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Jak and Daxter Collection HD

17:3215/03/2012Posted by Chris MorellOne Comment

Before the runaway success of Nathan Drake and his globe-trotting antics, Naughty Dog secured a place among the game development greats on the PlayStation 2. It was the sweeping tale of an elfin hero and his wisecracking Ottsel that pushed the company’s reputation into the stratosphere, even after the praise received over the smash-hit Crash Bandicoot series. Those calling for the dynamic duo to return in shiny high definition have at last had their prayers answered, but does Jak’s legacy remain untarnished by time?

Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy is the first title in the series, focusing on the ‘Saturday morning cartoon’ exploits of a mute boy on a quest to find a cure for his friend Daxter, who was accidentally pushed into a vat of Dark Eco. Jak has the Crash Bandicoot spin attack, a forward punch and double jump abilities – the rest is up to the skill of the player and a small amount of grey matter to get things done. The Precursor Legacy spins a cutesy yarn with a focus on collecting orbs and harnessing the powers of the various Eco colours (green for life and red for fire, and so on) in the name of attaining enough Power Cells to progress. The world is bright and inviting, seamlessly integrating levels with the stage hubs whilst avoiding the need for loading screens.

If Super Mario 64 introduced us to 3D platforming and the likes of Banjo-Kazooie built on its foundations, then Jak and Daxter represents a culmination of these efforts, presenting a rich world rife with interesting characters and varied locales. There are no stages behind giant paintings or special doorways; everything here has a context within the gaming world, even if many of the usual themes remain largely the same. You’ll be jumping, running, solving rudimentary puzzles and completing a few mini-games in the name of collecting Power Cells. There’s no real penalty for death and the game is very forgiving over how much must be done and in what order. In this sense, the Precursor Legacy is perfect for winding down after a long day and it now looks even better thanks to the glorious HD sheen.

The second part of the collection will be something of a shock to the system for newcomers, just as it was to the masses come the tail end of 2003. As platforming games were proving to be troublesome when it came to actual sales, Naughty Dog saw fit to give the sequel a dose of modern action by handing Jak a weapon, a surly attitude and a new open world in which to shoot, drive and crash around in. Tormented and lost, the heroes find themselves in the dilapidated Haven City – a world complete with warring sides and a battle-ready underground movement perfect for anyone looking to get even at the city’s despotic Baron. The host of characters increases here and they each stand out as unique additions, which isn’t a claim we can always make when it comes to games of the modern era.

Jak 2 benefits even more than its predecessor when it comes to this long awaited HD release. The original PS2 edition ran with a fair amount of screen tearing, even when simply walking around the city slums. It’s all smooth sailing this time, meaning that at least on a technical level, this is the way in which the game was always meant to be played. On the flipside – and despite being the most epic of the three titles in terms of length and story – Jak 2 might not have aged as well as you had hoped. What impressed in 2003 (namely anything that cribbed from the Grand Theft Auto series) just isn’t enough today; the hover car mechanics are floaty and irksome, the shooting is imprecise and the challenge level is just too erratic for words.

In a move ensuring that anyone but the most hardcore of gamers will never see the ending, Jak 2 presents a challenge that will leave many rocking back and forth in the shower. The dreaded water slum level, the third stadium race and just about every escort mission will see you hurling a controller and cursing Naughty Dog’s name. This may be just the challenge you’ve been looking for of course, but it’ safe to say that after The Precursor Legacy this leap in difficulty can be jarring and downright frustrating. It’s still a great game if you’re willing to overlook some of its shortcomings and stop hoping that every mission will play fair.

The final part of the collection is Jak 3, which closes the trilogy in explosive fashion. Cast out and exhausted, our heroes join the wastelanders to play Mad Max for a while, opening up the desert for some thrilling buggy-driving gameplay. There probably are too many vehicle based missions and it probably isn’t going to surprise in the way that Jak 2 did after the first game, but it’s also the game with the best sense of balance overall. Dark new forces are at work, Haven City returns in a reduced role and fan-favourites play their parts in this final act, which thankfully scales down on the challenge considerably.

Battles are won, destinies are revealed and a surprise twist at the end will amuse anyone new to the series. There are more mini-games than ever and throwaway play-styles are discarded just as you become good at them, but it’s all a part of the experience. If freedom to explore is your thing then you’ll be well served here, though the mission formula of the previous instalment is still alive and well in Jak 3… it’s just more forgiving this time around. The atmosphere translates superbly in this HD re-release; the environments are crisp, plus the cinematic animations hold up well even by today’s standards. The fans were right to demand that these games receive the HD treatment, surpassing every other attempt we can think of on a graphical level… Shadow of the Colossus and God of War 2 included.

The Jak and Daxter Collection is one of the best high-def re-releases about and represents great value for money in terms of bang for your buck. The main – indeed only – problem is that certain gameplay elements that we let slide back in 2003 and 2004 haven’t aged well at all, particularly during missions in the second half of Jak 2. Even when things look bleak and your PS3 controller has seen better days however, the dialogue continues to entertain; Daxter’s comedy relief is a godsend that will have you laughing enough that you’ll actually want to retry that soul destroyingly tough mission just to see what happens next. You’ll laugh at Daxter, you’ll cry in frustration with Jak 2 (just you wait!) but you’ll remember it all for years to come.

This review is based on a copy provided by Sony.

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One Comment »

  • free gifts ps3 hdtv iphone said:

    I usually do not write a lot of remarks, but after
    reading through a few of the comments on this page D+PAD Jak and Daxter Collection HD.

    I actually do have 2 questions for you if it’s allright. Could it be only me or do a few of these comments look like they are coming from brain dead folks? :-P And, if you are posting at other online sites, I would like to follow you. Could you make a list of every one of your social pages like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?

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