Jak & Daxter

Jak & Daxter

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DEVELOPER: Naughty Dog   |   PUBLISHER: SCEA   |   RELEASE: 12/03/2001

So you’re looking for a few mindless hours of entertainment, well you came to the right place. Jak and Daxter, the latest Naughty Dog production, is at it’s best a great platformer with a bit of the adventure genre mixed in.

It stars Jak, the guy you play, and his fuzzy, smart ass sidekick, Daxter. Daxter, fortunately for us, has fallen into a pit of Dark Eco and been turned into an ostell, no not a weasel, an ostell. And now Jak must work his way through fifteen gorgeous areas to find the man that will turn Daxter back – oh and along the way stop the madman who is trying to harness Dark Eco to destroy the world.

Jak moves through these areas on foot, A-GRaV Zoomer (a fish shaped hover bike) and Flut Flut (a bird). It makes for great variety and all gamers will have their favorites. I got to watch a friend flounder on the Flut Flut, while the Zoomer personally kicked my ass. Jak is able to harness other forms of Eco around the land to help him on his quest: Green for life, Blue for speed and activation of precursor items, Yellow for shooting and Red for power. Jak will have to complete tasks (this is that adventure part that will require you to use you brains as well as your thumbs) to collect power cells, including collecting the floating precursor orbs to trade with the villagers. And Jak gets to do all of this while beating up the various Lurkers who are trying to stop him.

The power cells are needed to “power up” the Zoomer or Jak won’t make it to the next village. Jak has various moves from punch to spinning and jumping – if the move your using doesn’t get the result you need, try another move. ’Cause the great thing about this game is nothing is impossible – though parts of it are very, very hard. But don’t worry, the game helps you out. Unlike games like Maximo – if you suck at it, the game compensates and makes things easier. For example, fail at the fish collecting mini game and it starts giving you more yellow fish, or if you die a lot, you might find more large Green Eco in treasure chests. And you can always take advantage of certain buys along the way, like activating the log that will allow you to skip past the first half of getting the power cell from the Lurker fortress on Snowy Mountain. Some things, however, are purely up to your ability to maneuver, so you’ll have to get to power cell over the lake on your own.

Jak and Daxter aren’t the only characters. You’ll meet four sages (hmm… four kinds of Eco makes for four Eco sages – nifty math there, huh?), numerous villagers, the big evil doers, the nasty lurkers (who thankfully never talk) and Keira, the well-built girl who’s good with technology (and yes Daxter will hit on her). The character designs rock, not too cutesy (no super-deformed characters here!), and good enough to look at for hours on end (frankly, I can’t stand to watch Crash Bandicoot). Naughty Dog did an impressive job with the voice actors too. I mean we got Batman playing the fisherman and Dee Snider playing the villain. Makes me smile!

Like all platformers, as experienced gamers will know, most of the game is fairly easy. Run, jump, double-jump, hit the Lurker and so on. But you knew that already. You play platformers ’cause you like that style of gaming, the seeing if you can get the jump of at the right second, hop the Zoomer at the right time, barely touch the platform before you jump again ’cause it’s going to drop under your feet, etc…. The reason you’ll want to play Jak and Daxter is the smoothness of this game. Talk about graphics, music, lighting effects, and oh, in case you don’t notice, NO LOAD TIMES. That’s right. If you fail to get sucked in by the characters or the plot, try this on for size. You can see everything in this world no matter where you are – get to a ledge in the snowy mountain and look out – you’ll see the power conductor in the first village. And check out the precursor items – they all have this gorgeous metallic sheen.

Add to that different music for each area that really falls into more of a background mood effect. In other words the music is so good and appropriate and variable that you will neither go to bed and dream the music nor want to put the damn monitor on mute before you throw a shoe at the game. As for the lighting, it’s incredible. Day passes into night, passes into day, but it looks different depending on where you are. For example, the Misty Island area is gloomy and never quite gets sunny during the day. As you progress in the game, you’ll run into a thunderstorm that can make zooming through the mountain pass a bitch. Get into the lava tube and you can see the light and heatwaves coming from the molten rock. But all that wasn’t enough for Naughty Dog. They wanted no load times and they got it. They only way you’ll know you’ve run into a different area is the name that appears briefly on the screen in front of you – while you’re running around. And no need for separate movies either – any talking is done right there in the game. That’s a game worth playing, worth owning.

The only real drawback here is the game ends after about 5 continuous hours, if you know where everything is and get it all in the first shot (fans of never-ending RPGs will be disappointed). And, of course, no one has made a perfect camera for 3-D games just yet, but this one will cause you less heartache than the rest. Time are when the camera faces away from where you need to jump, but this is usually fixed by the use of Jak’s goggles or the right analog stick – very helpful on the rotating platforms! And if the game forces you into a certain camera angle – look around you may just need to be facing that way to catch a pole.

So my opinion is that you should at the very least rent it. You’ll probably find you need it in your collection. And for the love of God, don’t use any gameshark codes as you already have infinite lives and once you collect a precursor orb it is forever collected. You can probably guess my opinion on the strategy guide, but if not, don’t buy it. Jak and Daxter is not THAT difficult. But it sure is loads of fun – ’specially the victory dances.

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