Reviews: Jak And Daxter

Daxter: not a great instalment of the franchise, but a decent enough platformer and an alright handheld game

As a kid, I was heavily into the Jak and Daxter series. The PS2 was my main machine for 12 years, and in all that time I didn't have a PSP to play the series' last great hurrah - I heard about how great it was from a friend and saw an eyeful of gameplay at school once. It was only recently that I dived into the game.

Honestly, it's not as good as I thought it'd be. Cutscenes are few and far between, and a lot of them lack any sort of focus - like whenever you take on a mission, there's just a 12 second cutscene of a bland elf person telling you what to do. And the cutscenes with effort put into them lack the sharp writing of the mainline games - even Daxter feels like a watered down version of himself surrounded by bad OCs and mediocre music.

Let's talk about those characters for a second - Ximon is a gratingly annoying surfer dude stereotype with a painful voice, Osmo is kindly and old and not much else, the main girl whose sole purpose is to feed Daxter upgrades is an amalgamation of Keira, Ashelin and Rayn and the Big Bad doesn't do a damn thing until he blows up Osmo's place, and then proceeds to do nothing until his boss fight. The original cast is damn weak.

On the plus side, the platforming is okay. You use a poison sprayer to hover in the air, with flamethrower and ultrasonic upgrades that increase your height. There are lots of open setpieces to platform around, and over 1000 collectibles to grab - even with some frequent slowdown and buggy collision physics, the game plays decently and has enough content to justify the $10 you might spend on it.

And the returning characters really steal the show. The writing is pretty ehh, but everyone's modeled superbly - miles ahead of the new characters, and their appearances are very welcome between or during missions.

As a Jak and Daxter game, I'd put it behind the trilogy and even Jak X due to its shoddy writing and clunky/buggy playstyle. But it's miles ahead of The Lost Frontier, and as far as gameplay goes it might just beat Jak X in how fun it ends up becoming. Also, for a handheld game made in 2006, Daxter is very ambitious and well-formed - it came in the first year of the PSP, so I can look past some of the jank.

Overall, while Daxter is an underwhelming instalment of the franchise, it grows into an alright game with decent replay value.