E3 2001: Hands-onJak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy

We play Naughty Dog's secret PlayStation 2 game for the first time.

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Naughty Dog relinquished the license to produce Crash Bandicoot games some time ago and its first game since Crash Team Racing, Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy for the PlayStation 2, was unveiled in full today at Sony's pre-E3 press conference. After the conference ended we were able to get some hands-on time with Jak and Daxter and speak with Naughty Dog about its newest game.

As Jak and Daxter begins, the pair is exploring some ancient ruins on the forbidden island of Misty. Daxter accidentally falls into a pool of dark eco and is transformed into a small weasel-like creature. Perplexed at what to do, Jak seeks the counsel of the local sage who informs him that the only way to return Daxter to his human form is to find a legendary sage with mystical powers. With Daxter riding on his shoulders, Jak heads off on an adventure to return his pal to his former self.

At its heart, Jak and Daxter is a 3D platformer. Unlike Naughty Dog's Crash games, you may roam anywhere you please in the 3D worlds. So far Jak can jump, roll, punch, uppercut, perform a swirling attack similar to Crash's, and perform his own variation of the butt stomp. You begin the game with a short list of moves and Jak eventually learns more as the game wears on. There are no loading times included in the game. Instead, a slight pause occurs as the next area is loaded. Naughty Dog claims that this will be eliminated altogether in the final version. The worlds are enormous, vividly colored, and support a wealth of gameplay. There are traditional platform jumping elements, racing, and minigames to keep things interesting. One minigame plays similar to Kaboom!. In it, you must stand on a bridge and try to catch fish in a net as they quickly swim towards you. If you accidentally pick up an eel, you must start all over again.

Like most 3D platformers, there is a great deal of collecting to be done in Jak and Daxter. The main object to collect is powercells. Powercells are awarded to Jak after completing each level. The cells may then be used to power up a jet bike that will serve as transportation to the next area. There are also a variety of orbs to collect. The blue orbs give Jak a temporary charge ability that will allow him to trigger special events when he comes across specific pads. This often involves Jak being jettisoned into the sky to reach new areas. Red orbs give Jak the ability to send projectile attack spiraling at enemies.

There are four playable levels in the build Naughty Dog is showing off at E3. The majority of the environments have a tropical theme with dozens of cartoon characters and enemies scattered throughout. The lone boss we encountered was a huge plant with dozens of arms covered with thorns. You must jump up a set of leaves to reach the boss's face and then strike quickly. The cinemas in Jak and Daxter occur in real-time with animated character faces that match its streaming dialogue quite well.

Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy for the PlayStation 2 is currently scheduled for release at the end of this year. We'll have more impressions from the E3 show floor in the next few days.

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