QJ Reviews “Daxter” – Part One

So there I am sitting in front of my PC writing an article when I get the irresistible urge to buy a new game. You know the urge, the one that hits you and won’t let you go even though your wallet is as skinny as Ally Mcbeal on the Atkins diet. I tried getting a little play time in on Burnout Legends but it wasn’t enough, that just made it worse, I absolutely positively wanted, no needed to get my hands on Daxter!

Read the full review after the jump!
So there I am sitting in front of my PC writing an article when I get the irresistible urge to buy a new game. You know the urge, the one that hits you and won’t let you go even though your wallet is as skinny as Ally Mcbeal on the Atkins diet. I tried getting a little play time in on Burnout Legends but it wasn’t enough, that just made it worse, I absolutely positively wanted, no needed to get my hands on Daxter!

Fast forward twenty minutes, I’m at the local Target in a small room with white brick walls, it’s dark, it’s dank and there’s a six foot four security guard with bad breath and an even worse attitude giving me a work over, NYPD Blue style. “This is what happens when you shoplift you little punk!” He spits as he slams his fist into my tender mid section for the seventh time. Now I would take this creep out, but my hands are cuffed and I’m blindfolded. Time’s running short.

Okay, so that entire paragraph was made up and I should never write fiction. Ever. Before I start the review proper I should mention that I believe games and portable games in particular shouldn’t be reviewed by blasting through the entire game as quickly as possible to get the review out, it’s simply not the way the experience was meant to be had. Hence this multi-part review, welcome to part one of many.

Presentation: The cover art’s pretty slick. It’s simply Daxter in the spotlight holding up the bug sprayer looking somewhat manic. On the flip side of the cover is a neat little map of Haven city that highlights the main areas Daxter’s journey will take him to. It’s a really cool little addition and hearkens back to the grand ol’ days of yore when games were packaged with full fledged uber-beefy manuals that you could scrutinize for hours on end. Speaking of instruction manuals, the one included is your standard PSP affair, it contains just enough information to get you up and running, but again the art’s nice.

   

Graphics: Daxter’s world is vibrant and jam packed with color, life and detail, everything’s crisp and sharp, with very little aliasing and no visible dithering. The animation in game and during cutscenes approaches a level usually reserved for top tier Disney, Dreamworks and Pixar flicks, it’s that good. The best compliment I can give this game is that it’s very easy for you to forget you’re playing a PSP game, and most of the time you’re subconsciously playing a PS2 Jak game (the gold standard in PS2 graphics) again it’s that good. The framerate is generally rock solid, except for a few moments where you’re out on the streets of Haven city (which I might add is conspicuously less trafficked than it’s PS2 counterpart, but understandably so).

       

Sound: The voice acting and sound effects are easily on par with the rest of the entries in the series, that is to say note perfect. The music is great as well, a lot more intimate than Jak’s sometimes heroically heavy tunes, but appropriately quirky and zany. If there was one thing I had to finger as not being quite perfect (and this would really be nitpicking) it would have to be that the audio sometimes takes a second or two to catch up with what’s happening on screen as the UMD spins up… like I said, I’m picking nits here.

Gameplay: If you liked the original Jak and Daxter’s focus on platforming as opposed to fighting and shooting, you’ll find yourself right at home with this title, if you preferred the follow up game’s emphasis on shooting and upgradeable weapons there’s less meat for you here, but I’d argue it’s still a winner and a darn good purchase. It’s early going yet, but so far the dynamics are showing a lot of room for creative platforming. The game starts a little slow, and perhaps a little too easy to be honest, with you heading out to the gardens of a nearby hotel to get rid of some pesky critters. At this point the game’s goal is simply to get you used to the controls and gameplay, and rightly so. You’ll learn double jumping, fly swatting and wall crawling, as well as when and how to use them and be introduced to basic item collection (bugs for combat in the multiplayer mode, vials for bug upgrades and of course gem stones and precursor orbs).

Fairly quickly the difficulty steps up a notch when you’re given the spray gun and gain the ability to stun enemies before moving in for the kill with the swatter. It only gets better once you get your hands on a pressure attachment for the device, this attachment lets you hover in the air for a few seconds after a jump, add this to the ability to set the stream from your spray gun on fire using nearby candles, or gain a boost while hovering using strategically placed open flames and the simple gameplay mechanic opens up to a much more complex set of moves and gameplay possibilities. It’s also worth mentioning that the hover spray seems to be much better integrated into the gameplay than a similar mechanic was in Mario Sunshine.

To be continued: It’s early going yet, but so far Daxter’s living up to expectations. The game feels quite nicely polished and it seems like it’s on its way to being a blast. If there’s anything I’m worried about at this point it’s that the game doesn’t seem to be very long. I don’t know the exact amount of playtime I’ve put into the game (it doesn’t seem like much) but I’m already 10% into the game. Now this might have to do with the fact that it’s kinda hard to put down, but I’m hoping it’s at least comparable in length to the other games in the franchise. Only time will tell so be sure to check back regularly for further updates to this QJ.net review of Daxter for the PSP.

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