Jak And Daxter - My 2022 Review
I finished Jak And Daxter for the first time in my life today as I clearly never committed to the bit as a kid! My nearest memory towards end game was the first lava bike sequence after you leave the Green Sage's starting area, so I really must have not played much (I was likely sidetracked by Final Fantasy X at the time, that was my PS2 love story)
Given the game came out in 2001 I was really impressed by the sheer lack of loading screens and general flow between major areas. Chat informed me this was a key selling point when the game was marketed and rightfully so.
Still in games today we're met with key art and silhouetted character run cycles whilst waiting for levels to load. That, or long elevator rides that aren't fooling anyone but Naughty Dog never put anything further away than a quick left and right turn, bravo!
This reeeeally helped convey the scale of the world and blessed me as the player with the knowledge to navigate my way around confidently. I could flick through the stats on the pause menu to see where I'd missed eggs and no matter the Zone or Landmark name, I knew immediately how to get there. That's surprisingly rare for a first playthrough, particularly one that's so short lived (it took me less than 10 hours to 100% the game).
The level design in J&D was something I don't think I've ever really encountered. The only way I can think to describe it is that I was playing a slower paced but more combat intensive Kart Racer. Almost every area was a single giant loop, circling back to a main hub but you never felt like you were going in circles. I think that's because each off shoot or winding path warranted searching and you were never met with a dead-end, so there was no fear of a boring (and quiet if you'd slain all the mobs) track back.
THE NEVER ENDING POGO STICK
Speaking of mobs, let's talk combat and movement. Attacks wise, Jak has a vast enough bag of tricks that you can get buy in what is a collect first, combat second kind of environment.
What didn't help though was the SLOW movement... My god. Jack has such a spring in his step and an equally as enthusiastic side kick screaming commands that traversing at a snail's pace made my chest feel tight. He goes up and down, up and down, but barely forwards. It was like I'd punched in a cheat code for a Pogo Stick mode. I hated that and never fully got used to it.
That combined with the depth of field issues I had at times meant that I'd fall short or overshoot jumps, attack too early with my spin meaning by time I level out the enemy THEN enters my collision space and just generally relying on that Roll-To-Jump movement to get around 90% of the time which highlights succinctly that we have a problem.
LOOK AND SEE
The camera was rarely an issue, it was only during more platform intensive areas like the Spider Cave and the final Citadel where lots of moving parts meant line of sight was often broken. The final boss fight... Omg. I won't blow my casket talking about this but the forced camera pulls whilst you're supposed to be running to a launch pad was horrific, I literally would have to let go of the left analogue stick because your movement direction was dictated by the camera's position to you, not Jak himself, ew...
The story was a little flat but honestly, it's a genre that isn't trying to convey vast emotion in its players, we want mindless "oh shiny, I'll grab it!" and on to the next thing. I'd certainly have been open to a more compelling story but the antagonists weren't properly introduced until far too late into the game where I'd already shut my brain off to any chance of story, sorry!
All that said though, I had a blast.
I can probably count on my hands the number of games I've 100%ed in my lifetime and this is now one of them because it made it feel effortless!
The level design loops were absolutely the vehicle driving toward that Platinum Trophy. To memory I think there's barely one... Maybe two? Power Cells, that were stuck behind "you can't do that until later in the game" mechanics which gave me the confidence to be methodical and thorough in each new plain. I came out of each level with a 90% collection rate, minimum.
The game is now 20 years old and in my opinion has easily stood the test of time. It's inspired me to pick up more uncompleted games from my early 00s library to boing down memory lane or simply brush up on video game history. Naughty Dog is a different beast and clearly always will be.