Boy, I wouldn’t want to be in Jak’s shoes right now. Fresh from a victorious debut adventure, he and his Ottsel pal, Daxter, tinker with their hard-earned Precursor artefact, only to have it shoot them all the way to a world where the sun don’t shine. Well, not their galaxy’s sun anyway. Jak and Daxter land far, far away from present-day home, in the middle of the oppressive Haven City, whose denizens go about their strict daily routines cowering under the iron fist of one Baron Praxis. The duo are immediately identified as foreign devils and are accordingly placed under arrest. However, Daxter, that sneaky otter/weasel hybrid, manages to slip out of the grasp of authority. Jak, on the other hand, is tortured day in, day out, treated as an experimental subject for some really evil purpose. Eventually he is rescued by his best buddy… two whole years later! What took Daxter so long? Was he forming connections with the locals to gather all-important resources? Was he meticulously planning the greatest prison break of all time?
No. Daxter was out swatting bugs.
The opening cutscene not only details how Daxter came into the possession of his new bug-busting toy, but it also serves to demonstrate the impressive graphics that look like they were ripped straight out of the PS2 sequels. It’s not long before you gain control of the orange furball that everyone loves to hate, and just like in Jak 2 and 3, Haven City is now your world, your oyster.
Daxter is a sandbox-type game. That is, you walk or drive about the city at your own leisure, hitting glowing hotspots to initiate the missions that are tied to them. As soon as you get out there, you may feel initially overwhelmed. However, this is but only a fleeting impression; the PSP’s rendition of Haven City is but a tasty morsel of the massive feast that big brother PS2 delivered to us a few years ago. Not only are you confined to a small section of land with barely a sound of a needle dropping, let alone cheesy background music, but the town is as desolate as a graveyard, with only one or two patrolling guards seen at any one time – the other inhabitants? Who knows what they are doing away from Big Brother’s prying eyes.
Luckily there’s plenty of action during the actual missions themselves. Daxter is the Terminator… of bugs. Be it in lush valleys, fish canneries or hazardous construction sites, he will be tasked with exterminating all manner of crawling bugs, flying bugs, laser-shooting bugs – name a bug and it’s probably here. It’s not all about bug-killing, though. You will also need to take out some bug nests as well. Riveting stuff, I know. Unfortunately, this is what Daxter pretty much boils down to.
“Daxter is the Terminator… of bugs.”There are a couple of story sequences that serve to segue the bug-infested missions together, but only about one-fifth of them deal with the rescue of Jak; the rest are mere fillers where all humanity will supposedly be lost if the bug population isn’t brought down by a couple of hundred. There are a few mini-games that are without the presence of these creepy-crawlies, of particular note are Daxter’s parodying dreams of popular films like The Matrix, Indiana Jones, and even The Lord of the Rings. However, these are all simplistic rhythm-action affairs; imagine Dance Dance Revolution-lite and then kick it down yet another level. You gain extra life and/or special combos by successfully completing them the first time, after which you’ll probably never want to touch them again.
The best thing Daxter has going for it is Daxter himself. He may only be sidekick to the true hero (who is strangely relegated to only a cameo role here), but he can sure talk the talk and walk the walk. You’ll look forward to those ‘story-telling’ sequences I mentioned before, but only because every time Daxter opens his mouth, his dialogue will have you ROFL-ing all over. After a close shave, did Jak ever say stuff like “Alive and kicking… kicking butt that is”? Nah, he was too jaded; Daxter’s quips are humourous compounded onto hilarious. Too bad you’ll need to swat/spray/stomp some mountain-high number of bugs to push this short eight-hour ride along.
“Daxter’s quips are humourous compounded onto hilarious.”Before you know it, it’s all over. Daxter inadvertently falls upon some important detail that leads to the whereabouts of Jak’s captivity, smacks up a couple more dozen bugs, a few bigger ones, and then everyone’s happily enjoying a beer in the pub. Enter Jak 2. The game will leave you hanging, especially since there never really is a time when the excitement meter rises up above bug-level.
When you first take a gander at Daxter, you see a beautifully recreated Jak & Daxter game on the portable Playstation. Some thousand bug squishings later, you’ll realise that looks can be extremely deceiving. Daxter is not a simplified version of the duo’s proper escapades, but rather a side-story that focuses too much on something that most of us hate to do in real life, let alone in a game. And while always a pleasure, Daxter’s laugh-out-loud commentary unfortunately can’t save this bug-ger either. For now, stick to the real hero’s games.