Jak and Daxter Trilogy – Review

A review of Jak and Daxter Trilogy I wrote for the website www.square-go.com

Sony has recently been reaching back into it’s back catalogue, dusting off some of the all-time classics from it’s past with HD magic sprinkles and giving them back to the world, letting everyone bask in their unadulterated glory.

But enough about God Hand, here comes Jak and Daxter HD.

Now, it would be a fair bet that a lot of people reading this would not recognise those names, despite them being in three top-selling PlayStation 2 games, not to mention several spin-offs. They are all essentially third person platformers which a bit of action and gunplay and cinematic cut scenes thrown in for good measure, all starring the eponymous Jak and his sidekick.

The first Jak and Daxter came out in a time when the PS2 was still finding it’s feet, way back in 2001. It was a brightly coloured game with a silent lead character who was caught up in an adventure involving an ancient race called The Precursors and a hell of a lot of things to collect. This is a game that tries hard and, to a large degree, succeeds. It’s only let down by a painful difficulty curve that reflects the era in which it was made. This was, after all, before we had regenerating health as standard.

The next game, Jak II, is an interesting one as it is a game with one clear influence: Grand Theft Auto 3. This was the big success story of the early PS2 years and Jak II takes a lot of choices from the seminal classic; the game is now set in a city with hover cars flying about that you can hop into and drive around in, you have to travel to different parts of the map to get your missions and it’s a whole lot darker. Whilst the first game was all about bright colours and Nintendo style enemies, Jak II takes a hard left turn into grim and gritty. This doesn’t always sit well, despite the superb way the game handles it’s once silent lead character now having a voice. The look of the game changes enough to help the transition to a hard edged story but the choices made feel too obvious and makes you wonder why you don’t just play GTA3.

The final game in the trilogy, Jak III, continues on this path but reigns in a few of the missteps of the second game especially by taking the edge off the difficulty.

All of these games were big sellers when they came out and they do hold up to scrutiny following their HD re-release. They all look great with only a few rough edges to show their age. They still play well, despite some frustrating moments in the first two games. And it can be amazingly frustrating at times, the kind of frustrating where it’s the games fault that you’ve died and have to re-do a large part of the level that you had just almost completed.

This shouldn’t put you off, what we have here is three fine examples of games that helped to make the PlayStation what it is today. Even better, you can actually enjoy them for the well-crafted games that they are and not have to rely on the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia. Well, most of the time at least.

Two stars out of five

Originally published April 2nd 2012

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