Review: Jak and Daxter Trilogy (PS Vita)
I find it funny that most of the best games on the PlayStation Vita are all HD remakes. Slap on a coat of paint and Sony bundles them out at affordable price. But how well does Naughty Dog’s mismatched action platforming duo hold up to the test of time?
High definition remakes have become an almost weekly affair. As consoles reach the end of their cycle and shiny new graphics become increasingly important, franchises which existed all the way back when TVs were still rear projecting (man, that made me feel old) get spruced up for a new generation to have a lash at and optimised for use on tablets and handheld devices.
The original Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy was where Naughty Dog really came into its own after showing flair in its predecessor Crash Bandicoot, long before their critically acclaimed The Last of Us and the wonderful Uncharted series. It brought to the forefront another iconic pair in the form of a long-haired renegade and smart-mouthed rodent. It was unlike any other platformer I had played at the time.
Not only did it have a decent amount of gameplay, I emotionally connect to its characters. The story was simple but thanks to some great Naughty Dog dialogue and interesting takes on the genre, I fell in love with the series. Filled to the brim with cheeky humour, even now its off-the-wall antics still unleashed a giggle or two as I replayed through them. While the games themselves have definitely aged, but not nearly as badly as I had expected.
The first game is the hardest to return to. The movement and animations are a little slow and a little jerky leaving the experience sluggish, though after a few minutes in I had gotten used to it. The fact that it is a stock standard platformer does make is seem a bit underwhelming, especially compared to the two follow up sequels. Nostalgia might get some gamers though it, but after a few levels and I decided to move onwards and upwards.
Jak II: Renegade, on the flip-side, is truly an awesome game. Targeted at a more mature audience Jak II moved into darker territory, covering themes of lifeform experimentation and rebellion. Jak II is my favourite of the trilogy by far. It flourished offering a whole array of cool new features like hover boards and racing, as well as having a massive open city to explore ala Grand Theft Auto. Jak II is still bursting with missions, side stories and mini games for anyone who wants to get lost in the game space and its inclusion almost justifies any purchase of the entire bundle on its own.
In Jak 3, Jax and Daxter are cast out of Haven City into the wastelands outside of the city walls and must fight for their lives. Luckily there are some handy new additions to make it more fun. Buggies are introduced as your main form of transport. Mounted with weapons Jak get his vehicular combat on fighting marauders Mad Max style and can enter races when not on missions. Your expanded arsenal has been overhauled too, with more explosive upgrades to suit the more challenging enemies and boss creatures you will need to defeat along the way.
My only real major criticism of Jak 3 is its difficulty. The game spikes randomly into crushingly hard fights, most often when you are unprepared. Though it is far from impossible, these spikes can leave you feeling cheated and leave your ego bruised. At times it destroys its own immersion, particularly when you are spending a lot of time stuck on difficult boss fights.
The Jak and Daxter Trilogy is one of the most impressive value for money buys around, whether you’re playing it on PlayStation 3 on taking it on the go on your Vita (as I did when reviewing it). Each title is chock full of fun and offers an expansive world to dive into. With enough gameplay to keep you entertained for weeks on end all squished into a tiny wee cartridge.
The new polish makes this more than just a trip down memory lane. The Jak and Daxter Trilogy brings this fondly remembered series into the hands of a whole new generation and the experience is perfectly suited to a handheld system like the Vita. What more could you as for?
Reviewed by Josh Philpott