There are certain titles from past generations that set a standard for future games in their genre. Jak and Daxter stepped up on the PlayStation 2 and set the precedent for future action/platformers to follow. The first Jak and Daxter went the path of the traditional platformer, using elements of collecting like so many others of its kind while still managing to innovate and inspire. The next two games used upgraded mechanics and a far more serious tone to evolve their story. It was only a matter of time before these titles were re-released for this generation to experience them.
The look may be noticeably PS2 era, but the Jak and Daxter series still shows how advanced the visuals were for their time, and the HD upgrade is very pleasant to look at. Though Jak and Daxter pushed the limits of what platformers where back during the games’ initial releases, the formula was very similar to most platformers. You wander around areas conversing with the locals, partaking in all sorts of missions and quests for them in order to achieve whatever goal the game has set for you. Platforming obstacle courses and puzzles, along with several varied vehicle sections, were the norm for platformers, and each Jak and Daxter game excelled on all points, with the occasional bump in the road around some of the gameplay.
The first Jak and Daxter was heavily traditional, but that didn’t stop it from setting the bar on the elements and mechanics it used. Of course, the graphics in the original Jak and Daxter have aged the most. They are definitely from an earlier generation, but the HD touchup works well. The movement controls are much the same in showing what era they hail from. They are stiff and sometimes unresponsive, and the camera’s constant tussles with the geography don’t help. However, Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy still gives you the solid platforming segments it is remembered for, and the varied environments and tasks you must undertake help keep things flowing until the end.
Outside of the actual gameplay, Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy’s silent protagonist may be the most prominent figure in the game, but that doesn’t stop the rest of the voice cast from being very colorful, diverse, and entertaining to listen to. This is especially true for Daxter, Jak’s ever present, talkative, wisecracking sidekick, who does his job of adding humor to everything quite well without it ever grating your nerves. Thankfully, this trend continues throughout the series.
All in all, the first Jak and Daxter excelled at its genre in an era where platformers where more abundant, but it wasn’t until the second entry when the series started to take its true shape, the one most would remember it for.
Jak 2 has one of the most severe changes in tone I’ve ever witnessed. No longer is Jak the smiling silent protagonist. After years of torture he now sports a savage goatee and a bad attitude (with tough action movie dialogue to go with it). He is now an anti-hero on a path for vengeance against his captor. Luckily, Daxter retains his wit and motor mouth wisecracks to level out Jak’s sometimes forced bad-assery.
Jak’s character isn’t the only one that gets a hard-hitting makeover. The world of Jak 2 is a futuristic city overrun by hover cars, industrialism, and crime, a far cry from the hills and grasslands of the previous installment. The gameplay also gets a slight overhaul; while the platforming is still there (more polished than the previous installment), a Grand Theft Auto inspired world is presented to you this time around. You can not only highjack vehicles to get from A to B, you also have an arsenal of weaponry at your disposal, and while the platforming is more manageable this time around, the running and gunning element is definitely the most rewarding and most enjoyable aspect. The ability to morph into a hulking monster spewing Dark Eco, an ability gained from the years of torture under the evil substance, is very fun to take advantage of as well, especially in tight spots.
The final installment, Jak 3, is definitely the most polished title in the series, but it is also just a restating of Jak 2‘s new elements, all upgraded slightly to make them even more manageable. Jak and his furry friend Daxter have now been exiled to a vast desert wasteland. The arsenal has been upped significantly, the vehicle sections have gone from tolerable and occasionally enjoyable to mostly solid and fun, and the platforming elements have been polished to their highest quality.
The adventure this time is bigger and eventually opens up into something far grander than either of the predecessors. Looking back upon the first one from Jak 3, the original truly was a precursor to what was to come, and like a perfect final entry in a trilogy, Jak 3 brings the story full circle back to its roots, but never loses the upgraded gameplay mechanics the series had evolved up to this point.
The entire series shows its age, but it still has the ability to blow old fans and newcomers away with what could still be considered bar-setting mechanics for the platforming genre. Playing through these titles when they first came out was some of the most fun platforming I ever had, but playing them again now showed me that the Jak and Daxter series can still be relevant and a blast to play, and platformers today can still learn a thing or two from them. If you’re a fan of the series, this is an investment you won’t regret. If you have never played these titles, then this HD collection is the perfect time to give them a go. You owe it to yourself to experience these wonderful titles.
FINAL GRADE: A