Friday, April 23, 2010

Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier (PSP) Review

It's Friday, the end of the workweek! Time for a new review of a more recent game. I'm sure you've had your fill of retro reviews for now. Today we're looking at Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier for the PSP. It's also available for the PlayStation 2, but I'm just worrying about the portable version.

Bad Guys Don't Amount to Jak

The PlayStation Portable has been home to a renaissance of Sony properties. There's been Resistance, MotorStorm, LittleBigPlanet, WipEout, Ratchet & Clank, God of War, Hot Shots Golf, and Syphon Filter. One series that took an extended holiday, but is now back in action is that of Jak and Daxter. The tag team are back, and ready for a new journey in Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier. Is this lost frontier worth finding?

Jak and Daxter have returned in all-new adventure. The duo are back on a mission to uncover the reason behind a shortage of eco in the world. It leads them to an area of the world called The Brink, where it is foretold that the fabled precursors stopped building pieces of the planet. Along the way they meet up with a ragtag group of pirates who wish to plunder their vessel. Jak and Daxter are forced to land on a nearby island, and thus the story truly begins. What there is of the story is told through brilliantly-voiced cutscenes. Daxter, as always, is the tale's comic relief, never letting the tale grow dark unlike previous games in the series. Rest assured, the game's rated E10+, so younger players can check out this adventure and not forced to have played the PlayStation 2 trilogy.

Say it with me, "Jak is back, baby!"

There are three types of gameplay in The Lost Frontier: Jak and Daxter together, Were-Daxter, and aerial combat via plane. Jak and Daxter together is what fans of the series have grown to know and love. Jak can come across a wide assortment of firearms to take out goons and villainous scum alike. He can scavenge the levels of the game for treasure chests giving him new weapon mods such as increased range and damage as well as obtain new armor for defensive purposes. There's different types of guns for Jak to use such as a machine gun-like weapon, an assault rifle, a grenade launcher, and a shotgun for close-range pursuits. All of the running, jumping, and shooting fans remember are available in this portable chapter of the series.

Jak mows through this army of robots.

Along with something old, something new pops up in The Lost Frontier. Special precursor idols endow new powers and abilities to Jak. These can be cycled through with the directional pad's left and right buttons. There's a multitude of powers Jak can concoct such as shooting out a red ball of pulsating power that can be detonated by shooting at it, causing devastating damage to enemies and even big bad bosses. Jak can use his newly-hone precursor idol abilities to construct green crystal walkways at specific points in the game to cross over dangerous chasms or other obstacles. When Jak glows with yellow eco power, he can perform a rocket jump to reach new heights. There's also an ability that slows down time, causing previously perilously speedy platforms to slow down to a crawl, safe to cross. The other two powers include one that switches positions with a special totem and a shield that allows Jak to roll on top of deadly dark eco for a limited time. Unlike other games, this edition of Jak and Daxter doesn't just introduce a new power and forget about it. You're constantly using your acquired abilities throughout your journey.

When Daxter becomes separated from Jak, he finds himself subjected to dark eco. This turns him into Dark Daxter, or as I like to call him, Were-Daxter. Regardless of the name, Dark Daxter has a different playing style than him and Jak as a team. For one, the ferocious furry can't jump. He relies on heavy damage dealing melee attacks as well as other powers such as spinning into a tornado, taking out all enemies daring enough to stand in his way. Dark Daxter can also throw orbs of dark eco at enemies, too. The Dark Daxter segments happen but a few times throughout the game, and they often are puzzle-focused as well as battle-heavy.

Aye! T'is be t' life fer me, mateys!

The final portion of Jak and Daxter's newest adventure occurs in the sky, flight. As the duo play through the game they acquire new aircraft. Each aircraft has its own strengths and weaknesses, and they can be upgraded and customized as the player sees fit. Flight is a key component of The Lost Frontier. It's how you get around the five overworlds the game possesses, it's how you do battle with the numerous sky pirates, and it's how you unwind after a long, hard day of smashing up baddies. The left shoulder button fires lock-on missiles while the right is your primary firing lasers. The tertiary weaponry is performed by pressing the triangle button. Your planes are very nimble and can turn on a dime. Air combat feels nice and smooth. It's just right.

When you've got an enemy in your sights, you can tap the circle button to bring up a special lock-on function. You can jettison Daxter via tow cable onto a given enemy's ship. Then, by completing a bunch of QTE button presses, Daxter can destroy an enemy's vessel from within. Sometimes you'll even be rewarded a new ship part or healing item from this dangerous excursion.

Destroy an enemy ship from within with Daxter's help.

As enemies are defeated, they leave behind Dark Eco which a local helper can turn into new moves and abilities for Jak such as increased bonuses of moves and even extra health. Scrap metal from obliterating enemies in the sky and from completing bonus activities such as target races, barroom brawls, and bringing back eco to a special statue. Scrap metal is used to upgrade the various vessels Jak pilots, from upgraded armor to more devastating weapons. Finally, the mainstay of the series since the very beginning, precursor orbs, are hidden throughout the game's levels and from participating and winning the aforementioned bonus activities. When the game is completed, a special Hero mode opens up. This more challenging mode carries over all of the weapons and bonuses from the previous game. However, this time around, players can use the precursor orbs to unlock cheats such as invincibility to unlimited ammo. All-in-all, the first playthrough will take anywhere from 8-10 hours.

Relive the adventure all over again with Hero mode.

Jak and Daxter look quite good on a much smaller screen. The game usually runs at a steady clip even with rain, lasers, tons of enemies, and special effects. Though there is some slowdown in especially heated confrontations. The game's models are quite impressive, and there's some awe-inspiring places to visit and explore. As stated, the voice acting is terrific. Meanwhile, the soundtrack is quite good as well with plenty of epic-sounding themes to complement the gameplay.

While perhaps not worth spending forty hard-earned dollars for, Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier is a fantastic adventure for players young and old. There's plenty of checkpoints available to make repeated efforts all the less maddening. Yes, the camera can a bit of a bother. And yes, the game is a bit on the short side, but Hero mode offers plenty of longevity as does finding all of the precursor orbs, purchasing every available ship upgrade, and powering up Jak to maximum. High Impact Games has done another excellent job with an original PSP title.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.5/10]

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