Jak & Daxter: The Lost Frontier

While Lombax-loving gamers have already received a second retail release starring Sony's other dynamic duo, fans of the eco-hunting hero and his ottsel sidekick haven't received a game since 2004's Jak III. Oh sure, there was Jak: Combat Racing in 2005 (doesn't count) and the Jak-less PSP exclusive Daxter (nope, doesn't count, either) the following year, but a true sequel to the twosome's epic three-title arc has only existed in patient fans' dreams... until now.

Jak & Daxter: The Lost Frontier hits the PSP in November, and while it's not the full-on current-gen realization PS3 owners were hoping for, it is an action- and platforming-packed, console-quality continuation of the PS2 trilogy. High Impact Games, the capable creators of Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters and Secret Agent Clank, are developing the title. And based on our hands-on time, it appears their knack for successfully bringing console stars to the portable is firing on all cylinders for the duo’s PSP debut.

Anyone who's played the other Jak titles knows the series adds significant innovations with each iteration; previous entries have evolved by adding vehicle- and weapons-based play. The Lost Frontier is no different, as it takes this approach to new heights – literally. While taking to the skies isn't a totally new concept for the series, it's never been as prominent as it is in The Lost Frontier. The title will incorporate the staple elements fans have come to expect from the franchise —platforming, combat, vehicles— but air-based adventuring will account for nearly 50 percent of the game's total playtime.

The mission we played through, “Galleon Assault,” highlighted this, beautifully filling the PSP's wide-screen with a cinematic battle for the skies. Piloting the Hellcat jet fighter, Jak — with Daxter manning guns, repairing damage and replenishing ammo — sets off to rescue Keira, who's being held captive on a massive pirate airship. The ensuing encounter, centering around an airship that dwarfs Jak's winged ride, unfolds like one big boss battle. Firing machine guns with the right trigger, with lasers and missiles mapped to face buttons, we proceeded to target the airship’s propellers. This proved an easy task, as the props were large targets, and we had the advantage of stealthily hovering behind the vessel. Taking out the various turrets on the ship's deck was far more taxing, however, as we traded lead with the enemy's well-protected onboard cannons. Again, like in a boss battle, we had to strategically waffle between aggressively attacking and retreating to ensure we remained airborne. With all the targets' weak points destroyed, and our own ship spitting smoke from various breaches, we finally took down the sun-blocking craft.

Our demo also included a much more familiar-feeling level, which saw Jak breaking out his signature platforming prowess to avoid lava pits and ascend a volcano. But it was the breathless battle against the galleon that really got our fingers twitching and adrenaline pumping. While we look forward to The Lost Frontier's more standard Jak gameplay, we can't wait to take to reach for the sky again and experience more of the franchise's new flight-focused play.

Nov 2, 2009

Matt Cabral
A full-time freelance writer based in Lizzie Borden's hometown, Matt Cabral has covered film, television, and video games for over a decade. You can follow him on Twitter @gamegoat, friend him on Facebook, or find him in the basement of an abandoned building hoarding all the canned goods, med-kits, and shotgun shells.