Even after so many years of its release, Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy is an experience worth going back to.
Over the past few decades, each console has received a series of platform games whose main protagonist was considered that system’s mascot. Nintendo has Mario, Sega has Sonic and back in the day, the PlayStation had Crash Bandicoot. Crash was a trademark series during the PlayStation’s heyday: there were numbered iterations, racing games and even mini-game collections, consolidating the bandicoot as the most recognizable character from Sony’s first home console. But with the PS2, developer Naughty Dog decided to start focusing on a new series with completely different characters: Jak & Daxter.
Jak and Daxter are two young members of the Sandover village. One day, the adventurers decide to go to a nearby island and explore their surroundings, even when they knew that the place was extremely dangerous. Suddenly, Daxter is attacked by an evil creature and accidentally falls into a fountain filled with a highly toxic energy known as Dark Echo which transforms him into an ottsel (a creature half otter, half weasel.) The duo go back to their village and meet Samos the Sage, who tells them that Gol Acheron, also known as the Sage of Dark Echo, is the only person who can turn Daxter back into his older self. But in order to travel to the Sage’s village, the explorers need to find ancient devices known as Power Cells that are used a source of power and egg-shaped items called Precursor Orbs.
At first, the sheer abundance of collectible items seems baffling, especially since each region is teeming with them. Not only will you find these items scattered across the various environments, but there are also many village members that are more than willing to give you valuable Power Cells in exchange for your services.
Apart from villagers, Samos and his daughter Keira aid you on your quest. While the Green Sage provides vital information on where you should go next, Keira is an able mechanic that repairs warp gates, vehicles and ancient artifacts. In addition, there are many other quest givers who give you missions that range from helping an old man to get his cattle into their pen, to fighting gargantuan robots. There are also a couple of missions that require you to ride either a tamed bird commonly known as Flut Flut or a futuristic vehicle called A-Grav Zoomer. These missions are usually quite compelling because they add variety to the regular platforming sequences.
The game has you collecting a wide variety of items such as treasure chests, locked boxes with Scout Flies in them (little robot flies that have been captured by the enemy) and strong boxes. Thankfully, accruing all these collectibles is engaging because they are placed right on your path. Therefore, there’s no need to deviate from your current quest to get them and you never get the feeling that you’re backtracking or grinding to collect more items.
This has been made possible thanks to Jak & Daxter’s exquisite level design. The world is really absorbing, providing the feeling that each region is naturally connected to the next one and that all areas are cohesively put together. You’ll transition from a spider cave to a swamp barely realizing it and that’s just great level design. There are multiple areas to explore, each one with its particular theme and in this regard, Jak & Daxter seems pretty similar to classic platform games such as Super Mario 64. These environments include the mandatory jungle, village, beach, mountain, fire and snow levels, among others.
But even when some of the areas give the impression of being very generic, they all are distinct enough. Comparisons to other platform titles such as Super Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie, Sonic Adventure and even Crash Bandicoot itself can be easily made, but Jak & Daxter feels truly unique nonetheless. One of the reasons why the game seems so dissimilar to anything else is that Jak & Daxter is quite immersive. For instance, at no time is the game interrupted by loading times that may hinder the player’s experience or break that illusion of immersion. It always feels like you’re part of the world and the lack of loading times definitely help maintain that illusion.
Apart from all the items you’ll undoubtedly come across during your adventure, there’s also a magical and powerful substance known as Echo. The first type of Echo you’ll see is the black one (the one that has transformed Daxter into a furry little creature.) If Jak is in contact with it, Black Echo will kill him. But there are other types of Echo, including Green Echo that has the ability to heal you, Red Echo that improves your strength, Blue Echo that affects the environment by activating Precursor artifacts and Yellow Echo that allows you to shoot projectiles.
A game that is funny is always a treat and Jak & Daxter is definitely a title that can be filed under that rare category. The fact that Jak never utters a single word and that Daxter is unable to keep his mouth shut gives the game plenty of opportunities for laughs. For example, the animations that are shown right after you collect a Power Cell are hilarious and you’ll want to find all of the collectibles just so you can see more of those short videos. In addition, the spot on voice acting is definitely one of the main reasons for the game’s amusing moments.
In the end, Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy is a refreshingly unique platformer that stands out above the rest. Its story is inviting, gameplay has aged well, levels are expertly designed, checkpoints are generous, controls respond precisely to your input, collecting items is an organic part of the experience, worlds are varied and the list goes on and on. Undoubtedly and even after so many years of its release, Jak & Daxter is an experience worth going back to.