Jak & Daxter Collection Review (PS3)

Another week, another HD collection. In a time where looking back is as exciting as looking forward, yet another trilogy of classic PS2 games arrives on PS3. This time the series in question is Jak and Daxter, the games Naughty Dog were making before Uncharted. As a huge fan of the series, is now the perfect time to revisit the trilogy?

Naughty Dog's original concept for Jak and Daxter: The Precursor's Legacy was to create a continuous experience, with no 'levels' or loading screens between areas. At the start of the PS2 era this was revolutionary, and the fact that they pushed the new hardware so much on their first try is still amazing 11 years on from release. Following on from the developer's previous series, Crash Bandicoot, the colourful and inventive style looks even more vibrant in HD. It's nice to experience such a vibrant world, and in the form of a platformer too, in the current games market, contrasting nicely with the grungy colours of most modern shooters.

There's plenty to collect in the original Jak and Daxter: The Precursor's Legacy

Speaking of platforming, Jak and Daxter was constantly compared to Mario on its release, as the PlayStation brand hadn't really seen a title offer the same freedom as the 3D Mario games - Crash Bandicoot was more akin to the sidescrollers of older generations. Jak was so much more than just a platformer though, and while you do your fair share of jumping and collecting hundreds of collectibles (Precursor Orbs in this universe) the diversity on offer here is unmatched in the genre. One minute your herding cattle into a pen, another your driving a jet bike across a pit of lava, the next your collecting eco to power special abilities to activate age old technology. It feels much more like an open world adventure game, albeit without the same mission structure of say Assassin's Creed. You meet up with NPCs who need help, and carry out whatever task they need in order to grab yourself a Power Cell, the ultimate goal throughout the first game.

It's undeniably fun, and while the charming cast of characters may seem childish in their stereotype laden ways, they give the world a warmth so often lost in the quest for realism and emotion in current games. You never know what to expect from Jak and Daxter, where you'll end up, or what one liners Daxter, your half otter half weasel companion will crack next. You get a sense of a grand adventure over the course of the 8-10 hour trip Jak takes, but the journey only begins here.

Many are divided over whether the sequel to Jak and Daxter, Jak II: Renegade is the superior game. Before playing the collection on PS3, and having not returned to either game since release, I would have opted for the sequel, which is a vastly different experience. Unlike the first game that focuses on adventuring and basic platforming, here the focus is on completing set missions and utilising weapons. Yes, weapons, ranging from shotgun like short range guns to blasters for distant targets. At the time, this major change came marked with a distinctly serious and edgy design overhaul.

Jak 3 features the most vehicles in the series

The most obvious change, other than Jak's all new beard, is the setting. Jak II takes players to Haven City, a crime ridden hub which draws more than a few influences from Grand Theft Auto. In fact you can even hijack hoverboards from traffic flying overhead, escaping the oncoming police sirens by scooting down a back alley to hide. The city acts as a main hub for missions that take you to different areas, and away from the dark blue colour of Haven City and back into brighter more inviting areas. To add to the overall darkness of the sequel, Jak now has a Dark Eco form, where he unlocks an assortment of extra moves to cause much more damage to foes. Naughty Dog did everything they could to make Jak II: Renegade a very different experience to the first game, in fact making it incredibly difficult at times, which both works for it, and makes me enjoy the game less in this HD Trilogy.

Jak 3 is somewhat of a mixed bag, and is definitely the weakest game in this collection. It tries to bridge the gap in gameplay between the two previous games, featuring more adventuring than ever, but still being mission heavy and including more dark powers and guns than ever. It tries to dial back the charm that was lost from Renegade too, but never quite matches the easy comedy of the first game. It's not a bad games by any means, but with two modern platform/adventure classics on the same disc, this will surely be the last game to play through.

Jak's new look and his new gun for Jak II: Renegade

Overall, it's obvious to see why Jak and Daxter makes the perfect choice for a HD collection, and I knew that I would enjoy returning to all 3 of these games. What I didn't expect was to feel that the most relevant release in the package is the original, a type of game that simply doesn't get made any more. Mario worthy platforming, but with character and a story you genuinely care about, you can tell that the developers would go on to make a game like Uncharted in the near future. Back in 2003, Jak II: Renegade was unlike anything I'd ever played, the contrasting tone showing a real growth and maturity over most child marketed titles releasing around the same time. In 2012 though, there are countless examples of an open world city that achieve more than Renegade did, making it less impressive in the current market. That said, if you want to see the origins of games like Arkham City and Assassin's Creed, it makes a great lesson in how to create a thriving and vibrant world worth exploring.

There is definitely a place for The Jak and Daxter Trilogy in 2012, and hopefully this means we'll see the duo returning for a new game in the very near future.

Best Game Moment: Stealing a hoverboard from a lowly citizen in Jak II is always satisfying.

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By Jasca_Ducato (SI Core) on Mar 12, 2012
Loved the J&D games. In fact, these are the only games that make me actually consider thinking about possibly entertaining the idea of trying to imagine purchasing a PS3....
By stuntkid (SI Elite) on Mar 14, 2012
Can't believe i haven't played a game in this series. Will need to pick it up at some point