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by SCEA / Naughty Dog

misty-06-02.jpg (5923 bytes)Jak and Daxter is a great game. Free roaming 3-D adventure games are a love it or hate it affair. Games in the genre often suffer from awkward controls or a quirky camera that always manages to pin itself to a wall at the worst possible time. Luckily, Jak and Daxter does not struggle with these problems.

village2-01.jpg (7195 bytes)The story in Jak and Daxter is simple with very few twists. Fans of this genre should be used to this by now, however, since 3-D adventure games are all about gameplay and everything else is secondary. Jak’s friend Daxter falls into a pit of dark eco, which transforms him into a furry little ferret looking thing. Wanting to help his friend, Jak props Daxter up on his shoulders and they begin a journey to find a cure.

village-07-02.jpg (7579 bytes)Recent adventure games have been nothing more than frantic affairs with no real direction that required you to collect thousands of little trinkets. Jak and Daxter follows this same formula, but on a smaller scale. The only collectables you will have to find are power cells, which upgrade your Zoomer vehicle and allow you to access new areas. Precursor Orbs are little egg shaped objects that you trade to other characters throughout the game in exchange for power cells. There are seven Scout Flies in each level that will give you a power cell when you collect all seven of them. These three items are all you have to collect in each level to progress through the game.

village-08-02.jpg (7846 bytes)Also scattered throughout the levels are various types of eco. Blue eco makes Jak and Daxter run faster, .allows you to open certain switches and gives you the power to open certain item boxes. Blue eco also attracts the collectables listed above like a magnet, which makes collecting them much easier. Red eco increases Jak and Daxter’s attack range as well as the power of their attacks. Yellow eco enables Jak and Daxter to shoot fireballs that home in on their target. Green eco increases health and is found whenever you break open a wooden box or defeat an enemy while the other types of eco are not as easy to find. Eco only lasts for a limited amount of time, however, so this adds a great sense of urgency to the games many puzzles that require the use of eco.

beach-01-02.jpg (8130 bytes)Most of the objectives in the game are fairly easy to complete, so collecting the power cells is rather easy. Objectives include climbing particularly high towers/mountains/objects, finding seven scout flies in each level, and sometimes it is just a tricky jump or two that stand between you and the power cell. There are also several places in each level where you merely trade your accumulated precursor orbs for a power cell. The best objectives are the mini games, such as catching two hundred pounds of fish with a net in a stream, or shooting dozens of swamp rats with yellow eco in order to protect a hillbilly’s snacks. Sometimes you are asked to go back and get things from previous levels. This serves to reinforce the illusion that this is one giant world and everyone and everything is connected. There are also levels that allow you to ride the Zoomer around and complete objectives. These are great fun and offer a nice break from the standard platform gameplay. While most of the objectives are typical of 3-D adventure games, there is enough overall variety to make Jak and Daxter stand out.

jungle-04.jpg (8648 bytes)The levels in the game are big, but not too big, in my opinion. There are many ways to get around each level, and at no point did I ever feel lost or frustrated because of the level design. The levels include a jungle, swamp, a creepy island shrouded in mist, an underwater city, a snow capped mountain, and many more. Traveling between levels is a joy because there are absolutely no load times when traveling from area to area. Also, if you find a high spot in a level, you can look around you and see the other levels in the distance. Quite impressive, if you ask me.

beach-07-02.jpg (9055 bytes)The controls in Jak and Daxter are easy to use and respond perfectly. Each of the levels is filled with typical moving platform over bottomless pit game play, but the control is tight enough that I didn’t have much of a problem. Compared to most games in this genre, Jak and Daxter have a rather small arsenal of moves. There is a spin move that allows you to float through the air, a high jump, a long jump, and a butt-stomp. These moves are really all you need, and since they are available to you right from the start, they are easy to learn and master.

jungle-03.jpg (9607 bytes)The actual gameplay in Jak and Daxter is fairly simple. There are tons of enemies to battle and lots of areas to explore. One rather annoying aspect of the game is that you can only be hit by an enemy three times before you have to start over. By collecting 50 green eco pieces, you gain an extra hit which can only be used once before you have to collect 50 more. This is somewhat frustrating, but at the same time refreshing because you have to protect your character. One thing is certain: you will die a lot in this game. I didn’t mind that too much though. Another aspect that should have been addressed is that you never control Daxter. He simply hangs on for dear life while you control Jak. This isn’t much of a complaint, but it would have been nice to see him work rather than just flap his gums the whole time.

beach-08-02.jpg (9907 bytes)The graphics and sound in Jak and Daxter are spectacular. As I stated above, if you find a high point, you can literally see for miles and miles. The levels all look great and there are a good variety of textures. The game also features changes in time of day and it looks very believable. There are levels where it rains and there are even flashes of lightning which look spectacular. The characters are also very detailed and look smooth. I say they look smooth because there are no polygon jaggies on them and their clothing is not the horrid looking blurry textures we have seen so many times before. They are simply smooth looking. The music and sound effects are also top notch. The music is upbeat and somewhat whimsical at times but dark and foreboding at others and manages to match the action rather well. There is also a lot of speech in the game and the voice acting is pretty good. There aren’t any voices that really grate on you, so that alone puts the voice acting in Jak and Daxter a step above many other games. The minor characters don’t have anything too intelligent to say, but main characters such as Daxter and the Green Sage are rather funny. The graphics and sound, just like every other aspect of the game, are great.

beach-04.jpg (5960 bytes)Overall, Jak and Daxter is a must play game. If you are a fan of the 3-D adventure genre, you will probably have already purchased this game. If you are not a fan of the genre, or are sitting on the fence as to whether you should get it or not, I can say without a doubt that this is one of the best 3-D adventure games I have ever played. The graphics and sound, as well as the game play, are top notch. The controls are intuitive and responsive. Naughty Dog really put a lot of effort into making sure Jak and Daxter looked, sounded, and played like a game on a next generation gaming system is expected to. If only more developers would put the time and effort in, we would have far less sub-par games and a whole lot more great games like as Jak and Daxter.

Eric Qualls   (03/20/2002)


Ups: No load times; great graphics; excellent gameplay; a whole lot of fun.

Downs: Could we get a little control on Daxter?

Platform: PlayStation 2