Happiness is a Sore Thumb

Jak and Daxter: the Precursor Legacy[Insert “Wow, it’s been a long time since I posted” remark here.]

Recently, I tried the demo for Jak and Daxter: the Lost Frontier on my new PSPgo.  (I’ll expound later on that excellent little handheld platform.)  This enjoyable experience lit a tiny fire in my brain.

I have some very fond memories of playing through the first Jak and Daxter game (subtitled The Precursor Legacy) with my son Zack back in 2001/02 – he would have been about 6 at the time.  He hadn’t been quite old enough for the game’s sometimes tricky difficulty level, but had enjoyed sitting with me as I played.

These recollections of time well spent led me to wonder how much these memories were simple nostalgia and how well the game would hold up today.  So, instead of simply grabbing the new J&D installment for my PSPgo, I decided to pick up a copy of the original and give it another whirl.  If I liked what I discovered, I’d continue to play through Jak II and Jak III before finally tackling The Lost Frontier.  (I’d never completed the second two games the first time around.  The series became more serious as it progressed, and I’d thought it a little too gritty for Zack at the time.)

Seeing as Eastern PA was socked by a fairly major snowstorm this weekend, I enjoyed a good deal of free time after knocking out my household obligations.  Luckily, The Precursor legacy has thoroughly lived up to my fond memories.

I’m a little over 60% of the way through the first game, and having a ball.  The game isn’t without its frustrations, but by in large Naughty Dog’s excellent craftsmanship has stood the test of time.  (You may have heard of a little game – game of the year, that is – that Naughty Dog recently released, titled Uncharted 2.)

Jak and Daxter screenshot

I think my enjoyment of The Precurser Legacy has to do largely with the feeling of exploration that it imparts.  Naughty Dog has crafted a very compelling setting, and their level design is masterful.  The game unfolds before you as you progress, revealing new environs, enemies, and gameplay options at the perfect pace.  About the time you’re finally tiring of a new area, you’ve organically completed most of the required tasks, and new locales are made available to Jak and his crazy were-otter-weasel sidekick.

Likewise, the story and game world are actually quite compelling, with the story doled out in both cutscenes and in-game expositions.  The voice acting throughout is fantastic.

I have encountered some frustrations.  The difficulty level is quite challenging at times, and the gameplay certainly old-school.  Miss one jump and you’re dead, Lance – try again!  There’s also a little necessary trial-and-error at times as the player tries to determine exactly what he’s supposed to in a given situation.  Still, you are presented with infinite lives, and you typically respawn relatively close to the site of your untimely demise.  In all, while I’ve become slightly frustrated in places, the sense of accomplishment when I finally overcame a given obstacle has been glass-half-full.

In any case, it’s been quite some time since I showed up to work Monday morning with a noticeable jump-button bruise on my right thumb, but I like it.  It’s a good kind of pain.

There’s something to be said for a 9 year old game that I’m preferentially playing over Dragon Age: Origins and Assassin’s Creed, which are both currently waiting patiently for my return.  They may wait a bit longer – I’m very much looking forward to the slightly different, open-world play of the next two Jak games.

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One thought on “Happiness is a Sore Thumb

  1. Platformers have always given me trouble. I’m a big fan of Mega Man, and I like the Mario Brothers games. However my hand-eye coordination isn’t the best, so I feel your frustration level. Specifically I felt it about a week ago when I was trying to play New Super Mario Brothers for the DS. I just can’t get past the world 5 castle! I’ve been so close… yet so far.

    As for Jack and Dexter, it always sounded like a fun series. However my platformer issues have kept me from checking it out. I’ll have to check your’s out one night.

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