The Duo Returns
The elf-like Jak and his furry ottsel companion Daxter have certainly been around the block more than a few times. The first three games set in the eco-infused, technology-laden world left behind by the Precursors set a high benchmark for the series. While more recent excursions into the realm of battle-focused kart racing (in Jak X: Combat Racing) and Daxter’s own solo adventure on PSP provided varying levels of amusement, it’s great to the see the duo back in action together again in The Lost Frontier.
Despite now being in the hands of a new developer, the first full-blown Jak and Daxter game to launch in five years is built on solid ground and steeped heavily in the elements that made the original games so excellent. Fans of the series should be pleased to learn Jak and Daxter’s newest journey is an amalgamation of old and new, and it’s mostly a good time. There are a few issues here and there that can get in the way of the fun and lead to brief bouts of irritation, but there’s also a lot worth exploring here.
The Lost Frontier literally takes place on the edge of the world – on the precipitous island terrain bordering absolute nothingness. It’s a dangerous area the Precursors didn’t get around to finishing when they crafted the realm, apparently. The plentiful supply of eco energy that flows through the planet and powers everything has inexplicably grown scarce, and the world itself begins growing unstable. Jak and Daxter join their comrade Keira in flying off towards the borders of existence to investigate what’s causing the eco to disappear and hopefully find a new source of the essential mojo. However, their flight is cut short when air pirates steal Keira and shoot down their plane. Though you’ll eventually take to the skies again, the real adventure kicks off on foot with some of the heavy-duty action-platforming gameplay that put Jak and Daxter through their paces early on in the series.
Indeed, a large portion of the game sends you exploring up, down, around, and through all manner of terrain spread across the many different islands populating the brink of the abyss. This time Jak can’t transform into the hulking, uber-ripped dark version of himself, but he gains some pretty slick eco powers to balance this out, like the ability to slow time, launch a massive energy ball that erupts when shot, and summon glowing crystals from deep within the earth. Jak still has a lot of his trademark melee and acrobatic maneuvers to draw from, and there are also a handful of mods you can equip his gunstaff with for dealing some bullet-based punishment. Dark eco you collect from fallen enemies can also be spent on upgrading your abilities in different key areas.
Taking on missions by diving into the platforming and adventuring portions of the game is really enjoyable and quite challenging at times. It’s certainly on par with the experience found earlier in the series. There’s a diverse array of dark eco-infused beasts, walking robots, and other adversaries to engage in battle, and the platforming is cleverly done – you’ll have to work hard to make it through some stretches alive and within the time limit.
Among the game’s more problematic elements, the limited camera controls make it extremely difficult to keep a cool head during the game’s more intense moments. You can only rotate the camera to the right or left by using the right thumbstick, and it’s not really possible to adjust your view to look upward or turn it around with much precision. When platforming areas require perfectly-timed movements in just the right direction, it doesn’t help if the camera doesn’t want to cooperate – which happens more often than you’d expect from a game with such a platforming-heavy element. This is also a problem in battle when you’re dealing with large numbers of enemies attacking from all sides. If they’re not off in the distance, it’s hard to tell exactly where they’re coming from much less actually aim and hit them properly.
The other disappointment in the game rears its head intermittently when Daxter gets separated from Jak and is bombarded with dark eco. When this happens, you’re forced to trudge your way through tedious puzzle-like levels by hitting switches, pummeling baddies, and spinning around like the Tasmanian Devil to soak up dark eco and blast through walls. Clunky controls bog these sections down. Fortunately, other areas of gameplay are more prevalent throughout the adventure.
A little less than half the adventure actually takes place in the air. In contrast to the tacked-on feeling of the Dark Daxter moments, these new airborne elements are actually a great addition to the gameplay. You’ll fly between islands to access new levels and missions, though there are many opportunities to engage in dogfights and other open-ended side missions in the skies. In some cases, you’ll engage in massive skyward engagements against squadrons of enemy ships and larger flying targets. These air portions kick-in early on and frequently at different points in the game. There are four different ships you can access, and each can be decked out with various armaments and upgrades.
The Lost Frontier is a good looking game both on land and in the skies. It’s simply too bad that the confining camera angles don’t let you get a full view of the beautiful environments you’ll be bounding through. This is less of an issue when you’re in the air, but it does feel like a constraint at times when on foot. The game’s excellent cutscenes do a fine job of setting up the story and helping move the plot along at key moments, and they’re enjoyable to watch. However, we experienced a steady visual tic in the downloadable version that made it hard to fully focus on the great animations.
If you’ve been hankering for a full-scale Jak and Daxter game for some time, The Lost Frontier largely fulfills its duty as a continuation of the main series with flying colors. It’s not a perfect sequel by any means, but it’s strong enough to merit a purchase and some solid play time. Just be prepared to deal with some bumps along the way.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.3 Graphics
It’s a sweet looking game all around, though the camera angles don’t always let you get a good glimpse of the beauty. 3.8 Control
Camera controls are too limiting and switching out powers can be tough in a pinch, but almost everything else works well. 3.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Expect to put up with a lot of butt-related humor. 3.7 Play Value
There are moments in The Lost Frontier where you’ll get pretty pissed about some of the design decisions. Get over that and you’ll have a good time. 3.8 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.