A True Gem of The Playstation 2 Era
Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy was applauded by critics and gamers alike for its lovable characters, vibrant art design, solid game play and huge world. The developers at Naughty Dog had created an instant classic that seemed to combine, and almost perfect, the best parts of every great platformer.
While Naughty Dog could have pumped out an identical sequel and probably done quite well, they decided to turn Jak's world completely upside down. Jak II breaks the mold of its predecessor by ditching the "E for everyone" label and taking on a new T rating. With a darker story based on revenge and slightly more violent gameplay, the silent protagonist that everyone had grown to know and love had undergone a radical change.
Picking up right where the Precursor Legacy left off, the opening scenes see Jak and friends being carried helplessly through the rift gate that they had found after defeating Gol and Maia. Seperated from the rest of the group while in the time rift, Jak and Daxter land alone in a walled futuristic metropolis known as Haven City. Hardly having a chance to even take a look around, Jak is immediately apprehended by the city's "Krimzon" Guard upon his rough landing and thrown into Haven's prison.
Jak spends two years as a test subject for the deranged Baron Praxis, supreme dictator of the city. Using Jak's unusual ability to absorb mysterious eco energy, the Baron repeatedly injects him with the destructive "dark eco" in an attempt to create a dark warrior that will defeat Haven's enemy, The Metal Heads. He unknowingly succeeds, giving Jak a dark transformation ability.
From the beginning intro of the game, it's clear that the happy go lucky days of the Precursor Legacy are long gone. After being tortured and having served as a guinea pig for the past two years, Jak makes an escape with Daxter's help and begins his quest for revenge.
The story is a big improvement over that of the first game, mostly because the first lacked much of one. Jak II is much more character driven, especially now that the main hero is no longer mute. The game is also filled with colorful supporting characters as well though. Daxter, your wisecracking fuzzy side kick, is back as comic relief and hint-giver. You also meet up with city resistence members and familiar faces that are instantly lovable. The villains of the game are as intriguing as the good guys, and just as memorable. You really start to care about what happens to them and it drives you to see how the story plays out.
Jak II takes place in a massive world, with Haven city being the main hub area with chances to leave the metropolis for well designed areas such as forests, mining facilities, factories, and ruins that lie outside the main city. Every level and location has been expertly crafted and designed, as well as graphically polished to perfection. Naughty Dog created one of the most graphically impressive PS2 games with Jak 2.
The game is set up in a GTA style mission structure, where you have to locate different characters indicated on the map who will in return give you a task. Along with the masive world and the ability to hijack any of the flying vehicles within the city, there is a great amount of freedom in how you go about completing tasks or just screwing around in the city.
It's also worth noting that Jak II is definitely more challenging than The Precursor Legacy. Some moments can even border on frustration as failure means starting over. Specifically the on rails shooting section was particularly tiresome. While having to restart quite often can be a chore , completing a task feels very rewarding in the end.
At the heart of Jak II is the same platforming/adventure game, but there are two major differences and many small ones. First the big changes : Guns and Dark Jak. For anyone who played the original game, the idea of Jak wielding an eco powered rifle is pretty startling. But running with the more mature theme, Jak collects four different types of weapons, each of which needs specific ammo found in various crates throughout the world. The shooting mechanics work out pretty well, though it would have been helpful to be able to strafe or lock on to enemies. This doesn't really hinder you too much though, especially since you have a gun training course you can visit any time.
Dark Jak is a cool feature that takes a cue from Devil May Cry, and gives Jak the ability to turn into a raging, demon-like alter ego that is all hopped up on dark eco. Use of the Dark Jak power is limited by a gauge that needs to be filled and replenished by collecting dark eco from fallen enemies. Dark Jak isn't just a change in looks though, it gives you upgraded attacks and helps you deal more damage to enemies.
There are also smaller game play additions that add to the overall quality of the experience. For example, Jak now has a jet board he can use at any time, allowing you to travel faster or get to previously unreachable area. It even has an impressive array of skateboard style trick you can pull off. There are also a load of mini games and events to keep you occupied including:
- Jet Board challenges
- Hunting for all the precursor orbs to unlock secrets
- Zoomer Races
- Kiosk missions spread throughout the city (non story related missions)
- Several replayable minigames
- Gun Courses