previewed on PSP
Planet Eco in danger
After the success story that was Daxter in 2006, the PSP now gets its very own ‘official’ title in the series that sees the lovable Ottsell reunited with his human buddy and main protagonist Jak.
Following the events of the previous game of the PS2 trilogy; Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier sees Jak and Keira travel to the edge of their world which is quickly running out of the sacred lifeblood of the planet Eco. It is here at the ‘brink’ that our heroes hope to find precursor machinery (the Eco Core and Eco Seeker no less) which will identify why the planet is losing its mojo and help them find the remedy.
Of course, Jak and Keira aren’t the only ones out at the world's end: frequent run-ins with old foes - the Sky Pirates - make up for a lot of the new game’s aerial combat sequences. The air combat will apparently feature heavily in this edition: up to 40% of the gameplay, in fact.
Return to the roots
After the somewhat expected disappointment of the first breakaway karting title followed up by the rather tasty Daxter title, the gameplay here returns to the trademark Jak and Daxter style and is rooted firmly in the classic platformer staple.
Returning to tried, tested and highly effective comfort zones is a wise choice; the notion of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ is suitably apt here as Daxter finds himself back upon Jak’s shoulder as pits are jumped across and collapsing bridges escaped over. Whilst some will see this routine as repetitive and lacking in innovation the fact that such standard elements of the genre are handled so well and delivered so effectively prove the wisdom of keeping true to the series' platformer heart.
The game seems to have managed the difficult task of maintaining the best ingredients and tone of the original series. This will certainly endear it to long-term players as well as encapsulate the soul of a modern platformer that will entice the new generation of gamers.
A lot of this polish is down to the game engine. High Impact are stalwarts of the PSP and clearly know how to produce pretty titles. The visuals here are truly rich and bursting with colour – good to see after the moody greys of the darker instalments earlier in the saga’s second outing.
Possibly tedious levels
Such is the nature of any platformer, however, that there is usually some degree of tedium and/or a few sparse levels dotted around to fill out a title’s longevity. Garnering the most grumbles here seem to be the levels featuring Daxter on his own. Reports of a slow and clunky character trundling around uninspiring levels where switches are flicked and doors opened are something of a worry and will hopefully be spruced up a little before the game's release.
Again, such minor niggles – if they still exist come the final product – will matter little when the aerial levels come into the fray. According to all reports, there seems to be enough variation in these segments – a vital draw for a platformer.
There will be a total of five different aircraft to pilot during the game’s entirety – all of which can be customized, upgraded and modified with weapons and boosts. If you want your helicat to have a healthy mixture of machine guns and boosted armour, you can freely go for it. Likewise, if you want to banzai a level and opt for an all-out attack strategy with air-to-air missiles that is also an (unwise) option.
Vital for PSP Go
The recently published PSP Go has done nothing to raise Sony’ stock in the handheld market and the new hardware seems to have served to further darken the already unclear future of the console. It is games like The Lost Frontier which will do much to improve the situation. Renowned franchises that are exclusive to the platform and not simply mobile versions of PS3 titles are perhaps more vital now than ever before.
Despite some concerns about the change of developer (the original creators Naughty Dog are reportedly still in a consulting role) and the usual fears that accompany a game which is also released on a last gen console (PS2) the signs look very good for Jak and Daxter’s new outing.
Let’s hope the finished product delivers and brings the franchise back to familiar ground.