The Jak and Daxter Trilogy – The PS3 Attitude Review
If you were a fan of platformer games on the PlayStation 2, then you’ll likely have played at least one of the Jak and Daxter games. The franchise is widely regarded as one of the best and most loved on Sony’s second home console, and now the original three games have been remastered in HD and released on a single Blu-Ray disc; but does the series still impress on PS3?
Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy
Naughty Dog first rose to prominence with the Crash Bandicoot series on the original PlayStation, and has most recently had huge success with Uncharted on PS3. However, if you ask us, the title that really put them on the gaming map was 2001’s Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy; not bad for a platformer that is predominantly aimed at children.
You play as Jak, a silent and scrawny teenager, who is accompanied by his mouthy but loyal friend Daxter. In the game’s opening, the latter accidentally falls into a pool full of a mysterious substance known as Dark Eco, and is transformed into a fluffy, orange creature called an Ottsel; and so begins the duo’s quest to save Daxter from a lifetime without pants… or something like that, anyway.
The Precursor Legacy is a fairly traditional 3D platformer that has more than a little in common with franchises like Spyro the Dragon and Naughty Dog’s own Crash Bandicoot on PSone. This is seen in both the bright presentation of the game and the simplicity of the controls; Jak jumps with the X button, punches with the square button, and performs a spin attack with the circle button.
As you’d expect from a platformer, Jak’s world is littered with fearsome monsters, dastardly traps, bottomless pits and many other devious obstacles ready to take you back to your last checkpoint, so you’ll constantly be kept on your toes. The game’s health system is also relatively unforgiving, so some of the later levels can get pretty challenging; damn you, Spider Cave!
Standard platforming and combat is complemented by short sections that see Jak riding a Flut Flut bird, or piloting his trusty A-Grav Zoomer, which was designed by his friend and love-interest, Keira. The game is also full of fun minigames to discover and puzzles to solve, so there’s a great variety in the title’s gameplay.
We may have said above that Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy is primarily for children, but the truth is that it has an extremely wide appeal, with entertaining gameplay and an often hilarious script that can be appreciated by both children and adults alike. Triple-A platformers are very thin on the ground these days, so it’s fantastic to be able to play this classic title again in HD.
Jak II: Renegade
We previously likened The Precursor Legacy’s gameplay to Spyro the Dragon, but Jak II: Renegade is less Spyro, more Grand Theft Auto. The title relocates the series from the countryside to the sprawling Haven City, which is struggling under the rule of the dictatorial Baron Praxis, whilst simultaneously fighting a war with a strange insect-like race known as the Metal Heads.
Jak himself also goes through a major transition, from a mute kid in The Precursor Legacy to a gruff-voiced warrior with a huge chip on his shoulder in Jak II. For two years, Baron Praxis has been experimenting on Jak with Dark Eco, until Daxter finally tracks his buddy down and the two of them escape the Baron’s fortress, finding themselves on the streets of Haven City.
Jak soon realises that, due to the Baron’s experiments, he can now harness Dark Eco energy to unleash Dark Jak, making him significantly stronger for a limited time. Along with this new power, Jak also gains access to the Morph Gun, a versatile weapon that changes into various states depending on the active modification, such as the shotgun-like Scatter Gun, or the rifle-like Blaster.
By using the D-pad, Jak can swap between all unlocked mods at any time, which means he always has a choice of how to take out enemies, so combat never gets boring. This is definitely a good thing, as Jak has a lot of enemies in this game. Chief among them is Haven City’s military, the Krimson Guard, which is on orders from Baron Praxis to kill Jak on sight.
Another major new addition to the gameplay is Jak’s jet board, which once unlocked can be taken out at any time by pressing R2. It’s a great way to get around for when you don’t want to hijack a Zoomer, and also comes in very handy for completing certain missions. You can even take it into the arena and go for a high score by performing tricks within a strict time limit.
These new gameplay features and more mature feel are also accompanied by a sharp increase in difficulty. Nowadays, most developers give checkpoints away like they’re going out of fashion, but Jak II has an almost complete lack of them. We personally enjoyed the challenge (well, most of the time), but some players could get frustrated with certain sections.
Due to his synergy with Dark Eco, Jak is now seen as a danger to Haven City, and is subsequently banished to the desert Wasteland. However, on the verge of death (in scenes that closely resemble the Rub’ al Khali section of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception), he is rescued by a group of strangers and taken to Spargus City, a settlement founded by other Haven outlaws.
The Wasteland is a huge expanse, so Jak needs a way to get around. Therefore, a lot of your time in Jak 3 is spent racing around the desert in buggies and ATVs (clearly the inspiration behind Jak X: Combat Racing, which is sadly not featured in this collection). The controls take a little getting used to, but you’ll be tearing around the Wasteland with ease once you do.
Eventually, Jak gets back to Haven City, to find it on the brink of total devastation. The city is now fighting a war against both the Metal Heads and an evolution of the Krimson Guard called KG Death Bots. You really get a sense of the city’s struggle to survive, so Jak must battle with his conscience and decide whether he wants to save the people who previously left him to die.
As with previous Jak and Daxter titles, there’s no shortage of gameplay diversity in Jak 3, so you never know what you’ll be tasked with next. From speeding for artefacts in the Wasteland, to fighting Marauders in Spargus Arena, or destroying turrets in Haven City, there really is something for everyone, and it’s rare for mission types to be repeated.
There are even a handful of short sections when the player takes control of Daxter; there were some even shorter sections as Daxter in Jak II, but in Jak 3 he is fully playable for the first time. This would eventually lead to the little orange guy getting his own game on PSP, which again, is not included on this disc, but we’ve got our fingers crossed for The Jak and Daxter Trilogy: Volume 2!
With a much larger game world, more impressive set pieces and a greater variety of gameplay, Jak 3 is probably best described as Jak II on steroids. It’s only looking back after seven years that we realise just how much of an achievement it really was; Jak II already pushed the limits of the PS2, so we don’t know how Naughty Dog managed to pack even more content into its sequel!
All three of the games in The Jak and Daxter Trilogy are brilliantly presented, with catchy music, distinctive sound effects, and an interesting story full of twists and likeable characters. Mass Media has also done a great job in upgrading the visuals; you wouldn’t confuse it with a brand new PS3 game, but it certainly looks just as good as any previous Sony-published Classics HD titles.
The icing on the cake is that the Trilogy has no game data install whatsoever; a fantastic achievement considering that all three games are set in vast open worlds with virtually no loading screens. We should point out that we did encounter a handful of graphical and performance glitches during our time with the Trilogy, but nothing that detracted from the overall great experience.
If you enjoyed the Jak and Daxter games on the PlayStation 2, then you’ll no doubt still enjoy them today; especially in HD! Conversely, if you previously dismissed the series for being ‘too kiddie’, then you missed out on three of the best games of the last console generation, so the Trilogy presents you with the perfect opportunity to correct your error of judgement.
It’ll take around 10-12 hours to finish each of the main stories, and much longer to find all the hidden Precursor Orbs and complete all the side missions (which you’ll have to do if you want the three platinum trophies!). That’s a hell of a lot of content for a budget title, and could well be the best value for money we’ve seen so far in the Classics HD range.
Every Jak and Daxter fan has their own favourite game in the series, which is a testament to just how well-crafted all three of these titles really are. To sum up the Trilogy, Jak and Daxter was already a fantastic series on PS2, and with HD visuals and PSN trophies, they’re somehow even better on PS3. Now Sony, could you announce Jak 4 for us, please? Cheers.