SONY PSP REVIEW: DAXTER

Daxter's first appearance as a leading man could spell trouble for the charismatic team. by Cole Smith

March 29, 2006 - Daxter may sound like only half a game, in the same way that "mother" is only half a word (think about it, I'll give you a moment.) That's because Daxter was one half of the team of Jak & Daxter. It seems that Daxter was too irrepressible of a character to be regulated to sidekick status. So now he's starring in his very own game and giving Jak a run for his money.

Daxter is a game full of bugs - but not technical bugs like you're probably thinking. Daxter becomes an exterminator after he's overheard in a bar bragging about his bug-killing skills. He's also on the lookout for Jak but doesn't wasn't to find him too soon since he's enjoying the attention of being the star of his own game. Is there some kind of coincidence between the infestation of these metal bugs and the disappearance of Jak? Although the orange, furry creature known as Daxter is having a hard time going it alone in this game, he's going to do whatever it takes to search for clues throughout Haven City and get to the bottom of things.

Daxter is a very funny game in the tradition of Ratchet & Clank but not as edgy as Conker the foul-mouthed squirrel. There are some genuine moments of bad taste which I just can't get enough of. The gameplay is fashioned after old-school platforming. There is some combat and there are some puzzles but platforming forms the foundation of this game. And it's a solid foundation. The controls are superb and Daxter has a wide assortment of moves, although not as many as in some games. It's the variety of ways that he can put his moves to different uses that makes the game easier to play and ultimately more fun since there isn't a lot of obvious repetition. Daxter still performs the same basic moves such as crawling, jumping and climbing but they are used in different contexts and situations.

Daxter can stop on a dime, and that's important in platform games. He doesn't slide around on solid surfaces after a landing, unless they are intentionally slippery. Much of the control system is very forgiving but it really doesn't make the game any less challenging, just more convenient to navigate. For instance, when Daxter approaches an object that he's going to climb, he will intuitively make the transition from walking or crawling to climbing, without having to fuss too much over having to move him in a precise location.

Using air ducts to get around inside homes you will notice that you can enter various rooms without any load times. That's because the game is streaming. In all actuality the load times are disguised when you approach doors that take a while to open. They will go through some kind of Rube Goldberg process as the chains and pulleys engage in intricate animated sequences specifically designed to disguise load times.

An electric flyswatter is one of the weapons that Daxter uses to kill the metal bugs. But the best and most versatile weapon is the bug-spray canister. Not only can it be used to kill bugs but it can be used to propel Daxter into the air and across open spaces. The more propellant that he has in the canister, the longer he can float in the air and the further he can go. Some of these open spaces are too wide to jump across so you have to use the can. By adding a flame you can turn the canister into a flamethrower which will give you an extra boost when soaring into the air and when used as a weapon.

Collectible items are called Precursor Orbs and you'll find them in abundance throughout the game but they aren't always easy to get. There are times when you'll have to make a decision to go for some and risk getting killed. There's one level where you jump from train to train to avoid various tunnels and objects that might knock you off. At the same time you're also attempting to collect the orbs, which can be very distracting. When you collect enough of them, you will activate a dream sequence in which Daxter dreams about playing mini-games. These are a good source of unlockables and power-ups such as new moves and health extensions.

Lives are unlimited so you can replay troublesome areas until you get it right. The first half of the game is relatively easy so you won't have many worries until later. Checkpoints are plentiful, almost to a fault. One seems to occur as soon as you make your way to a new screen. This is a good feature for a portable unit since with the auto-save feature you can restart the game very close to where you were when you shut it down.

Bug Combat is the name of the multi-player game that can be played over the Ad Hock Wireless system with another player. It forces you to play the single-player mode to search for bugs and bug upgrades that you will use in this mode. The single-player mode is linear so there's not a lot of new places to explore. Still, these bugs and upgrades are hidden so you have to check all the nooks and crannies.

Bug Combat works like a version of rock/paper/scissors where you put a specific bug in the ring in hopes of it defeating your opponent's bug of choice. The interesting thing about the game is that you can change your bug on your last move.

Daxter is an amazing looking creature. He's loaded with personality and his animated movements are fluid and well detailed as he slinks around with tail wagging and ears flapping. There isn't much for background animation but the environments have a solid and clean look to them with great 3D perspectives. There is a little slowdown in the big cities where there is more background animation but it's totally forgivable considering how great the overall production values are.

Platforming is still a great genre but it's been overdone to death in the last 10 years with very little innovation. But when a game like Daxter comes along and claims the genre for its own, it's time to sit up and take notice.

Features:

  • Play as the Dastardly Daxter - Daxter allows gamers to play from his perspective offering a distinctive set of moves with agile abilities that allows players to climb walls, creep up on enemies, fit in small places and maneuver vehicles.
  • The Best In Action Platforming - Taking a job as a pest exterminator, to fight an ongoing invasion of metal-bugs, Daxter comes equip with gadgets to rid the city of these metal nuisances. Get close up and personal by using your flimsy bug swatter to squash an army of attacking insects or your spray gun to hover around a variety of environments while picking up various upgrades.
  • Exciting Wi-Fi Gameplay - Compete head-to-head against crushing opponents in a variety of mulitplayer combat arena challenges.
  • All New PS2 and PSX Portable Connectivity - Gamers can use their PlayStation Portable to unlock drivers, vehicles and graphics for Jak X: Combat Racing or connect to their PS2 to open up secret features in Daxter via USB connection.

By Cole Smith
CCC Senior Writer

Rating out of 5
Daxter (PSP)
4.3
Graphics
Amazing looking graphics. Great detail and character animation. There are some problems with slowdown and lack of background animation.
5.0
Control
If all platforms games controlled like this one, I wouldn't hate them as much.
4.5
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Great cartoonish sound effects. The music retains a sense of comical fun while closely underscoring the action.
2.3
Play Value
You can go back and look for things you missed but since the game is so linear finding new content is rare. The Bug Combat multi-player game is worth a few additional hours of play.
4.5
Overall Rating - Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: PSP
Dev: Ready At Dawn
Pub: Sony
Release: Mar 2006
Players: 1 - 4
Review by Cole

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best