After I completed Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy a couple of weeks ago, I was really looking forward to tackling the two remaining titles in the main Jak and Daxter trilogy. I loved the platforming emphasis of the first game and, even though the camera work was lacking sometimes, I had a very fun and challenging experience. That’s why I thought that what was about to come next was even better. Naughty Dog had two more years to fix some of the controls and game modes and deliver a difficult, amazing platforming experience.
However, they decided to go in a different direction. An open world, guns, more vehicles, more varied gameplay, less platforming. I decided not to look anything up about the game before playing it, in order not to ruin the surprise (10 years after the fact but what the heck…) and indeed, I was very surprised. The game I was playing was, more or less, Jak and Daxter: Grand Theft Auto, with less emphasis on stealing cars. It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for and certain parts of the game can go back to the depths of hell they came from, but I had fun with it anyway and ended up unlocking the Platinum trophy in less than two weeks.
Jak 2 is a direct sequel to The Precursor Legacy and starts where the first game left off. Jak, Daxter, Keira and Samos take a ride on a Rift Rider and open a Rift Game which unleashes all sorts of creatures on them. The vehicle is destroyed and our heroes end up in a different time, in a different place – Haven City. Jak is kidnapped by the villain, Baron Praxis. He is tortured and infused with Dark Eco, but eventually manages to escape and that’s when the player gains control over him in order to help him find his friends and make his way back to Sandover Village and their proper time.
The basic controls have not changed since the first game. Jak can still jump, double jump, attack and spin around. However, all that Dark Eco treatment unlocked his dark side, which allows him to perform ultimate attacks when his Dark Eco meter fills up. Although it’s an interesting mechanic and can help Jak escape from crowds of enemies, I haven’t really used those powers throughout the game up until the final boss battle, but even there it wasn’t necessary. The basic attacks are, most of the time, entirely enough to take care of the enemies. However, when they’re not, there’s always guns.
Yes, guns. Not far into the game, Jak is given his Morph Gun, which can be equipped with four different types of ammo. I’m not a huge fan of this addition, especially since a lot of missions revolve around the gun and I felt like there was more shooting than actual platforming most of the time. Also, the boss battles, except maybe for one, all require the use of the gun and are also focused less on other skills. To be fair, the ammo types really are different as far as range and power go and it’s a good idea to select the proper ammunition depending on the situation at hand instead of running around shooting whatever and however.
Going back to the story, Jak meets a wide array of characters on his way, although a lot of interaction between them is limited to them telling Jak what to do during his next mission. The plot is also progressed and features several twists. Daxter, as always, provides comical relief and, while many of his lines are genuinely funny, I sometimes wondered why anybody still listens to what he has to say. True enough, often the characters simply ignored him and communicated only with Jak.
Instead of fighting the lurkers, this time our heroes have to face the local enemies – the Krimzon Guard, the soldiers of Baron Praxis – as well as the invading Metal Heads, who are a threat to the entire city. The former enemies can be encountered during missions but they also constitute the police of Haven City, the HCPD, so to speak. They behave more or less like the police in the GTA games. If you bump them with your vehicle, or attack a pedestrian with them in range, all hell is unleashed and every single Krimzon Guard is on you. While I get the idea, I didn’t enjoy the execution at all. Most of the times, I just wanted to go from one mission to another and breaking the arbitrary law of Haven City was not on my mind. Unfortunately, with handling not really improved since the first game, zooming around the city was not that enjoyable and trying to get away from the Guard was even less so. The planning of the city must have been done by a drunken architect. Trying to get from one place to another almost always resulted in me ending up in one of the many blind alleys. Spreading the missions all around the map and forcing the player to zoom there and back again was also not the best idea. I understand that such an open world approach was revolutionary for a platformer game at that time but I’ve been spoiled by Rockstar games and navigating Haven City unfortunately felt like a chore.
Another mechanic that was added to the game is the Jet Board. The mission that introduces the player to it features a ‘skate park’ where Jak is required to perform tricks, grinds and jumps, all of which are scored. If I wanted to play a Tony Hawk game, I would have and I didn’t really care for that in Jak 2. Fortunately, later on, the board is used exclusively for platforming purposes and most of the time it works pretty well. It can also be used to hover around the City which is faster than walking and handles much better than the zoomers.
The missions and locations are varied and interesting, as are the Metal Head enemies. Those elements are the brightest sides of the game. Even though I didn’t care much for the all-shooting missions, there’s plenty of challenging platforming to keep fans of the genre satisfied. Obviously, there are races and timed events as well as escort and search and destroy missions. Again, not all of them are hits but at the time the game had been released, it must have been very exciting to not only do simple jumping and kicking exercises.
