Jak & Daxter: The Lost Frontier Review
Outside of the kart combat game Jak X, it's been quite some time since we've seen a Jak and Daxter game. Daxter made a solo appearance in the excellent PSP game that bore his name, but that was an adventure all the Ottsel's own without any help from Jak. Now Jak makes his PSP debut and the duo are reunited once again in Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier. The game is not Jak IV, both figuratively and literally, but there's some classic Jak and Daxter platform gameplay to be had, as well as something entirely new to the series: aerial combat.
The game opens with the famous duo, along with Keira, an apprentice Eco Sage, aloft in their Hellcat aircraft among the floating islands that exist on the fringe of their world. The crystal-like Eco that provides both power and magical properties has become quite scarce, which of course leads to conflict … and profiteering. Our heroes are soon set upon by sky pirates in search of Eco and that encounter kicks them off on their adventure. I found the story a bit hard to follow, and it seems that the developers made the assumption that anyone playing this game would already be well-versed in all things Jak and Daxter, or else they simply didn't bother to fill in all of the details. I've played some Jak and Daxter in the past, but apparently not enough to keep everything straight. Not that it mattered all that much; the game tells you to go somewhere and get something and you do it. It would have been nice to have a stronger narrative that could pull you into the game world, though.
Although the game opens with an aerial battle, aerial action makes up less than half of the gameplay. You'll spend a lot of time away from your aircraft, either in cities or collecting things from the floating islands. The platform side of the game includes a very healthy dose of jumping, double-jumping, swinging, and the like, but there are also fighting and puzzle aspects to it as well. As you make your way through the game Jak gains special powers from magical idols such as the ability to create explosive orbs or slow down time, and these powers all find their way into the gameplay. If you're a fan of platform gameplay you'll enjoy it all, although that enjoyment will be tempered by issues with the game camera. There's no free-look mode or way to rotate the camera, and there are plenty of times when the angle or zoom level were not adequate to size up your next jump or move. There's also no way to lock the camera on enemies, so you'll often find yourself in the situation where you're trying to shoot enemies that are off-screen. Aiming Jak's weapon at yourself through the screen in the blind hope of hitting your attackers isn't that much fun.
Daxter gets to star in his own special levels, although he does so as Dark Daxter. If you've played Jak and Daxter before, then you are familiar with Jak's Dark Jak form. If not, it's basically an alternate form Jak assumed that gave him a completely different set of powers all powered by Dark Eco. This time out there's no Dark Jak, but there is a Dark Daxter, a form that turns the little Ottsel into something akin to the Tasmanian Devil. Dark Daxter can hurl energy balls and spin like a tornado, making his levels a mix of mini battles and pinball. These levels are a diversion from the rest of the game, but I can't really say that overall they're a fun diversion. Parts are fun, parts are frustrating, and on the whole they felt more like something that had to be played through to advance in the game rather than something to look forward to.