the health bar issues of the first and offered a far more satisfying experience on what is for all intents purposes the same model as the first in terms of gameplay and humour.
Overall, Jak and Daxter is still an incredibly well put together game but, thanks to its age, now seems rather by the numbers. If you have played the originals there is also no real incentive to get it again because outside of the HD repaint, there is nothing new here. If you did miss out on the series first time around though, then there is plenty of solid action here.
Rent or Buy: Buy
Reviewed by: JP Gallagher