Release Date: February 7, 2012
Systems: PS3 & Ps Vita
Metacrtic Score: 81 (PS3)
Naughty Dog is one of the only game studios I genuinely excited about. When I hear they are about to release a new game I am almost tempted to brake my sacred rule of “do not pre-order” because…well…it’s Naughty Dog. To date, “Uncharted 2” and “The Last of Us” both have a spot on my “Top 10 Games of All Time List”. So when I heard the the “Jak and Daxter” series (the games that started my love for the company) was getting the HD treatment, I had to have it. So, after 13 years, does the game hold up?
The stories of these games has always been the week link in my opinion, and age hasn’t helped matters in any way. In each game it seems like the story doesn’t really start until half way through, and then it just feels odd how often the characters know what needs to be done, only to spend a few more missions doing just about anything but.
In the first game Jak and his friend Daxter go to the forbidden “Misty Island” where Daxter falls into a pit of “Dark Eco” (“Eco” being a set of color coded power ups) and finds himself transformed into an Ottsel (an orange rat like creature). Together and with the help of Samos the Sage of Green Eco and his daughter Keira, they set off to find Gol, the sage of Dark Eco as he is the only one who knows enough about Dark Eco to turn Daxter back.
The Second game Finds the Crew in the future where Jak is Tortured for Two years by having Dark Eco injected into him. Yes, the tonal whiplash you just felt is perfectly natural. This is honestly one of the biggest reasons the stories never really did much for me, personally. The plot of the first game was light hearted and fun, giving you an excuse for all the platforming. The second games plot about Jak getting revenge on The Barron (the tyrant who rules Haven City) feels really out of place. Worse than that, is that there really isn’t anything making this a “Jak and Daxter” game other than a few lines and a renewed focus on the mythology set up in the first game. This game could have stared any other character and changed a few lines and been just as good.
Some have tried to pass this off as the series “evolving”, but really it just seems to be trying to be more “mature” in the most immature way possible.
The Third game sees Haven City under attack again and Jak and Daxter have been kicked out of the city and…to be honest I really just checked out of the story at this point. Yes, each game has it’s moments, like finding out just who the Precursors (god-like beings who created both the universe and Eco), but the reason and logic on these games were always about getting you too a mission. Most of the dialogue and cutscenes, epically in games 2 and 3, are just there to tell you what you will be doing next.
So, as the Story is just and excuses to get you playing, how do the games play? Really well for the most part. The character is always responsive and the combat and puzzles spend about equal time in the spot light so that one rarely becomes tiring. However, it is some what sad that combat never really evolves. Guns are introduced in the second game, but really, after you get all the guns and gun mods, every fight feels somewhat the same.
Honestly though, that never really bothered me. The major issue here is difficulty spikes and lack of checkpoints. What near killed the experience for me was when those two issues chose to compound on each other. For example, in game 2, there is a section of three block puzzles, and between each the was a section that had you running from a giant centipede creature where the camera changes to the monsters perspective. The puzzles weren’t hard, but the change in perspective always through me off, so i’d die often. This forced me to do the same simplistic puzzles over, and over again, witch stop being fun after the first time. Better checkpoints would have fixed this. The there are racing missions where, once again, if you die at any point you have to do all five laps over again.
Games like Dark Souls use difficulty to teach, telling you to take the game slow and learn why you dies, so that each tiny victory feels like a real achievement, and that’s great. But here, I was usually just happy that I didn’t have to keep doing whatever it was that was giving me issues. Being glad to be past something is not the same as being glad you overcame something and that is a lesson these games don’t seem to understand. But all in all, I did enjoy most of the time I spent playing.
Game Play: 8/10
Nothing here really stands out. The voice acting is all solid, but once again, with the story’s being so completely pointless it feels almost wasted. Really, nothing is ever really “bad” in the sound department, but it also never seems like the creative team went out of the way to make it great. The music is forgettable and the car and gun sound effects fit, but again, it feels like a very standard “good” however, I did notice more than a few times when the sounds simply cut out.
Overall score: 7/10
Who is This Game For:
I’d say anyone who wanted to play these when they came out, but never got around to it. These aren’t bad games, but they very much feel like playstation 2 games, in the best and worst sense. So often I saw what made me love these games back in the day, but so often ot made me glad to live in the hear and now so I could appreciate the improvements the game industry has made.