The Average Gamer

Jak and Daxter Trilogy Review (PS3)

Before Naughty Dog became infamous in their creation of Uncharted they were responsible for what can only be referred to as two of the greatest platformers to grace the PlayStation & PlayStation 2, Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter. This was 11 years ago. Gaming has evolved and the days of simple collect and proceed platformers is behind us, or so we thought. Jak and Daxter HD bundles remastered versions of Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, Jak 2 and Jak 3 all onto one tasty Blu-ray disk. Is Naughty Dog’s mastery of the genre still easy to see?

Playing through the Jak and Daxter HD collection is certainly a journey. Following the adventures of small town boy Jak and his ocelot-alike companion Daxter, trapped in this form after an unlucky incident with some Dark Eco. Together their adventures take them through dangerous jungles, sprawling cities and dog-eat-dog desert communities ravaged by weather to discover the true identity of the “precursors” and the reason for the monster invasion. It’s not just a narrative journey however; it’s one that seems to play out the evolution of a studio.

Starting out as a comedic platformer, light-hearted but ruthless Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy is a stern reminder that games didn’t always use to be so friendly. Underneath the often-amusing script and the simple jump, spin, punch control base lies a fiendishly evil lesson in patience. Lurkers often outnumber you, they can move faster than you and ultimately do more damage than you can. While this is modified with pickups and combos, tackling an enemy ambush will see you restarting from one of the handily-placed checkpoints. Platforming sections are also tricky. Precise timing and some skill are required to make it through without unwittingly falling off a ledge and having to start again.

When Jak and Daxter: The Precursors legacy was first released in 2001 Naughty Dog had just come off a 5 year winning steak of Crash Bandicoot games. By now they were clearly masters of their art when it came to 3D platformers. JaD:TPL was their first title on the new PS2 console and with more powerful hardware available they created an open world with no loading screens. While this has become the norm now, in the early days of PS2 it was most impressive.

Jak and Daxter: The Precursors Legacy was a success and the studio immediately began work on Jak II. Eventually hitting the shelves in 2003 Jak II was much darker, throwing away the childish wonder and brightness of the original to replace it with a grim city under an oppressive rule. This wasn’t the biggest change, Jak II also introduced weapons and gadgets to the scene. Perhaps it was the release of Ratchet and Clank the year before that encouraged them, blending third person shooter stylings with puzzle-platformer fare R&C was a step ahead at it’s time of release.

By the release of Jak 3 the protagonist Jak was an adult now, he had grown up and so had Naughty Dog. Unknown to the majority of people Jak 3 was to be the last true Jak and Daxter game, and everything had been tweaked to perfection. Vehicle based combat, platform sections, weapon handling 5 years of development had not been wasted.

Jak was far away from the jungles and happy bongo music that he had started his adventure in and the same went for Naughty Dog. So much has changed since the days of Crash Bandicoot and after the release of Jak3 the intrepid team would jump straight into development of Uncharted: Drakes Fortune as their titular PS3 release and from there grow to be one of the best developers for the console.

Jak and Daxter HD is still a force to be reckoned with: often difficult, usually hilarious and still one of my favourite series from my days with a PS2. If you love 3D platformers and haven’t played this series yet then can’t recommend it enough. For those fuelled with nostalgia but still unsure about whether they wish to jump back into the series, trust me. Underneath the swathes of nostalgia lies a game that despite being over a decade in age can still hold its own against the games of today.

You can buy The Jak and Daxter HD Trilogy now for PS3.

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