Jak of all trades
The geography of the game is all well and good, but Jak II also had a blend of rewarding exploration and satisfying action that kept me coming back. Jak was nimble enough to scale objects, find hidden collectibles that unlocked all manner of goodies and jump like a hyperactive rabbit. Okay, he never had Mario’s ‘tache, but he had a goatee, which was almost as good.
Above: Thankfully, this never happened
On top of all that, he was a pretty decent fighter as well; being able to scrap with his fists, call upon his morph gun or when things got really desperate, morph into Dark Jak, whose feral attacks were the requisite eye candy for the combat. It truly was something for all the family… but in my family, mainly just for me.
The mixture of gunning and jumping wasn’t entirely new at the time. Ratchet & Clank was more than familiar with most PS2 owners by that point, yet the shooting in Jak was nowhere near as tongue-in-cheek as Ratchet’s, which is why it struck more of a chord with me. When it came to fisticuffs, Jak was suitably well versed in the art of melee. Running just behind a guard and then hitting them was one of my most embarrassing past-times.
There was also the added bonus of Jak not above throwing the old spinning kick manoeuvre at his foes either. Ahem, second most embarrassing past-time. When all these elements come together, the combat packs just the right amount of punch so that it’s enjoyable, without it ever getting to the point where the exploration suffered for it. I had only just started to properly get into games as a hobby, so the relative ease of the combat certainly worked the magic on me.
Although it would be fair to say some of the elements were recycled, but after twenty hours into Haven City’s tale of corruption and redemption, you’ll be hard pressed to care how it all works. In fact, well after the story had been polished off, I would spend time doing nothing but running around Haven City and riding the lake of Haven Forest, like the easily pleased pre-teen that I was.
It physically hurts that the last entry in the series, which was put out to pasture on the PSP and PS2 back in 2009, never made it to PS3. It’s almost criminal that the series hasn’t been given the same amount of love from Sony in the HD era as its other mascots. Hell, even Sly has had an HD collection and a sequel on the way. The thought of a HD Jak & Daxter game already has my knees wobbling, not that Jak needs the shiny HD process to get me playing again.
Above: After all, that Pixar-quality animation is still utterly stupendous
At the heart of Jak II is everything that a truly exceptional game should have: an engaging story, quality level design and rewarding gameplay. Jak II took all of this and crafted a truly daring game, that took a risk on it’s audience that paid off incredibly well. The series may be MIA for the time being, but there’s always that other franchise Naughty Dog craft to keep us occupied.
25 Aug 2011
Written by Ben Tyrer, with us on work experience from Bournemouth University, UK