The Jak and Daxter HD Trilogy
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: SCEE
Release Date: Out Now
Players/Online features: One
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I’m not going to do three separate reviews for this delightful collection of PS2 platform-adventure goodness, rather lump thoughts about all three games into one.

The HD Trilogy features remastered versions of the first and best three Jak and Daxter games (The Precursor Legacy, Jak II: Renegade and Jak 3) which were released back in 2001, 2003 and 2004 respectively.

Often mixed up with stablemate series Ratchet & Clank, the Jak and Daxter games sold extremely well and developers Naughty Dog (who were also responsible for Crash Bandicoot) went on to huge fame and success with the Uncharted games.

The first game, The Precursor Legacy is primarily a story-based platform adventure, played from a third-person perspective. For me at least, the camera is set a bit low making for too many blind jumps when jumping to lower platforms and nasty surprises when moving quickly or up an incline. You can adjust the camera but it’s a fiddle, and usually snaps back to the original position before you get to make the jump, resulting in far too many “leaps of faith.” Gameplay comprises of a lot of exploration, smashing objects and bashing a wide variety of fantasy enemies and hostile creatures with Jak’s jump and spin attacks. The world consists of beach, jungle, volcano and mountainous snowy locations, each section having its own unique creatures and gameplay styles.

The story goes that after an unfortunate accident with a substance known as “dark eco” the wisecracking loudmouth Daxter gets turned into a creature known as an Ottsel (a mythical creature that’s half Otter, half Weasel). Jak and Daxter set out from their home village of Sandover to travel north to find a sage who may be able to change him back. Initially you may wonder why the heck Jak can be bothered to help Daxter, but he really does grow on you, and some of his quips and over the top celebrations are laugh out loud funny. The game has a number of collectible Precursor Orbs and Scout Flies, which are often difficult to reach (you even get a giant bird called a ‘Flut Flut’ to ride and glide on, Mario & Yoshi-style), the gathering of which in turn unlock cheats in the Secrets Menu. Power Cells are required to advance the story, and can be earned by completing tasks for the locals or simply by finding them while exploring. The Precursor Legacy is still an accomplished and slick adventure, and at the time the game’s world was quite something to behold with its panoramic views of areas you’d previously visited. Considered a tough-ish game at the time, by today’s standards it’s a killer, with at least 30 hours 100% completionist lifespan for me, few checkpoints during missions and a rigidly unforgiving difficulty level.

Jak II: Renegade and Jak 3 moved the genre on, set in and around Haven City, an expansive, bustling open world much greater in size and more heavily populated than the original game’s, and this makes these sequels feel more “grown up.” They also included 4 sci-fi energy beam and projectile weapons that became upgradeable in Jak 3, perhaps borrowing ideas from Ratchet & Clank. Jak also finally got a voice (he didn’t speak in the Precursor Legacy) and the plot and boss battles were considerably more complex. Both games also featured Zoomer bikes (a hover bike only used briefly to get from “A to B” on one level in the original), hover cars (there’s a lot of civilian traffic to negotiate in Haven City, giving it an almost GTA feel), and a lot of hoverboarding- frequently used in racing, collect and search sub games and as the only way to reach some Precursor Orbs. Because of the delightful floaty yet controllable feeling the hoverboard is also an extremely enjoyable and useful alternative to Zoomer bikes and Hover cars. The skilled use of the hoverboard can even open up new areas, and in Jak 3 a new giant rideable bird called a ‘Leaper’ (a close relative of the Flut Flut) appeared to add some variety.

Jak 3 also introduced wheeled vehicles for the first time in the desert Wastelands outside the walls of Haven City, and also made Daxter regularly playable in his own sections for the first time. I should probably mention the quality of the vehicle handling and physics, and the way certain of the unlockable dune buggies are much better suited to certain missions, and how cleverly the jump ability of the Grasshopper buggy is used to unlock new areas that are inaccessible by any other means.

Both sequels are a tad friendlier to play than the original, but still lack checkpoints, have an unfriendly camera view and like to kill you arbitrarily-seemingly just so you don’t get too cocky, and this can get annoying when you have to play what may be a large part of a mission over again.

You can find all kinds of bizarrely long and short lifespan times quoted for these games , but for me at least Jak II had a 35 hour completion time and Jak 3 around 28 hours. This means for the sub-£20 price you get 90 hours+ quality gameplay from the trilogy, and this time around you get PS3 Trophies to reward you as well.

Addictive, amusing, fun and challenging to play, the Jak and Daxter HD Trilogy is excellent value and more than stands the test of time, beating most of the current platform adventure games into the middle of next week for quality, addictive gameplay and lifespan. I can’t recommend this collection enough, and if I had such a thing, I’d only place the Ratchet & Clank HD collection narrowly ahead of it in my “must play”platform adventure list.

“Remastered” Features
The core game and story for all three games remains unchanged with the remastered versions. The remastering means all three games have had a graphics overhaul to allow them to support modern 720p HD resolution, with smoother gameplay animation. With the power of the PlayStation 3 all three games feature a fixed frame rate of 60 frames per second (although we did see some slowdown in Jak II) in normal mode, while in 3D mode the games run at 30 frames per second. All three games have PlayStation Network Trophy support.

Best Bits

- Three top games for the price of less than one.
- Gameplay better than most modern games
- Trophies!
- Daxter’s quips...
Worst Bits

- Unfriendly camera.
- A general lack of checkpoints.
- A steep difficulty curve by today’s standards.

by: 'Big Tony' Bolognese

Copyright © Gamecell 2013