Review: Jak & Daxter HD Collection

When Sony announced there was a series of upscaled classics making their way onto the PS3 quite a few people rolled their eyes and assumed it was an easy cash-in on some popular (but out-of-date) past-generation games. And yet we’ve been able to enjoy the God of War series, the quite brilliant Ico collection and now, thanks to Naughty Dog, we’ve got the first three Jak & Daxter games. And we don’t only get a few more fun games to play, but also an interesting tour through early 3D platforming history.

The first game in the collection takes us right back to the beginning; Daxter is even still a normal kid (for a few minutes). The adventure itself kicks off slowly enough to get you used to the controls and how the various items in the environment work. Anyone who’s played a recent 3D platformer will find the camera control a little strange and difficult to get the hang of, and it’s clear to see that years of changes and tweaks have made a massive difference to the control system in this genre. But let’s not forget this isn’t a review of a 2012 game – this collection is nothing more than a modern presentation on a classic series of Naughty Dog games, and as such can’t really be judged by modern standards. The important stuff for an HD conversion is all here: 1080p? Yep. 3D support? Oh yes. Trophies? Naturally. But we still want fun games, so let’s see how they hold up.

We start with The Precursor Legacy, a fairly simple platformer with a heavy emphasis on speaking to people, collecting stuff and searching around for items that are required by the folk on the island. It serves its purpose beautifully, and those looking for a route into the 3D platforming world this will get your head round the idea of what’s on offer. You’ll get to bash a few beasties, double-jump your way to some tricky spots and watch Daxter pull off some bizarre dance moves whenever you collect one of the special power cells.

Next up is the amazingly titled Jak II, which puts a sinister twist on the series and takes things to a slightly less childish place with the introduction of guns, hovering cars and some gritty cities to explore. With a bigger emphasis on combat this time round, you’ll spend a bit more time looking over your shoulder than in the opening game and with the introduction of Dark Jak you’ll get a few more things to try out while you’re seeing off your enemies. If you started to get a bit bored of the cute experience found in the first game, then this will be a refreshing change. It’s a clear leap in quality, and the two years between this game and the previous one were spent very wisely.

Finally, and to complete the trilogy of not-at-all-matching game names, is Jak 3. Very close to Jak II in gameplay style (but 300 years apart in terms of story) you’ll be offered another couple of weapons and a Light Jak to counterbalance to Dark Jak that we found in Jak II. There’s a few more vehicles to help you get around the desert too, but overall you’ll find the experience very similar to the previous few hours spent on the 2nd in the series. That’s not bad thing really, but it does mean that the camera problems that made life tricky since minute 1 of game 1 are still evident and making life a bit tougher than it needed to be.

But really, when you consider we’re going back 10 years, that’s the only real gripe you can point at the Jak & Daxter Collection. It’s no Uncharted, that’s for sure, but you shouldn’t expect it to be. The Naughty Dog quality is stamped all over these three games, and if you’re either a fan of 3D platforming (probably waiting patiently for a decent new Ratchet game) or need a reason to try it out, then this is a good place to look. Three games that were great and the time, and are still great now. Another win for the HD collections.

Reviewed on PS3

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