Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier Review
Many people were under the assumption that Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier would be exclusively for the PSP, since its trailer did debut running on the portable hardware. But, much like MotorStorm: Arctic Edge, this Jak game still ended up appearing on the PS2. Unfortunately, unlike the Naughty Dog games, this particular game isn't very good. You see, it's imperative that when a new developer takes over a big franchise they consider one crucial aspect: does this successfully do the job of the past games? It's even more critical when you're porting a project like this on a portable unit. We've practically seen every major PlayStation franchise arrive on the PSP: Final Fantasy, Grand Theft Auto, Gran Turismo, Ratchet and Clank, Twisted Metal, and so on. All of those franchises have played pretty much played the same on the PSP as they did on the PS2, proving that it's very possible to have console-caliber games on the PSP. But, with less limitations, shouldn't the PS2 version of Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier be better? Unfortunately, no. They're basically the same game.
Now, developer High Impact games has had a fairly solid track record and history with Sony's action/adventure console properties and bringing them over to the PSP in proper form. They were directly responsible for Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters, which translated extremely well onto the PSP, and we can't forgot the enjoyable Secret Agent Clank. So we're not quite sure what went wrong during the development of Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier, because the crippling issues that hurt the game's appeal should've been spotted, some of them are a bit too obvious.
Even though the later Jak and Daxter games began to focus more on action, this particular one returns the series to its platforming roots. Don't be confused though, because there's still a lot of weapon use here, as pods are setup for you to activate and purchase items from, in order to make your quest just that much easier. But we all know that in order to have a solid platformer, you need to pull off one crucial aspect...the camera. Yes, the camera is pretty bonked here. For starters, during the most important platforming segments it is way too low and not nearly far enough, as the game seems more focused on Jak's body, as opposed to sitting further and higher up for a better view of the environment. And no, you can't set the camera to another view. So as you can imagine, this issue makes a bunch of the platforming segments extremely frustrating in the game, causing you to meet your doom time and time again. It's quite odd, really, because the camera is fine when you're not jumping from platform to platform, but then goes all wrong when you're approaching a jump. What gives? But to its one and only credit, the PS2 version is just barely more bearable in this regard, seeing as how playing the game on a full screen makes judging jumps just a bit easier - thus the minute disparity in scores between versions.
Then there's the entire setup of the platforming and how cheap it feels. Initially I chalked it up to a preview build, but more than half of the time, Jak fails to grab a pole when it's time to swing to another location, so the collision detection is in need of some serious work. Then, there are the cheap platform setups, such as platforms that magically appear when you enable them using your Eco powers. Unfortunately, some of these platforms will begin disappearing before you can even step foot on them, creating yet another cheap death in the game. This creates quite a bit of very annoying trial and error.
But, without question, the worst offender here is Dark Daxter. Oh, man...the franchise's whole "Dark" element has truly run its course, and it did with Jak, which no one really cared for to begin with. The "Dark" characters in the series are almost the equivalent of Steven Spielberg shoving an extra terrestrial lifeform into seemingly every one of his movies. Stop it. You parade around as an oaf of a character, complete with the requisite steroidal figure, with spikes, and the speaking attributes of a caveman. It is the status quo generic character, the type where almost no thought went into. Playing with Dark Daxter is painful, not only because he's not fun to control, but also because he's constantly saying nonsensical and idiotic things in his terrible caveman/Hulk/Tasmanian Devil mixed voice. It's simply dreadful. Hell, he's even got a massively destructive spinning move that's exactly like Taz's.
I will say that the flying/air-combat missions are pretty enjoyable, as I found them to be the only redeeming, but not redeemable aspect of the game. Ultimately, this Jak and Daxter game falls into a pit of character cliches and a poor camera that creates frustration more than anything else. Also, I don't understand why sometimes Jak will grab onto a ledge, and other times just fall to his death. The Lost Frontier is playable, but you'd have to get past quite a bit of frustration in order to really enjoy it. Me, on the other hand, I have very little tolerance for poor cameras and cheap deaths in platformers - those are the two most crucial aspects that every developer is supposed to focus most on when creating a game like this.
Visually, the game looks pretty good, as the draw-in distance is quite deep. The worlds are plenty detailed, and even the characters themselves look sharp. Daxter, in particular, looks quite nice in cut-scenes, 'fur-shading' and all. Texture detail may not compare to some other PlayStation 2 games, but they're adequate, enough. But I must say it's the colorful palette that really makes Jak and Daxter stand out, as the vividness of the overall scenery is very pleasing on the eyes. Also, the framerate is pretty solid, which is nice considering the air combat can get somewhat hectic.
Now, aside from the stupidity that is Dark Daxter's voice, the game still boasts pretty solid voice acting, with the original cast reprising their respective characters. Of course when not in his Tasmanian state, Daxter does a good job at keeping the experience lighthearted and funny, as you would expect. Unfortunately, the soundtrack is pretty drab, and there is absolutely no ambient noise going on in the background, which makes listening to the game quite boring.
Unless you're a die-hard Jak and Daxter fan, Jak and Daxter: The Final Frontier isn't worth the coin. There are better things to spend your money on right now, especially if you own a PS3, Xbox 360, or PSP. With games like Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, Uncharted 2, God of War Collection, Left for Dead 2, and so forth, keep those bills in your pocket. The game may look fairly pretty, but it is sorely lacking in fun, as a poor camera, awkward collision issues, bland background audio, and awful Dark Daxter segments put a damper on what could've been another great adventure for Jak and Daxter.
11/4/2009 Arnold Katayev