Ready at Dawn Studios has made an impressive debut on the PSP with Daxter, a spin-off of the Jak & Daxter trilogy. The game begins by revisiting the opening moments of Jak II, and comes to explain what happened during Jak’s two years of imprisonment, as well has how Daxter was able to save his old pal. Daxter is a platforming title with a distinct emphasis on weapon usage, and the developers were smart enough to only include two.
Daxter has the ability to swipe at enemies with his orange, furry tail. But the high-voltage bug swatter he’s handed at the beginning of the game is far more useful, and as the game progresses he learns a few extra acrobatic moves for this weapon. The next weapon he earns is a spray gun, which emits a toxic gas that damages enemies. The spray gun goes through two additional upgrades: fire, and shockwave energy. These are selectable through the D-pad, and are very fun to use. The spray gun, however, also doubles as a hover propellant, allowing Daxter to float over precipices to safety.
The dual nature of Daxter’s spray gun adds a lot of depth to the game since his gun has a limited amount of fuel to spend, whether through platforming or eradicating Metalbugs. Green Eco orbs, which are the only means of refueling your spray gun, are never too far away. But there’s rarely enough time to search or wait for the Eco orbs to respawn when a multitude of enemies suddenly attack. It’s not a life-or-death situation if you run out of Eco, but wise usage of the spray gun does make the game a lot easier. This a great accomplishment on the developer’s part, and I’d like to see more platformers pull this off.
Most of the enemies within the game are Metalbugs, which are variants of the Metalheads found in Jak II and III. The inhabitants of Haven City see them as a minor pest problem, which is how Daxter lands this exterminator gig in the first place. This is a subtle, ironic piece of information if you’ve played through the Jak trilogy. And in fact, there are many tie-ins to the Jak & Daxter games, which creates a nice sense of nostalgia. But the developers are careful not dwell on those connections, and thus manage to carve out a hilarious, enjoyable story that turns the game into more than a simple spin-off.
The graphics and animation quality are top-notch, and the fact that Naughty Dog helped out this studio (which was founded by a former employee) undoubtedly benefited this title. This game looks like it belongs on the PS2, which for a handheld is amazing. The framerate is solid, the draw distance is very good, and the level design rocks. Not only is there a lot of variety within the levels, Precursor Orbs are hidden throughout the environments, warranting a thorough search. Collect enough of them, and some neat, little secrets will be unlocked.
Everything about this title is well done, from character development to lighting, from vehicle implementation to voice acting. Even the simple mini-games that revolve around Daxter’s dreams end up being enjoyable, in addition to upgrading his health bar and giving him new abilities. This is probably one of the strongest debuts I’ve ever seen, and the fact that PSP owners get an exclusive chance to try it out is just awesome. Daxter is currently in the Greatest Hits lineup for $19.99. If you have a PSP, you owe it to yourself to buy this game.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
Amazing graphics and character animation.
Great level design, and the spray gun is well implemented.