markr's Jak & Daxter HD Collection (PlayStation 3) review

A trilogy consisting of an interesting story, memorable characters and infuriating game mechanics.

The Jak & Daxter trilogy could easily be considered some of the greatest games to come out on the PlayStation 2. I myself played all three games in their original form back when they came out and remember enjoying them a lot. 11 years after the release of the first game of the series, a PS3 HD collection was released. Hoping to relive the same epic moments from back then, I set out to replay the trilogy in HD, but was left manly frustrated and disappointed.

To start off I'll talk about the game that started it all, Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy. While not a perfect game, The Precursor Legacy is still to this day extremely fun to play. It offers a variety of level designs, fun platforming, relatively simple combat and tons of collectables. While short when compared to it's sequels, The Precursor Legacy is, at least in my opinion, the best of the the three games included in this collection.

Moving on to the sequel, Jak II maintains the majority of it's predecessors mechanics while adding on several new ones. Sadly, not all of these work in favor of the game. The introduction of firearms helps make the games combat more interesting, but the lack of a proper aiming mechanic can sometimes lead to frustration. similarly, the hover board makes exploration faster, but it's inclusion in some of the platforming stages will have you screaming at the screen.

The games greatest flaw however, is the checkpointing system. Checkpoints are few and far between, in some cases the only checkpoint is at the beginning of the stage. This means that one wrong move could easily have you replaying the first 15 minutes of a stage over and over again. Escort missions are another problem. While there are only a few of these throughout the game, they are very annoying since friendly fire is turned on and you can easily fail a mission due to a poorly aimed punch or shot. It is also a shame that collecting Precursor Orbs, on of the most fun things about The Precursor Legacy, has also been redesigned, lowering the number of Orbs and hiding them in hard to find places or offering them as mission rewards.

Not everything about Jak II is bad though. The introduction of Dark form gives you a new and interesting way to dispatch enemies, vehicles reduce the travel time from point A to point B and the majority of the locations are fun to explore. But it is a shame that these things are often overshadowed by the games bigger problems.

The final game of the HD Collection is Jak 3. Building on the mechanics established in Jak II, Jak 3 is definitely an improvement. The checkpointing system is slightly improved in most cases, the few available escort missions no longer have friendly fire turned on, and the controls for platforming sections including use of the hover board have also been fixed. The inclusion of 2 additional gun mods for each gun type also helps with some of the problems that appear due to the lack of an aiming mechanic. And the introduction of Light mode offers some interesting twists as far as both platforming and combat go.

Despite these improvements, Jak 3 still suffers from some fundamental problems. Although the checkpointing has been for the most part improved, this is not the case during Timed Missions, which are much greater in number then they were in Jak 2. Ground vehicles have also been added, which do prove useful for the majority of the missions that require them. Their inclusion in timed missions as well as the games final mission, however, is simply infuriating, as these require precise control, which the ground vehicles do not offer.

Of course, gameplay is not the only important part of the series. The trilogy as a whole includes a huge variety of sceneries, memorable characters and an interesting story. The soundtrack also has some truly awesome moments.

In the end The Jak and Daxter Trilogy is a good HD update of one great and two ok games. But the nicer graphics and improved framerate don't fix some of the core problems that plague the later entries in the series. The platforming is superb and it is a shame to see that they reduced its importance in favor of some weaker mechanics as the series went on. The Precursor Legacy is by far the strongest link in the chain, and while I did not enjoy the other two games as much as I did when they were originally released, I was still glad that I had the chance to replay and relive the story of one of the best received franchises on the PS2.

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