The Jak and Daxter Trilogy PS3 Review

Publisher – Sony Computer Entertainment Europe – Developer – Naughty Dog/Mass Media Inc. – Genre – Platformer/Action – Players – 1 – Age Rating – 12+ – Other console/handheld formats – N/A

Some series’ stubbornly stay the same throughout their existences, whilst others change over time. Naughty Dog’s Jak and Daxter series is a good example: starting life as a traditional platformer, the sequels actually had more in common with Ratchet & Clank. Sony has been very active with making sure all their top titles from the PS2 are spruced up with HD visuals, and The Jak and Daxter Trilogy is the latest HD collection to be released on the PS3.

In this collection, you won’t get HD updates of spin-offs Daxter, Jak X and Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier, but what you do get is the first three games in the series: Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, Jak II: Renegade and Jak 3. Perhaps if it does the business in terms of sales, we’ll see a second volume, and even a brand new Jak game. Well I can dream, can’t I?

Let me start at the beginning. Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy was initially released way back in 2001, and developer Naughty Dog presented to us a beautifully made platformer that was as traditional as they come – jumping across gaps, item collecting, charming visuals, it was all there.

The Precursor Legacy is very simplistic in its storytelling, with a giant lurker creature attacking the eponymous duo at the beginning of the game. The two obviously survive, although poor Daxter falls into a pool of Dark Eco, transforming him into an Ottsel, a creature that is a mixture of an otter and a weasel. The characters set off on a journey in a bid to return Daxter to his original form. The story of all of these game is told with a very light-hearted nature, but as Jak stays mute for the entire duration in the original game, it’s mostly left to Daxter for the comedy moments, and Max Casella did a tremendous job with voicing the character in  all three games.

There’s a massive, colourful world to explore, and rarely does the game pause for loading, with boring loading screens cleverly disguised, and a lot of background loading going on as you traverse the beautiful environments. At the heart of The Precursor Legacy are the power cells, of which are the equivalent of Mario’s stars. There are 100 Powercells for you to earn, although it’s very possible to complete the story without grabbing the lot. Powercells can become yours through various ways, sometimes you’ll have to go through a rather difficult process to reach them (most are easier obtained than many of the Italian plumbers stars, though), while others are earned through simple mini games or by purchasing them with precursor orbs.

Jak II: Renegade, released in 2003, came as a major shock – adding in guns, a darker, futuristic tone and a bigger role for vehicles, this was, and remains, a sequel that wasn’t just more of the same. The addition of guns brought the series closer in line with Ratchet & Clank, vehicles could be driven around the new Haven City hub environment, and the darker and slightly more mature tone resonated from the story and into the visuals. Luckily, Naughty Dog didn’t forget the humour, with Daxter (now complete with mild swearing) once again on top form, and Jak was no longer mute. The game was less about item collecting than its predecessor, with a new emphasis on action and a more linear structure. Jak also had a new dark form in which he became more powerful, and new attacks were earned throughout. It’s just a shame that Naughty Dog seemingly forgot to put more checkpoints in there, as, at times, Jak II can be a very brutal game. Haven City can sometimes feel a bit wasted as well, and, while this remains a very good instalment, Naughty Dog came out with an improved sequel upon the release of Jak 3.

Jak 3, released in 2004, stayed true to the changes that happened in the very first sequel, although the execution was a whole lot better. The game felt much fairer than Jak II, with checkpoints being less cruelly spaced, and the open locations were much more of a joy to travel around, with other vehicles kept to a minimum and no police to avoid, and the wide open space of the desert wasteland is very different from Haven City. Your own vehicles were also much more varied, a new Light Jak form was introduced and was conversely more defensive than the Dark Jak form, and everything just knitted together better than it did in the second game.

Both the sequels do have some issues in common. A lack of manual aim when shooting does cause problems at times, although it comes nowhere near to making the games unplayable. In fact, it’s a small annoyance, but it is certainly shown up by Ratchet and Clank’s superior shooting.

Visually, all of these games are obviously looking a bit dated in this day and age, although the people behind the HD upgrade, Mass Media Inc, has still done a terrific job in upscaling the trio. Despite its age, The Precursor Legacy is the most striking, I’m not talking about in terms of polygon count but rather in terms of its bright colours, with the sequels both opting for a more muted palette. The games can also be played in 3D, further bringing each and every one into Sony’s 21st century.

The Jak and Daxter Trilogy is a bundle of three of the best platformers/action games to appear on the previous generation at a very fair price. The evolution of the series is an interesting one, and this HD update does full justice to all of these memorable games.