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Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy (PlayStation 4) artwork

Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy (PlayStation 4) review

"About 21 years after this game was originally released, it's still well worth one's time. "

Back on the original PlayStation, there were two platforming series that caught my eye: Crash Bandicoot by Naughty Dog and Spyro the Dragon by Insomniac. When the PlayStation 2 came into being, those two companies sprang back into action, but with brand new concepts. Insomniac started up the long-running Ratchet & Clank series and Naughty Dog hooked gamers up with the Jak and Daxter games.

The reason I'm bringing this up isn't to provide a history lesson or drop a random bit of trivia, but because this all led to me getting thrown for a loop. Despite the fact Jak and Daxter was NOT made by the company that generated those PlayStation Spyro games, its first game, The Precursor Legacy, feels like the heir apparent to them. If I hadn't known better, I would have assumed that it was made by Insomniac and all evidence to the contrary was a damnable lie!

After completing the brief tutorial level designed to ease you into the controls, collecting collectables and utilizing game mechanics, you'll gradually discover this three-dimensional platforming game has three places serving as reasonably safe hub areas. Surrounding each of them are a handful of levels containing enemies and an assortment of challenges. The primary reason to do all of this stuff is to obtain power cells, which are necessary to progress.

There are 101 power cells scattered throughout the game's levels. In the first region, you'll need to collect a certain number of them in order to use the Zoomer — a high-speed hovercraft — to make it to the second hub. There, you'll need to get more cells to power up a machine to remove a boulder blocking the path to that area's boss and reach another Zoomer sequence. Finally, in order to do one more Zoomer level spanning the gap between the final hub and the final confrontation, you'll have to have obtained a total of 72 cells.

If you've played those old Spyro games, you'll recognize this mechanic is near-identical to how you collected various goodies to progress through their worlds. And the way you obtain those power cells also is similar. Some are easily found, while other require you to complete a variety of challenges ranging from simple to pretty difficult. There are scavenger hunts galore. Finding seven crates in each stage and breaking them to release insects is one way to pick up a power cell. You'll find tons of orbs scattered throughout the game and you'll want to collect as many as possible, as they can be traded to various characters for more cells.

Also like the PS Spyros, collecting whatever you need to continue progressing is the main point of playing. While there are monsters everywhere but the hub levels, they usually are the least of your worries. While a few of them, such as the spiders in a late-game stage, can be dangerous, these guys mostly are simple to dispatch and only truly dangerous when attacking in large groups. And if that's happening, odds are you'll get a cell for enduring that extended onslaught!

To make another comparison to Spyro, The Precursor Legacy put the bare minimum of effort into devising a plot. Jak and Daxter are a pair of young guys. While scavenging for stuff on an island, Daxter falls into a mysterious substance known as Dark Eco, which transforms him from an annoying little person into an annoying little animal-thing. The duo then sets out to find the local sages to see if their powers can reverse that transformation, but wind up against a malevolent duo seeking to utilize that Dark Eco as a means to great power. Well, Jak does all the heavy lifting — Daxter's mainly there to make snarky comments and celebrate whenever you get a cell.

And that's about it, as the plot is little more than something that gives you a reason to play through the game and collect all the stuff by utilizing all the tools you're given. Such as the other versions of Eco. Blue allows you to move more quickly and also can activate a number of devices ranging from bridges to doors to springboards allowing you to reach places that normally would be inaccessible. Red makes Jak's melee attacks stronger, Green can heal him and Yellow gives him a ranged attack, so he can shoot stuff that's not in melee range.

Like any good platformer, you get eased into things. The jungle level by the first hub contains a large building that serves as a great Blue Eco tutorial. You need to snag that stuff in order to create a bridge to the building and then it additionally plays roles in opening doors and activating platforms as you gradually scale the place. Get through that and you'll be ready for all sorts of later challenges involving the use of Blue Eco — often in more stressful situations where slipping up can easily lead to death.

Not that dying is much of a setback. You have unlimited lives and don't lose anything you've collected, so the worst that will happen is the loss of progress in a boss fight or a tricky platforming area. Levels tend to have a few checkpoint areas, so odds are you'll even be able to start pretty close to where you expired, making it child's play to make it back for another try at it. As an end result, the number of times I found myself frustrated while playing The Precursor Legacy were minimal.

Much of that frustration took place in the very final level simply due to its nature. Like many games of this sort, the last level is essentially a "final exam" where you take what you've learned throughout the game and have to put it to good use to overcome challenges more demanding than most anything you've seen before. The problem is that this often occurs at the expense of the fun stuff that carries a person through the game. In getting to the final level, I'd tackled a variety of really enjoyable levels. That aforementioned jungle was a lot of fun. So was the swamp, the underground Precursor City, the snowy mountain and even the creepy spider cave. And then you conclude with a pretty drab fortress where you do one tricky challenge after another to rescue the four sages in order to fight the final boss. The only thing keeping that place from being utterly forgettable is how I'll never get the game's death cry from falling into a pit out of my mind.

Other than that, my only issue comes from how it is a PS2 game that was directly emulated to the PS4. LIke many games of that era, you'll have issues with the camera being awkward to manipulate and regularly getting hung up on scenery. The former issue can easily be rectified, at least if you go online to find out how to reverse the camera controls to make them more like modern games because the game sure didn't give out any information on how to do that…or even if it was possible.

Still, it was cool to experience this game. One thing about life is that it can get busy and complicated at times, so a lot of good stuff can fall between the tracks. You might hear about it and you might think it'd be fun to play, but then you just never get to it. Jak and Daxter was one such series. It might have taken more than 20 years after its release for me to finally play it, but I was able to and I had a lot of fun doing so. As someone who has gotten a great deal of enjoyment out of classic platformers — both 2D and 3D — The Precursor Legacy lived up to my expectations and proved to be a very good game that's still fun to play today.

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (December 02, 2022)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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