I hated how they completely scrapped the eco gameplay mechanic in the later Jak games. I'm glad it's back in some form, even if it is a weird one.
Solid gameplay, challenging platform puzzles, and a touch of wacky humour make Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier a good addition to Sony's much-loved series.
- Fast-paced gameplay
- Solid platforming elements
- A variety of ground and air combat
- Looks great.
- Occasional bad camera
- Story too confusing for newcomers
- Dark Daxter levels feel tacked on.
The Jak and Daxter series is a household name among platforming fans, getting much love for its madcap adventures imbued with a good dose of action and puzzle-solving. The latest addition to the series is no different: it's a good-looking, challenging, and action-packed game that doesn't lack variety. While Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier plays a lot like its predecessors, there are enough enhancements--such as the air combat elements--to keep things fresh. The only things to watch out for are the sometimes-off-camera enemies and the not-so-smooth storyline--faults easily overshadowed by the solid and engaging gameplay.
The story follows on from the last few games in the series. This time around, Jak, Daxter, and Kiera set off on a quest to fix the eco shortage, which is threatening the survival of the world. The opening cutscenes, while graphically impressive, reveal little about the characters or the story. This isn't a good way to start the game because you feel as if you're lagging behind even though you've only just begun. But the action quickly picks up, and the story more or less falls into place soon after, although it's patchy and somewhat confusing at times.
Once you get into it, you spend a good chunk of gameplay jumping around and trying to navigate tricky environments. These sequences start out easy and throughout the course of the game become quite difficult--there are a few obstacle-course levels where Jak must navigate an underground passageway, dealing with rapidly moving seesaw-like platforms, narrow bridges, a time limit, and hordes of enemies. During these levels, double jumps quickly become your best friend. There's also a good deal of puzzle solving, which is nicely integrated into the gameplay and increases in difficulty as the game progresses. Although challenging (and a little time-consuming), these elements are a lot of fun and provide a nice change of pace from the combat. There's also enough silly, self-referential banter between Jak and Daxter to keep you going through the tough times--at one point, Daxter reminds Jak that they are "quite good at platforming and heavy gunplay."
Combat consists largely of Jak facing numerous waves of enemies and the occasional boss. His primary weapon is the gunstaff, which has a long stick for a base and a variety of guns that can be stuck on top, like a long-range blaster, a laser, and a machine-gun. Jak can also do fairly simple melee attacks if you run out of ammo, although these manuevers (spin kicks and a dive attack) are rarely effective. The trouble with combat is the game's semi-fixed camera, which is sometimes unsuccessful at keeping track of what's going on. This isn't a problem in other parts of the game, but during arena combat situations it becomes a real nuisance. You have to constantly reposition the camera by tapping the shoulder buttons if you want to stay one step ahead of your enemies. In some instances the camera pushes right up into Jak, making it impossible to see what's happening around him. Although this doesn't happen too often, it mars the experience of a satisfying battle because you end up firing blindly while trying to reposition the camera. This gets even worse when you factor in the temperamental lock-on functionality for Jak's weapons, which seems to work only if you're standing far enough back from the action; when you're up close and personal, the camera fails to lock on to anything at all, so you're left to your own devices.
Veterans of Jack and Daxter will be all too familiar with eco, the mystical substance that permeates the heroes' world and provides energy to its life forces. Eco plays a big part in Jak's abilities in the form of eco powers that he picks up along the way. Red eco produces a giant red ball of energy that can take out a large number of enemies at a time; yellow eco gives Jak a jetpack and allows him to jump higher; blue eco temporarily slows down time; green eco lets Jak build temporary structures to help him cross difficult terrain; and a few more are uncovered along the way. The best thing about the eco powers is that they let you get creative with both combat and puzzle solving. Some enemies are easier dealt with using a particular gun or power, while others take a combination of the two to destroy. Similarly, during the platform and puzzle-solving areas, you can use a combination of Jak's eco powers to get through a challenge. Playing with these powers is a lot of fun, and once you've got a few of them at your disposal you can discover new and wonderful combos to defeat enemies quickly and stylishly.