The lights are on
While the Jak And Daxter HD Collection is certainly an excellent package of classic titles, the value of the games themselves may very well be matched by the opportunity to witness the evolution of a current day industry giant.
The Jak And Daxter series has always been an interesting blend between classic design and current generation sensibilities; combining the platforming structure that Naughty Dog cut its teeth on and a cinematic flair that has come to define the studio's more recent titles. Beware though, the games are still exactly what they were before. As with any HD reissue, those that didn't like the games before, or have little patience for the missteps of the older gaming world, won't likely find something entirely enjoyable in this HD remastering.
Frustrating design decisions that were a hallmark of the last generation still dot the landscape of these games. Out of the three, Jak II translates its last gen tech to the present day gaming world least gracefully. Aiming for the newly introduced weapons, handled using an auto-aim feature reminiscent of the N64 era Golden Eye, is sloppy at best. Checkpoints are still very much designed in the mold of a traditional platformer, often times setting players back a considerable amount when they make a mistake. While the shooting is manageable, it seems like the checkpoints probably should have been addressed for the sole purpose of streamlining player experience. Despite its problems, though, the addition of a more compelling story keeps things interesting even when the gameplay becomes a hindrance. A keen eye will easily spot the underpinnings of Naughty Dog's now trademark cinematic storytelling beginning to emerge.
Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy still holds its own as one of the best 3D platforming games ever made. Those new to the series should expect a short but tight platforming experience with capable combat and responsive controls. Unfortunately the story leaves a bit to be desired, with little more than reasoning for any specific area's current state presented outside the opening and closing scenes. What is present in this titles story is, in most cases, of a much lighter tone than the rest of the series. The game may be only focused on platforming and collecting, but it does these things very well.
Jak III, on the other hand, is all about refinement of the elements presented in the second title. Checkpoints no longer punish players, weapons find their targets more regularly, animations (especially faces) are much improved, and a new set of powers expand upon the previous installment. Dark Eco, still useful in combat, now allows Jak to turn invisible when used to activate Precursor Idols. Light Eco makes a return, after being mentioned fleetingly in the first game, affording players the chance to heal in a pinch as well as slow time and summon a spherical barrier. Weapons get an upgrade as well, with each of the standard Jak II weapons receiving mods that change how they play and scenarios unique to these new tools. The story in the third game stands stronger than the previous installments. Where as the first two games tasked Jak with thwarting some ultimate evil, the third entry finds him cast out of Haven City by its new governing body and stranded in a settlement of desert rejects. More importantly, it largely avoids the convolution that arose during Jak II. The result is a twisting tale of betrayal as Jak fights to survive in the wasteland and ultimately save the city from tearing itself apart in the face of a more ominous threat.
The Jak and Daxter HD Collection breathes new life into one of the defining series of the Playstation 2. Those looking for a unique blend of platforming, shooting, and storytelling should find plenty to enjoy. Fans of Naughty Dog should take pleasure in watching the studio grow from a mascot game producer into the developer that brought us Uncharted.
Great review. It's nice to see reviewers who do not simply stamp a classic series with a perfect score and actually focus on the positives and negatives as well as the obvious transitional hiccups that the games will have.