Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier PSP
Published by: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by: High Impact Games
At a time when gaming franchises are receiving sequels at a rate that's far too frequent, it seems rather odd that one of the best has gone so long without a sequel. In fact it's hard to believe that Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier is the first game in the series to have been released on a format other than the PlayStation 2, especially when you consider the popularity of the series. For the most part the rather bizarre pairing of Jak and Daxter make a successful return but the game isn't without its share of problems.
The game begins with Jak, Daxter and Keira on a mission to the edge of the world to locate much needed eco, a valuable resource. Almost as soon as the story begins, the trio are attacked by pirates and when Daxter clumsily fires at his own aircraft, the Hellcat, they are forced to make a landing in order to make repairs. After they land Jak finds a green crystal which appears to be taking dark eco and converting it to green eco. Keira manages to get the Hellcat up and running with the crystal. She also realises that, with the right tools, there's the potential to use the crystal to convert dark eco to other eco colours too.
The Lost Frontier is a blend of action/platform and air combat elements. The air combat sections have been done well and in addition to the dogfighting, Daxter has the ability to sabotage enemy aircraft which helps to prevent the whole thing from becoming too repetitive. There's a selection of aircraft to control and some customisation options too. The flight controls are as good as you could wish for with PSP limited control options. The action/platform sections are fairly enjoyable too, although there's a bigger emphasis on the platform game elements than action. This is a good thing as the combat isn't as good as it should be. You can't lock on to enemies and at times this can make the combat feel cumbersome. There's also some puzzle solving to do which usually relies on Jak's various eco powers. Incidentally you can upgrade Jak's abilities, by converting the dark eco power into a wide range of either red, blue, green or yellow eco powers, which serves to make the game more interesting. There are some Dark Daxter levels in the game (where you'll control a huge monster Daxter) but in all honesty they should have simply been left out as they are repetitive and don't add anything to the experience.
Fans of the series will have no problems with the game instantly throwing you into the action without any attempt on giving you a recap of what's happened to Jak and Daxter in the previous games. In some respects series veterans may even find this refreshing and appreciate simply concentrating on the new storyline. If you are new to the series, and given that this is the first game in the series to arrive on the PSP that's a distinct possibility, you're going to be out of luck. There's practically no attempt to flesh out the characters that you're controlling. You won't be fully aware of what's happened to them so far and some of the references to past events in the dialogue will simply have little to no meaning. Maybe an option to view a 'story so far' movie on the opening menu would have been a better solution to bring newcomers up to speed.
Graphically The Lost Frontier is quite good and the frame rate holds up quite well too during the course of the game. The load times are decent and certainly nowhere near as long as in some PSP games we've looked at this year. The game does have a rather troublesome camera however which can make tackling multiple enemies and performing jumps much more cumbersome than it should be at times. You can manipulate the camera with the L and R buttons but it can be annoying when you have to regularly adjust it, especially when at times you still can't get the ideal view.
As soon as the opening cut scene begins, you're give the option to enable subtitles by pressing the square button. This allows you to enjoy the dialogue in all of the cut scenes and follow the game's storyline. However, there is still a lot of dialogue in the game that's not subtitled. Only essential conversations are subtitled. All other banter between the characters, of which there is quite a lot, is not subtitled. That's not to say the game is inaccessible for deaf gamers because all tutorial messages and objectives are shown in text and the game's mini-map indicates the direction you need to go to complete your objectives. However, it does mean that deaf gamers are missing out on a lot of the game's charm and humour, which is very unfortunate.
It's been a long wait for a new Jak and Daxter game but thankfully the wait is now over. Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier offers a good blend of action/platform and arcade air combat elements. The switching between the two elements prevents either from becoming too repetitive. The game's storyline is decent but could have been much more interesting. It's unfortunate that virtually no thought has been given to providing a story recap for those who haven't played the previous games in the series. It's even more disappointing that so much of the dialogue in the game has not been subtitled. These problems aside, Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier is a good return for the series even if it doesn't quite reach the standards of the previous Jak and Daxter games.