High Impact Games, the masterminds behind two of the most successful Playstation branded companies, Insomniac Games and Naughty Dog, revisit their comfort zone with a new entry in the Jak and Daxter series. It’s been a while since we’ve seen the twosome together in a proper adventure, actually the last “proper” would be Jak 3 (2004) for the Playstation 2. After Jak 3, there have only been two more entries with Jak X: Combat Racing (lets forget about that one) and the remarkable solo-outing as Daxter in his self titled PSP game in 2006. Well, Jak and Daxter have finally made their return and it feels just like old times, in more ways than one.
Jak and Daxter have returned to their Playstation 2 roots for another adventure released for Playstation Portable and Playstation 2 owners. Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier is also available via digital download through the PSN. The version we’re looking at today is the straight up UMD edition of the game. Thinking back on Daxter for the PSP, it was an excellent tale that showcased that the little guy can hold his own in his own game, however like all side-kicks that had their moment in the sun; it’s always much better back home fighting side beside their partner. Not to discount Daxter, but what you miss on the solo adventures is the chemistry between the two lead characters... and that is one of the strong points in The Lost Frontier.
Team Eco-- Jak and Daxter
For those not familiar with the "Jak and Daxter" series it stars Jak, a pointed eared character who is the stereotypical hero. What makes Jak unique besides his extremely large ears is his ability to use a special energy in the world called eco. Through his powers he always seems to overtakes the odds-- playing the role of the dashing hero. The other side of this team is Daxter, an Ottsel (one part weasel, the other otter). Daxter takes it upon himself to play the comedic role in the duo’s adventures who is always looking for the easy way out. Even though he might be a confident as his counterpart, Daxter can become quite useful when special tactics are needed and in The Lost Frontier this is highlighted more than ever (more on that later). In many respects Jak and Daxter mirrors Sony’s other platforming duo (Ratchet & Clank), and like that series, two is always better than one.
Déjà Vu Anyone?
The storyline in The Lost Frontier feels really tacked onto the action and doesn't act as a driving force in motivation. It’s not horrible mind you, it’s just bland with a big “been here, done that” feeling. For specifics it evolves Jak, Daxter and Keira (an Echo Sage) being attacked by pirates which leads into an accidental find of new echo. Echo is important because it’s what makes this world tick, in its different colour variation this rare source of energy takes on many different properties. Of course the crew wants to use this new echo for good, to renew the world’s power source which has fallen out of whack; however there are others who want it for other uses. This starts a war with a group of greedy space pirates leading the crew down another cat and mouse adventure.
Unleash the Beast
The gameplay in The Lost Frontier is more interesting then the plotline and easy to get into. The pick up and play nature of the franchise remains and The Lost Frontier feels very similar to their old games. The gameplay is pretty much the standard action adventuring gameplay you remember from the early Playstation 2 games. You will move from location to location doing various goals with highlighted powers from both Jak and Daxter. In a surprising twist Daxter takes a page from Sonics’ book and turns into Dark Daxter (and that's not the HBO shows Dexter) which unleashes the beast!
As the beast version of Daxter you will grow into a horrible furry Hulk-like Ottsel who feeds on Dark Eco. With Dark Eco pumping through Daxter’s furry arms he turns into a one man wrecking machine. Unlike Sega’s attempt to turn Sonic, Daxter and his metamorphous works. Dark Daxter’s levels in The Lost Frontier don’t last too long, but while they are running add a good change up from the normal stuff we’ve all played before. Twirling around in frenzy, hitting switches and beating up lots and lots of enemies is the main activity you will be doing, but you also have to use your brain a little bit as the Hulking Ottsel to make it through the levels safely.
...and now for Jak
With the current state of Echo Jak isn’t able to transform into Dark Jak, in turn Jak has been given new abilities that help him overcome obstacles and the enemies he will face. These abilities feature a glowing red ball of energy that can be shot for a major explosion. This is used to destroy rock obstacles in your way and helps take on those larger enemies. Jak will also acquire a bubble shield, the ability to slow time and the god like power of raising pillars. Raising pillars is an extension on the many platforming parts of the game that act like a throwback to the olden Jak and Daxter days. Similar to Ratchet, you will need to jump across lots of moving platforms, swing across gapping wholes and activate switches. There is noting original to the game here, but the powers help make The Lost Frontier more interesting.
Jak and Daxter: The Frustration
So far, The Last Frontier sounds like a fairly solid title, well, that can said for it, however it has two major issues that bog it down from solid--- to just alright. One of these issues is one that shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who has played a platforming game on the PSP, and that is the in-game camera. Without a second nub, or the ability to control the camera with the D-Pad, platforming can become very frustrating as the automatic camera swings around at will. The lack of control of the camera will leave you missing jumps, fighting enemies you can’t see and running in a direction without knowing where you’re headed. Compared to other similar styled games, this one is on the lower half of the stack. It’s really a problem that brings the enjoyment level down.
The other issue in The Lost Frontier is the lack of a lock-on feature. Not being able to lock onto enemies creates more confusion-- and frustration as you can be left dumfounded without a clue who your attacking. This becomes more troublesome in groups-- and the camera doesn't help you along either! Adding a lock on feature would have solved a few of the camera problems making the combat itself more enjoyable. It’s a simple feature that for some reason was left out. I’m not sure why, but it only hurts the final product. In some ways Jak and Daxter: The Last Frontier turns into Jak and Daxter: The Frustration.
Back to the Good
Transitioning off the ground and away from the bad are some excellent aerial combat segments where you will control an aircraft and do battles in the sky. These battles include high speed chases, large scale battles and launching Daxter to do some saboteur work. In the sky the camera never becomes a problem because of the controls. The controls give you the freedom to do quick banks, turns, barrel roles and even 180s. This makes the in-air dogfights extremely fun and a highlight of the game. Launching Daxter is the other part that ends up playing out like little mini-games, nothing too difficult. You can also upgrade your ship as you progress in the game which also adds some appreciated depth. Maybe Jak should have thought of an air combat game instead of chasing finishing lines... yes, I'm talking about you Jak X.
Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier isn’t exactly what the long time Jak and Daxter fans have been waiting for, but it will do as they patiently wish for a full next-generation follow-up in the series (fingers crossed). This Playstation Portable game is more a throwback to the original games with a few new twists and turns, only not as solid. A few problems really bog this one down turning what could have been a noble memory of Jak and Daxter becomes a tainted version of the Playstation 2 heroes.
Gameplay:7.0, Graphics:6.0, Sound:7.5, Innovation:6.0, Mojo:6.0 Final: 6.5 / 10
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 11.10.09