Naughty Dog has been prolific on each PlayStation generation. A different top-selling product has accompanied each PlayStation from the Santa Monica, CA, developer. Both the Crash Bandicoot series and its PlayStation 2-era Jak and Daxter titles have grown up with the console gaming industry even as many gamers have grown up with them.
The Jak and Daxter games in particular demonstrate this: each game in the series has a distinctly different tone from its predecessor. Precursor Legacy boasts an outwardly cutesy and fun graphical style, full of vibrant colour and even many of the enemies are cheerful and cartoonish. Jak II takes darker twist, and relies Daxter to be the key light-hearted element to the game. By Jak III, the world is brightened up in some ways, but there are more shades of grey to the morality of the world.
Along with the graphical direction and the story, the gameplay changes between games. The core mechanics are carried from one game to the next, but each adds new abilities, and introduces slightly different creatures and vehicles. The basic mechanics remain the same however, so players can pick up any game in the trilogy safe in the knowledge the controls will be familiar.
The difficulty curve also distinguishes the series from many of its peers. The cartoon aesthetic might imply the games are intended for children, but even experienced gamers will find challenge enough to slow them down at times. Even though the game is generous with health, and most enemies will die in one hit, they never feel utterly trivial. Being of a time before the modern spate of shooters introduced regenerative health, players will also need to uncover healing pickups, something that necessitates a small change in approach.
Also hailing back to an era where games didn’t always nurse the player through are a handful of situations featuring a frustrating difficulty spike. On occasion, the game will present you with a seemingly impossible task. It’s always possible to reach, but the game doesn’t always explain how until much later.
The menu controls may require a cognitive shift too. The games are still using the PlayStation 2-standard of assigning triangle as the "back" button instead of circle as most PlayStation 3 game do. It's a small change, but it can be surprisingly disorienting.
As is to be expected, HD overhaul is immediately apparent, but done in such a way that the games are still recognisable. The character models haven’t been altered in any immediately noticeable way, but the smoothing of curves and the textures themselves are much more defined. As a result, the original style remains unchanged, but simply looks better. It's not nearly as clear whether anything at all has been done in terms of sound, but the repetitive nature of the sounds and music is such that any improvements would either be minor enough not to be easily noticed, or would be seen as a major negative for returning players.
If it’s a criticism at all, it’s perhaps just a little disappointing that there’s nothing new here. Other than the facelift, the games aren’t embellished in any way. Those who already have the PlayStation 2 versions and who aren't wooed by the singular promise of greater resolutions need not apply.
Another minor problem comes in the form of trophies. Oddly, they arrive perhaps too quickly and easily in certain areas. There are too many trophies for trivial achievements, and it negates any sense of accomplishment from their collection.
Considering three games in a single package makes for a difficult reviewing process. Those who consider themselves fans of the previous games, but who missed an installment, or those who sold or lost the games ought to consider this collection closely. Similarly, gamers who enjoy 3D platformers will find something to love in these PlayStation 2 pillars of the genre.