Jak II is the sequel to Naughty Dog’s smash 2001 hit, Jak and the Precursor Legacy. The player follows Jak and Daxter on their journey to a new world, where they attempt to thwart the evil tyrant, Baron Praxis. It also features the reveal that Jak, who was mute in the previous game, can now speak.
Jak II follows the titular character and his furry companion Daxter. It features platforming elements and a wide variety of weapons and vehicles. The game has a sandbox type world, that was still relatively new in 2005. In this world, the player spends the majority of their time in the main area, Haven City. The city has many different levels the player can explore, as well as the surrounding land. The graphics in this world, even today, hold up quite well and feature a wide variety of colors and plenty of detail. However, the world can be a little devoid of things to do, which is understandable seeing as how the sandbox genre was still new.
Gameplay for Jak II is significantly different from the orignal game. It involves Jak using many unique guns. This includes your typical blaster, a “Scatter gun” for close range combat, a “Peace Maker” that fires a powerful beam, and more. The hand to hand combat, while sparse (There are only three moves) is fun and impactful. The game also features Jak’s alter ego, Dark Jak, which was the result of the experimentation that was performed on Jak by Baron Praxis.
As Dark Jak, the player’s appearances changes to become more ferocious. Dark Jak mainly uses his claws and homing attacks to defeat his enemies, and succedes in making the player feel powerful. In order to transform into Dark Jak, you must collect “Dark Eco” from chests and defeated enemies. You can also upgrade Jak using gems you receive from the game main enemies, Metal Heads. Few games since the release of Jak II have attempted this, and none have done it better. The moments where you get to be Dark Jak are still extremely fun and stand out.
The game features a wide variety of vehicles for the player to use to get around the hub world, Haven City. The vehicles control well, even 13 years later. You hold X to accelerate, and push R2 to fly in the air, or hover just above the ground. One of the biggest issue comes from the fact that there are many other vehicles in the air, so much so that it’s very difficult to not hit one, thus blowing up your vehicle. When you’re on the ground, it is likely you will hit one of the patrolling guards, which will cause a city wide manhunt. This is compounded by the not so great camera.
The camera has many of the issues that many games had in that Era. It can be difficult to control, and actively fights against you when you’re jumping. It also has the annoying habit of getting stuck on objects IN the foreground. As the game goes on, the camera gets more difficult to work with. This was a product of its time, and thankfully camera issues aren’t as prevalent in current generation games.
The mission structure is varied and fun. It features a mix of racing, puzzle solving, and all out action with your weapons. Many games today tend to stick to the same formula, so Jak II was ahead of its time. The writing was also a product of its time. The humor doesn’t hold up as well, but the physical comedy involving Daxter still gets a chuckle.
All in all, this game holds up extremely well against today’s platforming games, which is a testament to Naughty Dog’s creativity.
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