Jak and Daxter is a pretty unique series in that every game is so very different. As with any series that has major changes between entries, it is hence inevitable that a pretty big part of the fanbase is dissatisfied with one or more of the sequels. However, every game in this trilogy is fresh and fantastic, and thus this trilogy is a great example of how taking massive risks with massive changes repeatedly can produce something amazing.
The first game seems more or less a spiritual sequel to Naughty Dog’s previous series, Crash Bandicoot. Its a bright and colorful game primarily focused on platforming, but with some other light mechanics such as the vehicle sections. The game involves a hub world that seamlessly opens up into different areas. The goal is to explore and complete objectives in both the hub and sub-areas in order to obtain power cells. On obtaining enough power cells, the path to the next hub world opens up, where you do the same or something similar, and so on, up until you defeat the final boss. The story involves Daxter falling into a pool of dark ooze and being transformed into an Ottsel. Jak and Daxter thus begin their journey to find a sage who’ll help turn Daxter back, with the help of Keira and Samos. Along the way they find out a dark plan is afoot involving kidnapping the sages and utilizing dark eco in ways it should never be used, and hence of course the heroes stop it, though Daxter ends up losing the chance to turn back. Its a light and humorous tale that works well alongside the art and soundtrack.
The second game as stated is very different. It still has all the platforming mechanics of the first game, as well as vehicles, but also makes shooting a core mechanic, as well as loads of other mechanics for small sections like mini-games. Furthermore, the structure of the world is also very different in that the game is now a sandbox where Jak has to travel around town and complete missions to advance. The tone and story are also very different. Gone is the non speaking Jak from the first game, replaced by a darker and edgier Jak. The game starts off with Jak and friends being randomly teleported to Haven city, where Jak ends up being kidnapped by Baron Praxis and experimented on, resulting in him gaining a dark form and darker attitude. He vows revenge on Praxis, and goes on a journey to kill him, making friends with underground arms dealers, rebels, the Baron’s daughter, and various others, leading to him taking part in their conflicts and politics. All the while, Haven is also under the threat of an aggressive beast like race called the metal heads. This ultimately comes to a boil, but Jak and Daxter as expected manage to pull things off, though in a much more complicated way than anything seen in the previous game, even involving a time paradox. Its a much darker and complex game, but still a great one.
The third game is once again very different from the previous two. Jak ends up exiled due to politics in Haven city and ends up joining a city of exiles. He starts out learning from them and working with them, but ends up getting caught again in the conflicts within Haven as well, where the cities new government is caught between the threat of the mechanical KG and the remnants of the metal head army. And furthermore, there’s an even greater threat looming on the horizon. But of course, Jak and Daxter pull things off, learning a lot more about themselves and the universe in the process, and coming to a solid ending for the trilogy. The third game isn’t as dark or edgy as the second in a lot of ways. In addition to dark echo, Jak now has the ability to utilize light echo again, which serves as a good parallel to the change in tone. For the most part, Jak isn’t as ridiculously aggressive. It’s definitely not light and happy go lucky like the first game, but it isn’t dark like the second either. There’s still a real story that’s great and not just getting the job done like in the first game, but one that doesn’t seem to try to bleed edginess, and is all the better for it. In terms of game play mechanics, there is the introduction of sand vehicles that drive very different from the vehicles in the previous entries. The gun play has also been advanced a reasonable amount, and there seems to be a lot more unique sections with game play mechanics different from the main mechanics. And of course, the platforming was there as well. Another interesting aspect is the reuse of Haven city, which is similar to the second game, but also changed enough to make it interesting to re-explore, and helps ground it story wise. This game seems to be a strong wrap up along the path that they had gone with the first two games in terms of mechanics and story, and is of course another amazing game.
Each game was very different with its own pros and cons. But I believe the diversity of the series as a whole was certainly a strength. It kept it feeling fresh in terms of gameplay and story. Unlike many, I didn’t mind the second being more dark and edgy than the previous ones or the shift in the third. Each game had its own tone and all of them felt right. The story throughout all of them was incredibly solid despite the differences. The story grew from a standard game tale from the generations old to one that foretold of the Naughty Dog to come, but they all fit and felt right. The really light mostly humorous romance even felt right most of the time, despite Daxter being a nitwit, as he was a funny nitwit. The humor too was prevalent in all of the games, and although very different from game to game, in that the second game got much more crass, it still felt right.
The games while great weren’t perfect however. The first one and especially the second one had checkpoint issues to the point that some sections were incredibly frustrating. Thank fully, the third one was better in that regard. All of them had annoying mini-games, though thank fully they were only a small part. However, the desert vehicle parts in third game were the worst part of all of the games, in that they were just not fun to drive and hence a lot of the missions became incredibly frustrating. Furthermore, they represented a major part of the game.
While not all small issues, these still aren’t major enough issues to detract from how amazing all of these games were. A very fun experience from beginning to end.