Last year the PS2 saw two titles that really took the market by surprise - Sly Cooper and the Thievious Raccoonus, and Ratchet and Clank - both being excellent additions to the platforming genre on the PS2. With that being said, the platforming madness on the PS2, in my opinion, started earlier with Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, a game that brought forth some great typical platform elements with gorgeous environments. Now Naughty Dog has brought the series back. This time it’s been kicked up a few notches. Introducing Jak II, another great platformer for the PS2.
The original Jak and Daxter was a game that had a more Disney feel to it, and made it seem as though it was aimed at a younger audience. The appeal of the game to the average gaming crowd wasn’t all there; therefore the sales of the game weren’t as good as they could be. Now Naughty Dog decided to change the view of the game to one that would appeal to a more general audience. You now have the friendly looking Jak who is now a matured Jak with a goatee, and Daxter looks somewhat older. The premises behind the duo is the same, Jak is the plain character while Daxter fills in the blanks with some comic relief.
Jak II is not only different when we are talking about the characters but also is different in their approach to the gameplay. Jak and Daxter was a pretty straightforward platforming title that very rarely veered off that course. In Jak II, you have some of the basic platforming elements combined with some basic action elements and you get Jak II. This is the first time I have really seen a platforming style game truly been turned into an action title, and Jak II does it beautifully.
Jak II starts off with the duo and a nice long initial cut scene that basically leaves off where the last one ended. The whole basis behind the game is the accidental press of a button that threw them off the planet and onto another, where they were immediately confronted by red guards, led by Baron Praxis. The story isn’t a huge driving factor for the game, but it does help push it a long and give you somewhat of a purpose to play the game. Daxter escapes the guards but Jak is taken prisoner and is used as a guinea pig in Baron Praxis’ dark eco experiments. Daxter finally rescues Jak after two grueling years of torture. The two make a pack to make sure and destroy Praxis, and oh do they mean business.
When I mentioned earlier that the game has gone away from the Disney look, and more towards the older audience. One clear sign of this is the unmistakable influence of Grand Theft Auto’s unique brand of gameplay placed in the game. Throughout the game you have the ability to steal hovercrafts, no you’re not going to be driving cop cars, or tanks, but hovercrafts that you steal from innocent drivers. Although you won’t get the same feel you get when stealing in GTA3 but it is still quite fun. These vehicles control pretty easily and they are quite fun to ride around the environments.
Jak II has a few things going for it, and probably the main one that is very apparent is that this is just a smooth playing game. Naughty Dog has done an excellent job smoothing out all the edges and just making a solid action platformer all the way around. Throughout Jak II you will be doing a lot of the basic item gathering and platform jumping, but along with that you get a lot more variety and depth. The action aspects of the game are just as much fun as the platforming, where you will be given plenty of different weapons at your disposal. Shooting guards will become a normal task, and disposing them does becomes more and more difficult in the later stages of the game.
Jak II isn’t the longest game in the world, but it does a great job of entertaining you for the amount of time it will take you to complete. There is never a dull moment when it comes to Jak II and that in my opinion is one of Jak II’s biggest selling factor. The gameplay has been much improved, tweaked, and manipulated into a much more advanced, yet fun gaming experience that has plenty of variety in it so that you won’t have to be doing the same mission objectives over and over again.
When Jak and Daxter was released a few years back it was really ahead of its time, graphically. It was a very detailed, colorful, descriptive game that for the time really looked impressive. For its time it was quite good, and now that the series is on its second stage, it does a great job of improving upon an already visually-impressive game.
With the bar already being so high from Jak and Daxter, it was hard to see a way for Naughty Dog to do a nice job improving the game graphically, but somehow they did and the game looks better then ever. One of the key things Naughty Dog did to Jak II was really detailed the environments even more then before, there is a lot more going on in the environments. In every level you will find that you are not the only thing moving on the screen but much more is going on.
The character models have also been upgraded a notch from the first Jak and Daxter. Not only has Jak grown up and gotten a goatee but Daxter has also been given a fitting makeover. The character models in the game are very impressive, and really do a nice job of getting the job done for the game. Everything else in the game runs fluidly and nicely, there is really nothing to complain about when it comes to Jak II’s graphics.
One of the key problems that sets the good from the great games are the camera angle and this is another reason why Jak II is so great. The camera of Jak II is nearly flawless, very seldom will you find it hard to see the action on screen. Overall the graphics of Jak II are excellent, with some great detail, and beautiful environments you get one nice looking title.
When you think of platformer’s you think of Mario, or even Sony’s big hits of Sly Cooper and Ratchet and Clank. The one thing that those games all have in common is that they are all quite fun. Well Jak II falls along the same line, as much fun as it is, it is still challenging and quite deep. It will take a good twenty hours the first run through, and with all the great stuff going on it is a game that you could find able to play through again.
If you are looking for a platformer then this is definitely the way to go. With some great action sequences rolled up with great platforming elements you have an extremely well developed game that deserves to be in your game library. If you enjoyed Jak and Daxter or even Ratchet and Clank or Sly Cooper you are bound to enjoy Jak II.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.