Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier Preview
So 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. And while, yes, we have been given a Daxter game for the PSP, it doesn't quite count as an actual Jak and Daxter title that's part of the main series. At this year's E3 2009, during their conference, Sony revealed the all new Jak and Daxter, by announcing it's arrival for the PSP and PS2. Unfortunately, it wouldn't be developed by Naughty Dog...
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, as a number of crippling issues really hurt the game's appeal.
Even though the later Jak and Daxter games began to focus more on action, this particular one returns the series to its platforming roots. And 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 close, as the game seems more focused on Jak's body filling up the screen, 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.
Then there's the entire setup of the platforming and how cheap it feels. I'm not sure if it's just the 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.
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. 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. And the whole collision detection with the poles is a nightmare.
Visually, the 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. And, aside from the stupidity that is Dark Daxter's voice and acting, 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.
Jak and Daxter: The Final Frontier isn't due out until November 3rd, which is about a month away, so there is time to see some last second polish to fix the camera and collision issues. But don't expect the Dark Daxter segments to completely disappear.
10/9/2009 Arnold Katayev
|04/07/09||Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier||Ben Dutka|