Now the Jak & Daxter franchise has gone out with a bang, there is still room for spin-offs. Last year, we got the likeable Jak X: Combat Racing, but this year, the franchise goes back to its roots. Daxter for PSP once again is a platform game. And a damned good one, I might add.
As the fans of the series undoubtedly know, Jak was captured right at the start of Jak II: Renegade, then sentenced for several years in prison, where he was subjected to Dark Eco tests before Daxter finally got him out. This PSP platformer tells us what Daxter was busy doing in the months before the duo’s jailbreak. It’s not really necessary to have played the PS2 trilogy, but it helps if you want to understand all of the jokes and winks. That and the fact you’d be missing out on one of the greatest platforming franchises ever, of course…
It’s remarkable to see how well Ready at Dawn has succeeded in bringing the big and lively Haven City to the PSP with virtually no compromises, aside from a little less people and vehicles roaming the streets. As for the rest, Daxter offers rich and colourful levels with the same trademark quality we’ve come to expect. The models are truly fantastic and Daxter’s fur is almost lifelike. The animations of both Daxter, his friends and the bugs he’ll face are truly exceptional. Everything looks very detailed and the level of finish is downright exemplary. It’s also important to note that the camera doesn’t hinder your movement a lot and when it does happen, you can easily realign the camera by using the shoulder buttons.
Daxter goes on a large number of different missions. Whether it’s ridding a hotel of a bug infestation, taking a hectic tour around Haven City’s subway tracks or killing Metal Head queens, you’ll always have something new to do. Between missions, you can cruise the city and try some of the minigames (more on those in a second) or go on side-missions. The possibility of free roaming sometimes makes it look like a not-so-violent version of Grand Theft Auto (and that’s a good thing, if you were wondering). The only problem (and that’s basically the only major flaw I can come up with for the game) is the fact that the missions reminded me a little bit too much of Jak II: Renegade and Jak III.
Everyone’s favourite ottsel also has a lot of moves and weapons to finish off his enemies. His main weapon is an electric flyswatter, which you can use to pull off all kinds of combos. His other weapon is a bug spray that stuns enemies, so you can pull out your flyswatter and start dealing damage. The spray can later be used as a flamethrower or to fire shockwaves. As the game progresses, you can earn new moves and life upgrades by beating dream minigames. Though they’re basically just rhythm games (hit the right button at the right time), the way they’re presented in Daxter is truly magnificent. Every minigame looks like a scene from a well-known motion picture. You can replay the battle of Helm’s Deep from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers or kick the butt of an army of Agent Smith look-alikes from The Matrix: Reloaded (Daxter’s the One!). Other movie references include Braveheart and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
In an attempt to add a bit more value to the game, the creators added a Bug Combat mode that you can also play with your friends via Ad Hoc wireless play. During the (fairly lengthy) story mode, you’ll encounter combat bugs and items to train and improve them with. Though it won’t keep you hooked for long (it’s essentially a rock-paper-scissors kind of thing), it can be fun to mess around with. Still, it’s a bit sad Ready at Dawn didn’t implement a deathmatch mode or even a few checkpoint races.
Nevertheless, Daxter is easily the best platformer currently available on PSP. Hell, it’s even one of the best PSP games, period. With its captivating gameplay, tons of things to do, great graphics and superb presentation, Daxter is a game that simply shouldn’t be missed by any handheld gamer and certainly not by fans of the series.