Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy – Retro Review

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Released in 2001, Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy was a great start to the new generation for Naughty Dog. It was released originally on the PS2, then remastered and included in the HD Collection for the PS3 which was made available in 2012.

This core gameplay mechanics are inspired mainly by Crash Bandicoot (Naughty Dog’s previous series of games for the PS1). But while the original Crash games featured very linear platforming levels, Naughty Dog expanded Jak and Daxter into a full 3D action/adventure platformer. Jak and Daxter excels at bringing a lot of popular mechanics from other games together and building a very solid and well polished game.

One of the things that really stood out in Jak and Daxter was the world building, this is one of the first games that really went beyond the idea of presenting a game as simply a series of levels. The seamlessly connected areas made the world fell alive, you can venture from Sandover Village into the forest or into the fiery canyon, this game excels at using the new PS2 hardware to connect the areas without interrupting the player with load times.

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The world built by Naughty Dog was a great starting point for the series

 

The main plot in itself is nothing to write home about, a quest to stop an evil duo from destroying the world is neither ground-breaking nor original, but the characters introduced and the world created means this is a very solid starting point for the series. The pseudo fantasy style world combined with almost steam-punk looking technology makes the setting for Jak and Daxter innovative and interesting, as well as providing the possibility for Naughty Dog to expand the world in future games.

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The cross between fantasy and steam-punk style technologies is an interesting idea which suits the feel of the game well.

Mechanically this game uses a simple premise, borrowing the melee spin from Crash as well as adding several other basic attacks makes the combat easy to learn and get the feel for. While simple in design, the controls feel responsive and the combat flows well, aided by the superb animation of the titular characters Jak and Daxter.

Simply mechanics like running, jumping and attacking feel fluid and natural, the animation of each of these motions as well as the way Jak shifts from one attack to the next is particularly well done. Watching Daxter desperately cling in Jak’s shoulder while he was using his spin attack never got old.

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Fluid animations make the controls feel responsive and fun

 

Adding the blue, red and yellow ecos was another mechanic which pushed the game beyond your average action platformer. It prevents the simple combat from becoming stale, as well as giving the creators more options for designing levels. The levels were designed as such that the player was never doing the same thing for too long, switching between combat, platforming sequences and puzzles to solve using eco meant the game was never boring to play.

Graphically the game is a joy to behold, a wonderful spectrum of colours fill each area and make them feel unique. Each area you reach feels vastly different from the previous one. Sandover Village, Misty Island, Fire Canyon and the Lost Precursor City are all examples of the variety of designs present throughout the game.

While the levels themselves are not huge, Naughty Dog uses impressive draw distances and well designed levels to make the world feel bigger than it actually is. The goal of collecting the precursor orbs pushes the player to explore every nook and cranny of each area.

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Naughty Dog created a range of vibrant and colorful enviroments

For a game released so early on in the PS2s lifetime, Naughty Dog really showed that they are capable of getting the most out of the hardware available (Something we see in abundance during their later games).

Pythagean

Pythagean

Head Designer at The Video Game Forum

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Summary
  • Gameplay
  • Story
  • Presentation
  • Audio

Summary

A wonderfully realized world, incredibly fun gameplay and memorable characters really made Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy one of the best games of the early PS2 generation, a great starting point for a new series both in a mechanical sense and from a narrative perspective.

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