Jak & Daxter HD Collection is a title that touches back on the early roots of Naughty Dog as it was the game that built up on the basic platforming formula used in the Crash Bandicoot series. The series launches with a heroic duo, Jak & Daxter, but when they go messing around some Dark Eco, Daxter is transformed into the mongrel you see above. JAK, who is the strong, silent type brings Daxter to the village chief, after which you find yourself off on a three game adventure filled with fun platform elements, basic puzzles, and some pretty wild and ridiculous characters.
The original adventure basically plays out by completing various tasks for fellow villagers and others whom you meet along the way. You could be catching fish, unclogging eco vents, collecting orbs, or even rounding up livestock. You’ve got your basic double jump and ground pounding moves, and an effective spin attack to take down a multitude of enemies. If you’re into collectables then you’re going to be in heaven with this game as that’s very much your primary focus.
Despite the large amount of collectables in this first adventure, it’s a relatively easy game to complete in a single day. Granted it’s a very fun experience, but back in the PS2 era this would have been a pretty expensive title for the time it takes to finish. It should be noted that after you’ve played through the first couple hours of the game, you won’t have many new things to do nor will you see variety in the quests, so maybe the short experience is a plus side.
JAK II starts out with a much darker tone to set the mood, and a seemingly more difficult style of gameplay as well. This game takes place in the future and features a few new characters including Baron Praxis, the dictator-like ruler of Haven City, the initial setting of JAK II. While things may sound the same – JAK underwent some pretty cruel treatment in between the games, and now he’s no longer a mute hero, but an arrogant, angry person – quite the opposite of his former self.
Besides his new sarcastic and obnoxious personality, Jak is also carrying some pretty heavy new weaponry to help his cause. The big guns are definitely more effective than a spin attack or slamming your butt down on some unsuspecting soul. Melee isn’t totally cut out though – it’s still available so you get more than before. Plus, vehicles get introduced in the game, and you’ll be able to steal vehicles, race them, and complete obstacle courses. There are a number of timed missions in the game, which can be a negative point to some, but it’s refreshing to see a complete overhaul in a sequel and it adds to the difficulty and the length of the experience. While JAK II does hold a rather narrative style compared to its predecessor, it still remains an open-world game to some extent.
JAK II is definitely an action-packed adventure compared to the first game, but it’s not without some minor issues. Notably, the city streets are often jam-packed and movement from point A to point B can take unnecessarily long if you don’t want to alert guards to your mischief. Also, vehicles can be fun, but sometimes controls – specifically the sections featuring your new Jetboard – can feel cumbersome and they lack any proper flow. Despite some minor flaws and redundant gameplay though, JAK II has so much more to do and it’s at least twice as long as the previous game and it’s still an enjoyable experience.
Finally we’ve come to the end of the road (For the HD collection anyway, Combat Racing is NOT included!). Jak 3 is mostly an all-new game but you’ll revisit sections of Haven from JAK II, and it’s a faster paced game as well. You’ll move quicky from one mission to the next and at times you’ll encounter fun sidequests on the main to your primary mission so you’re never really out of the action for a substantial amount of time. Gameplay features return from JAK II and you’ll have guns and melee combat, but you’ll also be introduced to both a light and dark version of Jak, each with their own skill set.
Missions are designed in such a way that you’ll need pure skill to beat them, and it doesn’t rely on luck like so many games today. The game is slightly shorter than JAK II but it’s exciting and fun from beginning to end. There’s a tacked on multiplayer mode to add a little more enjoyment to the whole package, but it’s made up of some mini-games rather than a full-fledged multiplayer experience – and not all the games are what you’d call awesome.
The best feature in Jak 3 is the complete lack of loading times once you’re in the world. The game is seamless and pretty gorgeous to take in. Naughty Dog definitely moved into uncharted territory with flowing gameplay and world design with Jak 3. Every game has to have a downside though – right? I suppose that’s true, but in the case of Jak 3 the only real downside is its length. Once you get into this game, you don’t want it to end – especially now, knowing there’s no true fourth game in the series.
Jak & Daxter HD Collection is a must-own title for PS3 owners, especially if you never had the pleasure of playing any or all of these games during the PS2’s reign. They all offer platforming at its best, lovable characters, and hours upon hours of fun.
Some minor flaws in the first two games including clumsy controls, redundant missions, and dialogue, but excels in fun platforming, mini-games, and exploration.
For it's original day and taking the HD upgrade into consideration, Jak and Daxter HD is a stunning blend of styles that you'll always remember. It's a world unlike any other out there to date.
Tiki-bar fitting tunes and basic sound effects are the games weakest points - they get the job done but there's nothing else worth saying here.