Well, here we are at the end of the week again. It's Friday, and Friday means retrospective day! It does for me, at least.
Let's turn back the clock a little bit. It's December 3rd, 2001. On this very day, unbeknownst to us all, one of the greatest 3D platformers to grace the PlayStation 2 was released unto the world. I'm talking about Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy. Jak and Daxter is the spiritual successor to the Crash Bandicoot series, and takes its cues from other collect-a-thon platformers such as Banjo Kazooie. While the first entry in the Jak and Daxter series was a bit lacking in the story department, it made up for it with great platforming, solid controls, memorable dialogue, locations, and characters, and just plain old fun game play.
Jak and Daxter tells the story of, you guessed it, Jak and Daxter. Its story consists of four Sages, black goo, some sort of evil, and a bunch of collecting. The story begins with our two protagonists exploring an island right off the coast of their village. They stumble across a pool of black sludge, known as purple eco, and shortly after finding it Daxter falls in. The goop spits Daxter out, but not before transforming him into an Ottsel. No, that isn't a typo. In the world of Jak and Daxter, an Ottsel is a half otter, half weasel creature. Despite his new, and considerably furrier form, Daxter retains his speech and cognitive skills. Unfortunately for our dynamic duo, none of this matters. Samos the Sage of green eco, explains that the only person who can change Daxter back is Gol Acheron, the Sage of dark eco. The path north to Gol is blocked by Fire Canyon, whose terrain can only be crossed by the help of a Zoomer that has the protection of a heat shield. In order to get a heat shield, the two companions must find and collect enough precursor power cells to power the machine, and thus the collect-a-thon begins!
As the word collect-a-thon might entail, there is an entire host of different objects to collect. Firstly, we have precursor orbs, which are egg shaped. Precursor orbs are the most abundant items in the game, and some characters will trade you one, or even multiple power cells for them. Next up, we have the scout flies. Each area in the game has 7 hidden scout flies, and collecting them all scores you another power cell. Lastly, we have the power cells themselves. Power cells are used to open up paths to new level, and to help with getting 100% completion. There are several power cells to obtain in each level, some can be bought, some can be obtained through helping others, and some through methods mentioned before. Some of these can be rather hard to find, and they really cause you to thoroughly search each level. Another one of the big gameplay elements are the various forms of eco. The first, and most common type of eco, is green. Collecting green eco will help restore your health. The second eco to be introduced, blue eco, energizes Jak, allowing him to move faster, break boxes near him, attract green eco and precursor orbs, and power machinery. As the game progresses, more puzzles involving blue eco appear. Lastly, we have red and yellow eco. Yellow eco allows Jak to shoot bursts of energy at his foes, and break certain types of boxes and crates that can't be broken normally. Red eco increases Jak's attack power, allowing you to make quick work of enemies. One of the things I like most about the eco is how it's placed in the various levels. Naughty Dog was smart enough to not leave eco lying around all over the place. Generally, if you find eco, there's a puzzle or some sort of hidden area to access nearby, or the next segment of the level requires it. This really helps keep the gameplay balanced.
The last major thing I'd like to mention is the environments. The bright, colorful envrionments that Jak and Daxter offers are just a pleasure to view, as well as being expertly laid out. As I mentioned before, each level has several areas, each offering a different challenge with a lot to explore. Each environment features new hazards, from lava, to a giant fish who eats you if you fall in the water. The platforming is kept fresh in each level, getting more and more complex and sometimes making you really think out your route.
At the end of the day, it's truly clear that Naughty Dog knew what they were doing when they made this game. The perfect blend of content it offered really allowed Jak and Daxter to stick its foot in the door and show everyone what a well-made platformer can do. While the game is old, there is an HD collection featuring the first 3 games in beautiful HD resolution for the Playstation 3. While Naughty Dog has moved on to newer, bigger, games, no one can forget this corner stone to their legacy.