Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy is a 3D platformer from developers Naughty Dog, the creators of Crash Bandicoot and, more recently, the Uncharted series on the PS3. Naughty Dog has a reputation for creating quality games, and as a fan of the Crash Bandicoot games I thought I owed it to myself to check out their other platforming series. Here’s what I thought of it:
The Level Design: For its time, J&D is visually very impressive, with lots of variety in the colour palette, world themes and visual effects, but it is in the design of the worlds themselves where I feel this game really shines. The game world is open and the player can choose how they want to progress; you have access to a group of areas right from the start, with the next group naturally closed off. The aim of the game is to collect Power Cells, obtainable in numerous different ways, and collecting the required amount opens up the next set of worlds. Power Cells can be found anywhere, and you don’t need to collect all of them in order to progress, giving the player freedom of choice when deciding which cells they want to go for. Most of the time you are required to visit each area at least once, but it is the player’s prerogative how much time and effort they want to spend in a particular area. Each different environment comes complete with new enemies, tasks and obstacles, keeping things nice and fresh all the way through to the end.
Vehicle Sections: At various points in the game the player can take control of two different modes of transport, either a Flut-Flut, an indigenous creature akin to a dinosaur, and an A-Grav Zoomer, a man-made vessel similar to a hovercraft. These sections are a nice diversion from the familiar running and jumping, and the A-Grav sections in particular take you across fiery canyons and forest-type areas at high speeds, throwing tons of obstacles in your path for you to dodge as well as things to collect along the way. These parts of J&D control really well and offer up even more variety to the traditional formula.
Daxter: The character of Daxter is primarily what gives the game its personality. Granted, there are numerous wacky and entertaining characters to interact with throughout the game, but Daxter is constantly with you and always available to offer some comic relief when it’s needed. Jak himself never actually speaks, so it is up to his furry friend to fill the void when it comes to conversation. Some of his lines are genuinely laugh-out-loud funny, and you never really know what he is going to say or do next.
The Controls: Moving Jak around the various environments is totally responsive and feels perfectly natural and fluid. All of the usual moves are there, such as jumping and two basic attacks, but there are other more advanced techniques such as high-jumping, rolling jumps and stringing your various attacks together, all of which are simple to pull off. In a game like this the controls either make or break it, and luckily everything is on point here, making it a joy to progress through the game.
The Health System: It only takes three hits to kill you in J&D. You can refill your hearts (the lifebar) by collecting a substance called Green Eco; every 50 units you collect equals one heart, but the substance is a little too scarce to make collecting so much a reasonable demand. You can fill your life meter completely by stepping on Green Eco Vents, but these are too few and far between. Most enemies take off a full heart when they hit you, and many of these enemies are tricky to defend against when trying to perform a difficult jump or when they assault you in numbers. Personally, I think that either the life bar should have been extended or Green Eco be made available to collect in higher quantities. It isn’t a question of difficulty because dying has pretty much no penalty; it’s just an annoyance and one of the only consistent ones throughout the entire game.
The Length: I wouldn’t say that J&D was a short game, and it does take a bit of time to complete everything 100%, but I completed the game in two fairly casual sittings, managing to also collect every Power Cell. It seems that I’m nitpicking a bit, and I suppose in a way I am, but the game could have been a little bit longer. I would also have liked to see a couple more boss fights, but this isn’t really a major problem.
Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy is a fantastic game. I can really level very few criticisms at it; the world and the characters are all bursting with personality and life, the gameplay itself is superbly varied and exciting, and it really does offer a lot to see and do. I can now look forward to playing the other games in the series — once again Naughty Dog has proved that they are a team of highly talented individuals.