Naughty Dog has been creating quality games for the better part of it’s existence. With triple-A titles like Crash Bandicoot and Uncharted to it’s name, Naughty Dog has a gained a huge following, and is now a household name to gamers around the world. After four critically acclaimed Crash Bandicoot games for the PSone, and with a new console generation on the horizon, Naughty Dog decided it was time to work on a new, more ambitious title. In late 2001, the Jak and Daxter series was born. Players raved at the large open environment and the familiar, but clean gameplay. After 10 years, Jak and Daxter (as well as it’s 2 sequels) has been given an HD makeover. With the game industry having transformed the platformer/shooter formula so much, has the Jak series held up well enough for players to care about more than it’s new coat of paint?
Between Jak and Daxter, and it’s two sequels, the gameplay varies dramatically. Jak and Daxter is a platforming collect-a-thon with some vehicle and “shooting” , these short bouts keep the game fresh. For the sequels however, Naughty Dog decided to place the spotlight on projectile combat and vehicle segments, making platforming, while still there; less pronounce. The games are all very well balanced but the change in focus is very noticeable, and frankly a bit jarring. Jak 2 and 3 have some very strange difficulty jumps and some rough checkpoints. It is also no help that there is no way to aim Jak’s weapons, you just point Jak in the general direction of an enemy and hope for the best. There isn’t much of a difference between Jak 2 and 3 gameplay-wise. Jak 3 introduces some new weapons and land-vehicles as a form of transportation, as opposed to the air vehicles of Jak 2.
The story, while interesting at points, is just a silly fun ride. Jak 3’s ending is not quite satisfying when the back of the original box states: “The Epic Legacy Concludes”.
Jak’s adventures transition great to HD. Everything looks very sharp and the animations are very detailed. Unlike when the games originally released; the HD collection is able to keep it’s 60 frames per second without a hitch. The environments are all fairly different between each installment. Jak and Daxter takes place in colorful forest, water, and lava environments. While Jak 2 is based in a stale city. Jak 3’s main environment is a wasteland, but you also make frequent trips back to the city of Jak 2. Colors are very bright and vibrant, but noticeably absent in the latter two games. There is some slight object load-in is visible, but not a big deal.
The voice acting and sound effects are both top notch. All voices fit each character fairly well, although Jak’s voice is still far too “action hero-ey” for his lines. The score is also great, constantly changing to fit every occasion.
The level design is masterful. In Jak and Daxter, the world is completely open. All levels branch off of several hub worlds that are all connected by vehicular transitions. In Jak 2 and 3, Naughty Dog used intricate door animations to mask loading. While these doors open fairly quickly, it’s a shame they momentarily take you out of the game.
The writing in the Jak series is as funny as it was 10 years ago. Daxter’s quips are still some of the best in the business. The strange thing is, most of the voice actors are very serious for a majority of the time. But humor is thrown in perfectly into almost every cutscene.
The replayabilty is overall very high. While some segments in the latter two games are painfully difficult. The difficulty to 100% and platinum each game is challenge enough in itself to keep collect-a-thon enthusiasts coming back for more.
Although the games have minor flaws, this series still stands as one of my favorite 3D platformers. I would, however, advise people to space out their play-throughs of each game, as the shared city environment of Jak 2 and 3 may grow dull. These games look great in HD and are well worth your time. It’s a great package, especially for the price.