All in all, I had a lot of fun with Jak 2: Renegade. I wish it had even more platforming in it but I understand the direction Naughty Dog took back then. Taking that into account, the fact is, they mad a very good game. There’s lots of characters, a light but interesting plot and many different things to do. The addition of trophies in the PS3 and Vita versions of the game makes it that much more worthwhile to go back and try the game for the first time, or again, for those old-school gamers.
|Pass the Tests of Manhood|
This was, by far, my favorite mission in the game. It’s all about platforming. Jumping from pillar to pillar, using beams and double jumps to get across wide gaps, an up-down running section, featuring Daxter and a large spider. On top of that, there was a musical challenge. Yes, you heard me right… which I didn’t at first, because I was playing with the sound switched off again. I’m going on and on, complaining how I don’t really like fancy modes and challenges in platformer games but puzzles like this are different. Exactly – puzzles, as in puzzle-platformer games. The challenge itself was a sound-based game of Memory with each tombstone producing a different melody which had to be matched to another tombstone emitting the same sound. I love puzzles in platformer games and whenever sound is involved, it makes me even more happy.
| Sunken Ship
|Destroy Ship at Drill Platform|
This was horrible. First of all, I don’t like on-the-rail shooting, especially when the aiming is so difficult and unintuitive. For whatever reason, I had to play with the vertical controls reversed and I couldn’t modify it in the settings. The game requires you to shoot down 43 enemies before they drain your life away. What is worse, it’s not enough to simply hit the flying Guards with the cannons. If you don’t hit their jetpacks directly, they simply bounce away and come back at you after a second. In summary, clunky controls + difficult aiming + multitudes of enemies = not a fun mission. This mission is listed among the hardest ones in the series and I agree with that completely.
| Speeding Slowly
|Win Class 3 Race at Stadium|
| Speed Quicker
|Win Class 2 Race at Stadium|
| Speed Speedily
|Win Class 1 Race in Stadium|
Racing… why? I ask you, why? The steering of the zommer vehicles did not improve at all in comparison with the first game and now they’re making me compete with AI drivers. If you want to make a racing game, just make one and don’t shove levels like this into a platforming game. Wait, they did? OK. The racing game is based on the vehicles from the third game in the series, which are much better than the zoomers here so I guess they needed some time to practice vehicle design.
| Pedal to the Metal
|Destroy Metal Kor at Nest|
The final boss battle. I already mentioned that boss battles are one of my favorite elements of any platformer game, didn’t I? Well, this one didn’t disappoint. It involved evading ranged attacks, dealing with many small Metal Heads spawned by Metal Kor and shooting flying Metal Heads, using short moments of relative calm to shoot the boss with the Morph Gun. The battle could have used some more platforming elements instead of having Jak run around the pit where the Metal Heads Leader launched his attacks from, but it was fun and challenging, nonetheless.
| Head Master
|Collect 510 Metal Head Skull Gems|
| The Collectationator!
|Collect 286 Precursor Orbs|
I’m not going to hide the fact that I cheated… Yes, I used the infinite orb glitch but with no indication on the number of orbs to be found in all the areas of the game, it just felt like running around in the dark, not knowing whether the things I’m looking for are really there. I had to boost around 150 orbs using the ‘cheat’ which didn’t take very long, especially compared to the hours I could’ve spent exploring every nook and cranny of the map. I did my best, but I didn’t have a strong enough will to make it to the end.
On the other hand, getting the Skull Gems was not a problem at all. I unlocked the trophy on the last mission and I didn’t have to grind for it at all. If you don’t get the required amount before the final boss battle, don’t worry. After you beat the boss, every encountered Metal Head will leave behind a Gem once it’s defeated, so getting this trophy should be very easy.
| Done Done Done
|For excellent and dedicated field work in the field of battle for completion.|
With another Jak and Daxter game in the bag, I have to say that I have mixed feelings about it. I recognize the innovation and the size of the game but I also miss some of the simpler mechanics. I loved the platforming elements, which I believe Naughty Dog nailed. I despise racing and using the zoomer to navigate the city. Still, I gladly kept coming back to the game trying to beat ‘just one more mission’. It never felt boring, even though I had to attempt some of the platforming challenges multiple times. It’s definitely a step forward, as far as complexity is concerned, when compared to The Precursor Legacy. Jak 2 leaves no room for doubt that there was a third game in development when it was released. I’m already 25% into it so stay tuned to the blog to find out how the series final chapter did in my eyes.