Daxter - PSP - Preview 2
We should've seen this coming. Jak & Daxter are two well-known characters that launched four hit games. Lush worlds, near-Mario-quality controls, interesting puzzles, and a scavenger hunt with more to find than the obvious. With each game Jak slowly took center stage as the star. Meanwhile, Daxter was taken out of the title (the sequels were Jak II, Jak III, and Jak X), and his role was slightly less significant.
Before I continue let me clear the assumptions by saying that that is not a reason to give a character his own game. After all, he is kind of hyper and might not have been that popular to begin with.
On the other hand, a promising game concept is a very good reason to give Daxter his own title. With bug-destroying battles, vehicular combat and chase sequences in mind, developer Ready At Dawn put the game into action.
Daxter is an interesting little bugger. He controls very well, walking or running with varying degrees of pressure applied to the thumb pad. Typical platformer and action/adventure stuff that's necessary to make the game feel natural. What isn't typical – though a fun treat – is being able to crawl around in animal position and navigate through cramped areas. Daxter can climb certain surfaces, no suction cups or grappling hooks required.
Adjacent walls offer fun flexibility. I found it possible to jump seamlessly from one wall to the next while climbing, creating a zigzag movement that sent Daxter to the top in no time.
Daxter also has the ability to double jump, as does his low-flying vehicle. The vehicle is used during chase and puzzle levels where you have to hunt down a bug or revitalize a few dozen plants within the time limit. When you're hovering around and come towards a small bump, Daxter can get a slight boost that'll push him higher into the air, then follow up with another that pushes him a little bit higher. Nothing in this build indicated that double-jumping would be necessary to win a battle, but it does make cruising around a little easier.
Your eyes will widen as they try to take in every ounce of graphical goodness. This is the first PSP action/adventure I've played that looks like it was designed for PlayStation 2. The backgrounds are more colorful than other PSP titles, a small fry in comparison to the scope and size of these wonderfully detailed worlds. You can't change the camera on your own except with the L and R buttons, which spin the camera but do not tilt, zoom or adjust the view in any other way (PSP could've used two analog sticks to solve this ongoing problem). Fortunately, the game tends to keep the view wide in areas with large landscapes.
More often than not buildings and natural structures will tower above the screen, increasing the sense that you are in a gigantic, immersive world that is not at all like the real one we live in. To see everything, press the top directional button and the camera will zoom into Daxter, giving you a first-person view for world examination. You can't walk while in this view – if you see an enemy coming and need to defend yourself, press any of the face buttons and the view will go back to normal.
Bugs seem to be the main enemy in this game, and it's up to Daxter to take care of the problem. Exterminating them means getting out the ol' fly swatter, except in this case it's an electrical device that fries the bugs till there's nothing left but ashes. Splat-ridden graphics and quirky sound effects do apply.
These bugs, as luck would have it, are everywhere. You'll visit a ton of new locations that look like they were taken from (or perhaps inspired by) the Jak & Daxter series. Industrial interiors, mountainous outdoor worlds, waterfalls and several platforms - everything a side story needs.
Something else this game needed likely came from the Ratchet & Clank series. Ratchet liked to use a plethora of third-person shooter-style weapons to take down his enemies. Daxter likes to do the same, albeit with less deadly results. He'll get a flame thrower of some kind, but first he receives a stun gun that releases a non-harmful green gas. The gas is intended to stun the opponent, letting you go in for the kill without having to worry about retaliation.
There are some bugs likely to pop in and out of the ground. Strike them once and they'll dig into the ground to protect themselves from being eliminated. Stun them first and you'll be able to attack them as freely as you wish. Move too slowly and these bugs will escape again. It's better to be on guard and waste a little than it is to be frugal and have the bug get away.
Daxter is set to launch in time for PSP's one-year anniversary in March. It's got a lot going for it – controls that are nearly comparable to Jak & Daxter for PS2, spectacular visuals with fully rendered characters and backgrounds (no blocky shapes; no fog!), an interesting soundtrack, good voice-overs, top-notch animation, and some of the best mechanics seen in a PSP action/adventure. Be sure to check this one out as soon as it arrives.