Photo Source: Naughty Dog
By: Danny Hovanessian
There is a lot of beauty in simplicity. Often, in any form of media, producers and directors try to make things as complicated as possible to make something seem “innovative” and “deep.” Naughty Dog, the creators of “Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy,” thankfully didn’t follow suit.
The game begins with Jak and his buddy Daxter sneaking into the nearby Misty Island. In their little espionage, they discover two people plotting something involving the evil Lurkers. In the midst of a series of unfortunate events, Daxter falls into a pool of Dark Eco (a form of energy) and comes back as an ottsel, a combination of an otter and a weasel. They go back to their village and tell Sage Samos, master of Green Eco, what happened. He says Daxter can only be cured if he visits Gol, the master of Dark Eco. This is where their journey begins.
What little story is there is humorous and entertaining enough to be part of the driving force to see the game to completion, but it most definitely isn’t the focus here.
As stated earlier, the game is simplistic. Jak and Daxter work together with Kiera, Samos’ daughter, who builds many mechanical contraptions to aid them along the way. To get these machines to work, Jak and Daxter need to collect power cells. There are exactly 100 to be found in the game, but not all need to be collected.
In attempts to gain these power cells, the game puts you into many enjoyable scenarios. There are only a handful of locations, but each have many power cells to obtain. You can obtain power cells by gathering a certain number of Precursor orbs in exchange for one, defeating one of the game’s few bosses, grabbing it somehow when it’s in sight, or by completing a challenge. These challenges range from reaching the orb in a set amount of time with many obstacles amidst your path to catching hundreds of fish passing by in a river to “de-toxifying” poisoned plants with Jak’s Zoomer (his personal plane).
Every path to a power cell is as engaging as it is challenging. Most power cells require good timing and precision, but I had so much fun that I didn’t mind, and there is a big sense of accomplishment when getting some of the more difficult to obtain power cells, more so than I ever felt, say, obtaining a star in Super Mario Galaxy.
Part of what makes the game so enjoyable is its level of polish. Everything runs smoothly: no hiccups, no technical issues, no awkward camera movement, no clunky controls. What little combat there is isn’t anything special, but it is far from the focal point for it to matter.
The gameplay and visuals still hold up well even today, almost eleven years later. Jak and Daxter’s gameplay succeeds due to that polish and its excellent but never overwhelming challenge and variety.
The soundtrack, while it’s no sweeping epic or anything memorable, adds to Jak and Daxter’s excellent atmosphere. The real winner in the sound department is the voice acting. In 2001, any games that featured voice acting had terrible lip-syncing and even worse voice acting to boot. In Jak and Daxter, this isn’t the case. Lips match with what the characters are saying 100 percent of the time, and the voice acting is incredible and delivers the humor packed into the dialogue very well.
When looked at in each separate category, Jak and Daxter may seem like a good game but nothing special. When put together, it’s an amazing experience that, while incredibly short, will be (and has been) remembered for a long time and played and replayed numerous times over the years. Jak and Daxter truly is more than the sum of its parts.