|System: PS2, PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: High Impact Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SONY||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 3, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Adam Brown
September 29, 2009 - While the Jak and Daxter series has taken a noticeable leave of absence from Sony's home consoles following the PS3's release, probably due to Naughty Dog having their hands full working on the stellar Uncharted series, it has found a home on the PSP. Daxter was definitely a decent entry in the series when it was released three years ago, but it lacked half of the duo - except for a few brief cameo appearances. Thankfully, this time around both characters will be together again in Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier, which is coming out for both the PSP and PS2. I recently had a chance to check out a few segments from the PSP version of the game and have come away feeling good about the majority of my time spent with it.
My play time started off with a brief opening cinematic that conveys the gist of what The Lost Frontier (TLF) will be about. Taking place after the events of Jak 3, TLF picks up with Jak, Daxter, and Keira in a plane in search of eco in an unfamiliar area. This area, referred to as the Brink, is viewed as the end of the world and definitely isn't somewhere you'd want to spend a ton of time. Almost on cue, the team are attacked by eco pirates and forced to defend themselves. As expected, Daxter gets a little overzealous trying to repel the assailants and winds up accidentally shooting out one of the plane's engines. Now with rapidly depleting fuel reserves and a smoking engine, Jak is forced to land the plane in the mysterious Brink for the group to have any chance of survival.
The demo that I played consisted of three miniature level segments, each with a different gameplay focus. The first level was entitled Seeking the Seeker and had me controlling Jak. This magma-filled level felt very similar to what you'd expect from a title in this series, full of platforming, minor puzzles, and some combat. The platforming controlled well whether I was swinging between poles, jumping on timed platforms surrounded by rising lava, or just jumping over enemies' attacks. Combat similarly worked rather well, utilizing a mix of melee attacks as well as some fairly effective guns; although it would have been nice to be able carry more ammunition for the shotgun-type weapon.
Where things got a tad different was in the usage of Jak's new eco powers. You begin the level with one and are quickly granted another by activating a statue. Switching between these powers is pretty simple, tapping either left or right on the D-pad, and to use them you only need to tap down. The newly learned power allows Jak to perform a rocket jump when standing on top of steam vents, making it possible to get to otherwise out of reach platforms. The other power can be activated whenever you find small piles of crystals, and it alternated between making sets of timed platforms or a wave of quickly disappearing ground, both being used to get across wide, lava-filled gaps.
Level two was called Galleon Assault and it involved taking to the skies. Controlling the same plane from the opening cinematic, Jak is tasked with taking down a large pirate airship. This consisted of destroying airship's propellers, thrusters, and finally its gun turrets so that you can go in for a landing (which wasn't a part of the demo). Of course, things are never that simple because while I was trying to complete these tasks, there were enemy planes trying to blast me out of the sky. Luckily, your plane is well-equipped with machine guns and lock-on rockets as well as some nifty aerial maneuvers. Pressing either up or down on the D-pad will make your plane perform a quick reverse or a loop, respectively. Controlling the plane felt very natural and the level itself was quite entertaining and seemed like it would be a good breath of fresh air in between platforming levels.
Unfortunately, the third level I played seemed quite a bit weaker than the previous two. Entitled Aeropa Sewers, this level put me in control of, what I can only hope won't wind up being this title's version of Sonic the Werehog, Dark Daxter. Unlike the tiny orange ottsel's normal self, Dark Daxter is a massive, hulking beast covered in spikes that instead of rattling off witty remarks and one-liners, seems to possess the brainpower and conversational skills of the Incredible Hulk. Playing as Dark Daxter felt a bit oversimplified, since you only have access to four attacks and absolutely nothing else.
You're given two meters, one for health and the other for dark eco, which is continually depleting. Each attack also requires a certain amount of dark eco to perform, so you'll need to replenish your supplies by either defeating enemies or by using his frenzy spin move to bounce off of purple crystals scattered about the sewer. While you'll need to make almost constant use of this move in order to keep your dark eco meter filled, it essentially has you spinning uncontrollably around the screen looking like a drunken tornado. Despite this fairly unfriendly but necessary maneuver, the level actually had some bright points in the form of its puzzles. In a few instances, you'll need to ground-pound to flip switches in order to make a turret face another direction or to change the rotation of a spinning obstacle. Another highlight involved tossing enemy spiders into specific locations in order to progress. Two examples of this are heaving the spiders into repetitively smashing pistons in order to get them to stop due to the webs as well as flinging them into an impassible hole so that their webbing provides a traversable surface.
Although the portion of TLF I played was fairly short, it definitely shows a good amount of variety and promise. The classic level just felt right, dogfighting in a plane was loads of fun, and while I wasn't blown away by Dark Daxter, the level he was in at least had some interesting concepts. This may not be the Jak and Daxter PS3 game that fans are clamoring for, but from what I played, these same fans definitely shouldn't miss the classic duo's latest adventure when it hits shelves this November.
CCC Staff Contributor