"In the course of reversing Daxter's untimely ottselization, you'll trek across beaches, jungles, mountains, volcanoes, and more while unlocking the secrets of the Precursors and their ancient Eco-powered technology."
Ever since I played Banjo-Kazooie for the Nintendo 64, I've been longing for a really good 3D platformer. That game seemed to have everything--excellent gameplay, fitting music, good characters, lots of humor, and replay value up the yin-yang. When I heard about Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, I was hopeful; perhaps this would be the title to satisfy my cravings.
How right I was. Despite a couple of minor shortcomings, this game is everything I ever wanted. Let us venture forth, and I will explain.
Getting the review in motion, my gripes with the game, which are thankfully few this time around.
My major concern is with the camera. Many 3D platformers suffer from inherent camera problems, and Jak & Daxter is no exception. You control the camera with the right analog stick, swinging it left to right by moving the stick left and right, bringing it in tight on Jak by pressing up, and centering it behind him by pulling back. What bothers me is that often times you'll want to keep it directly behind Jak, or make it stay zoomed in, but you're forced to let go of the stick to do something important--like defend yourself against enemy attacks. It can occasionally get stuck and flip around to an awkward position during some jumps, but overall this doesn't occur enough to make it anything more than a minor irritation. Totally forgiveable in the grand scope of things.
Something else is that at times it's not exactly crystal clear what all you have to do to complete your current objective. While there are many instances where a character in the game will give you specific instructions on what to do, a lot of the time you'll just be playing trial and error. That's not necessarilly a bad thing, but it can be a little frustrating at times.
Another thing that bugged me was that the game just seems too short. I finished it in about fourteen hours and spent a fair amount of that time just goofing around and trying to get to know the areas I was exploring a little better.
These flaws aren't enough of a huge concern to hurt my enjoyment of Jak & Daxter any. This game's got a lot of good stuff in it.
To start out with, the very first thing you'll notice are the graphics. While not ground-breaking by any means, they're very crisp and colorful, and you can see for MILES. Viewing things from a sizable distance doesn't make them grainy or foggy, or anything such. They look just like they should--distant. Surface textures are finely detailed and clear, and the characters look very good for polygonals--think Final Fantasy VII, but about ten or twelve times better. Details like hair look relatively realistic, and Daxter actually looks like the fuzzy little ottsel (sorta like a weasel) he is.
Graphics aren't the only area where details were paid attention to. The sound in this game is particularly good as well--Not just the music, which always manages to set the mood fairly well, but the sound effects are vibrant and realistic. You can hear every little thing going on around you, from the trickle of a stream to the chirping of birds to Jak's bare feet slapping against the surface he's walking on--which will actually change accordingly depending on what you ARE walking on. Wooden planks make a dull thump when you run across them, and walking on a metal floor or platform will elicit a metallic ring. Some very hard work is evident here, and it really makes the world come alive.
Speaking of which, a world as alive as this one has to have an epic tale to go along with it, right? That's where the story of the game comes into play. Things start out simply enough. Jak and his initially-normal buddy Daxter are just out to have a bit of fun exploring the one place they've been explicity instructed not to explore when they discover some sinister characters extracting a dangerous substance called Dark Eco from pools on the surface. Daxter is accidentally knocked into one of these pools and subsequently gets turned into a smaller, furrier, but utlimately more cuddly version of himself. In the course of reversing Daxter's untimely ottselization, you'll trek across beaches, jungles, mountains, volcanoes, and more while unlocking the secrets of the Precursors and their ancient Eco-powered technology, and at the same time discover a diabolical and insane plot to destroy the planet (which you're recruited to stop, by the way).
Which leads me to the gameplay itself. The controls are simplistic, fluid, and easilly manipulated. Jak (and Daxter) have a multitude of attacks and maneuvers to help you through their adventure, all of which you'll need to make use of at some point. In addition, you'll get to make use of four different kinds of Eco (basically, magical energy put off by the Earth): Green Eco keeps you alive and kicking; Blue Eco makes you move faster and activates Precursor technology; Yellow Eco allows you to fire potent energy blasts at your enemies; and Red Eco doubles your attack power. These types of Eco can be found both floating freely in small patches, or flowing from vents in the ground (some of which you'll have to open via switches to use). One thing you'll want to be wary of however is the aforementioned Dark Eco--in the form of a shimmering black and purple ooze rather than a glowing energy cloud, this stuff will destroy or mutate anything it touches, and the bad guys have it by the truckload. What do they plan to use it for, you may ask? Take over the world? I think so. You'll find this dangerous substance in crates, barrels, crystallized, and even flowing freely in rivers underground.
To aid you in your travels, the lovely Keira, daughter of Samos the Green Sage (overseer of Green Eco--who would've thought?), has plenty of technological gadgets for you to use, in exchange for the Precursor equivalent of industrial-strength batteries--power cells. There are a hundred and one of these in the game, and you'll need to collect no fewer than seventy-two of them to reach the game's final areas. They can be found everywhere; as a reward for completing level objectives, and many characters have them for sale (the currency: Precursor orbs; usually ninety to a hundred and twenty orbs a power cell) or in exchange for a good deed. Also, if you collect at least one hundred of the hundred and one power cells, you get to see the game's super-secret ending, giving you incentive to go back and collect the strays once you've defeated the final boss (and adding a good bit of replay value to the game--I've still got at least fifteen power cells to collect, myself).
You'll have some guidance on your quest. Samos and Keira will often give you instructions as to what you should do next, and many of the characters you can obtain a power cell or two from will also give you a shove in the right direction. If ever in doubt about what you should do, getting into mischief and generally being a royal pain in the ass for the bad guys is sure to net you a power cell. Exploration and experimentation are also key in this game--You'll find power cells hidden in obscure locations, and getting to them all can be quite a challenge. The good thing is there's no 'game over,' which means you're free to screw up as much as you need to before you get it right.
And just to add a little flavor to it all, there's plenty of zany humor in the game, as well, largely on the part of Daxter, who is always trading insults with Samos and trying to hog the glory (and Keira) for himself. His parting words to Jak if you get yourself killed are often hilarious, as well. In example: ''I'll say something fluffy at the funeral. Like, 'how am I gonna get changed back now?!'''
To sum it all up, Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy is a very fun, challenging, and rewarding gameplay experience, one that I highly recommend you get your hands on.
Staff review by Kieran Greyloch (August 06, 2002)
Kieran Greyloch is an automotive technology student who enjoys wasting every moment of his spare time playing videogames and tabletop RPGs.
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