"Think Banjo-Kazooie come Mario and Crash Bandicoot, with superior level-design, graphics and control. "
Ever since Crash Bandicoot's debut on the original playstation, the 3D-platformer genre has been wildly popular. The genre has always been infamous for it's fun-filled, addictive and simplistic gameplay which is easy to pick up, but hard to put down. But with such loveable mascots and trademark-characters such as Spyro, Mario, Sonic and Crash, is there really room in the console world for another 3D-platformer? I mean, how different could it be, and how could it possibly manage to beat out any of the other already superb games in this genre?
Graphics have always been important in 3D games. Not just because they're eye-pleasing, but because if 3D isn't done right, it can seriously detract from the gaming experience, which no one wants. So, in a game of a genre which is based largely on judging distances and obstacles, you'd expect the graphics to be very good. Well, Jak and Daxter's graphics are good. In fact, they're great. It features a fully 3D-environment with all types of nooks and crannies to visit, with a whole lot of detail to complement the world.
Now, I'm sure you've heard of a game being ''fully-3D'' many times, but have you ever really seen a game as ''fully'' 3D as Jak and Daxter? The chances are, you have, but never in such a wide scale, because J&D allows you to explore pretty much every tiny little area of the world, and believe me, the world is huge! Villages, forests, caves, beaches--all are done with extreme attention to detail and graphical wonder. As soon as you enter an area, that WHOLE area is loaded, which means, no loading time and very little slowdown throughout that level. Even when you enter houses in the village, you'll be glad to notice that the game doesn't need to load at all. The game also has a really distinctive cartoony look to it which actually makes you feel like you're playing a cartoon, which is pleasant, because it's all very humorous and quirky.
All in all, the graphics are superb. They run at an incredibly smooth rate, while having plenty of polygons on-screen at once, with tons of great textures and lighting effects. Naturally, there are little glitches and flaws here and there, but what game would be complete without them?
Played a 3D platformer before? Chances are, you'll feel very familiar with the general control scheme and gameplay style of Jak and Daxter. You control Jak, a weird elf-looking guy with spiky hair, who carries a strange rat-like thing on his shoulder, Daxter. You can pretty much do whatever you could do in Crash Bandicoot, Mario and other such platformers, plus quite a bit more. There's obviously the ability to jump (and jump again in mid-air), punch, spin punch, jump up and punch down below you, roll, and a few others. You have to jump and punch your way through huge environments, eliminating baddies and completing mini-games along the way, to collect power-cells which ultimately are the goal of the game.
Now, as far as the mini-games go, there's quite a bit to do here. In each area (I won't call them levels, because the game has a different feel to the general level-based one)you have a number of things you can do. There are usually several power-cells to collect in each area, and a number of ways which you can get them. Mini-games include fun and quirky stuff such as fishing, chasing moles into their holes while flying along in a small airplane and tons more. All the mini-games really do make the game feel a lot more fun, while adding some well-needed variety which spices up the game a whole lot. Never is there just ONE thing to do in an area like in other platformers--You can always just explore, collecting little floating eggs to get a power-cells, it's up to you.
When you control Jak, his life is represented by a heart in the upper-left corner of the screen. This heart is composed of three sections, each representing a hit point, so, in essence, you have three hitpoints. This is nice, because other games only have one or two hitpoints, which can really make things frustrating--J&D is a bit more forgiving in that aspect. And, by collecting 50 green-floaty-things which enemies drop, you can replenish one of your hit-points. Nifty, huh? Other neat little additions include electricity power-ups, secret areas and some fun little side-puzzles.
The makers of J&D managed to collectively sum up the whole 3D-platform genre thus far, borrowing a few key elements from each game. Think Banjo-Kazooie come Mario and Crash Bandicoot, with superior level-design, graphics and control.
When it comes to most parts of the game, J&D controls like a dream. No other game I can think of has made it easier to navigate through a fully-3D world. The moves and such are easy to remember and take little effort to perform. Jak goes exactly where you want him to; the control rarely faulters. Who could ask for anything more in controlling a game?
Like most other parts of the game, the storyline feels like it was ripped straight out of a kids' fantasy cartoon. I won't go into the details, but you must collect special ''power-cells'' to, essentially, save the world. I know it sounds stupid, but what can you expect from a platform game? The plot is actually filled with humorous little cutscenes and characters, who make the game all the more enjoyable. It's not the the story is so bad, it's just simple. And that's what's nice about it.
You can tell that J&D's developers really went into a lot of trouble to make this game enjoyable, even in the sound department. All the voices are quirky and cartoony, but also very well-done. The music is perfect for the type of game, featuring simple yet high-quality tunes which provide a nice platformin' atmosphere. You've also gotta love the sound effects. From the throbbing Jaws sound when you go in the water, to the sound of Jak spin-punching into the nearest snake, hanging from the vines. It all sound very thorough, and is just a joy to experience.
Not all platform games have as much replay value as Jak and Daxter. After playing for a whopping 6 hours, I found that I'd only completed 25% of the game. That means that it'll probably take around 20 hours for the average gamer to beat, which is respectable for a game of this style, not to mention all the little secrets and mini-games you'll uncover. And I'm sure you won't be playing through this game just once. J&D is the type of game that you'll beat, and then beat again. And even after that, you'll want to pick it up now and then, because it's the sort of game which you'll just have fun messing around with. Heck, even exploring the areas you've already uncovered is fun!
Jak and Daxter is, without a doubt, one of the most impressive games out for PS2--both visually and in-terms of overall presentation and game mechanics. The creators managed to construct a game which captures the feel of a nicely-animated cartoon, appeals to most everyone. Every square inch of the game's environment just gives off a very distinct, quirky, yet welcoming feel, unlike anything I've ever really experienced in a game before. J&D is a prime example of how 3D-platformers should be, Sure, it may borrow a lot from other games of it's type, but I have a feeling that in the future, other games will soon be borrowing a lot from Jak and Daxter.
Staff review by James Gordon (Date unavailable)
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