Developer – Ready at Dawn
Publisher - SCEA
Memory Stick Duo – 160 KB
Wi-Fi Compatible (Ad Hoc)
Anyone who owns a PS2 has no doubt played any of the games in the Jax series. The first one, Jax and Daxter, was the introduction to what would be a great series. Gamers were introduced to the two main characters and it was highly evident that the comedic sidekick Daxter really stood out. When Sony announced that they were giving the sidekick his own stand alone title, but for the PSP, I wondered how this would turn out and what kind of game it would really be. Well after finally receiving the title, simple called Daxter, I have to say that the fruit of a lot of hard work is a very sweet game indeed.
After some playtime with Daxter I have to honestly say that this game could be mistaken for a PS2 title. The various levels, both indoor and outdoor, are very well rendered and look awesome on the PSP's LCD widescreen. The textures are solid and varied throughout each level which is a clear indicator that the developer took the time and effort to make each level different. The colors are bright and energetic too and this really gives life to the game. I was so amazed by the outdoor levels and how they looked. There is grass, trees, rocks and even running water that go very far into the distance.
Daxter himself is very well animated and the more I played the game the more I was surprised with all the detail he contained. His movements are very specific to what type of action or environment he is in. As you move him through over ledges or climbing various walls you will notice that every action is very detailed and different for each. An even closer look and one will see such details as his ears flop, his head turn and even his tail waggle depending on the specific action at the time. It is clear that a lot of work went into animating our main hero and it should not go unnoticed.
Something worth mentioning in this area is that the game never seems to load. As you roam throughout each level the game just keeps going and the whole world seems to be connected. This is quite impressive and really shows what can be done with the UMD format.
For those who are really picky with the looks and performance of a game there is a hiccup of slowdown now and then, but this seemed to be only when the game accessed more of the level you were in. It never hampered the overall gameplay nor did it happen very often. Only the very finicky of gamers will notice this. Overall my opinion is very high of the graphics of Daxter. I don't know if I wasn't prepared for the quality of visuals in this game but nonetheless I was very impressed.
Along with great graphics Daxter manages to provide some pretty great sound too. The sound effects are very good as everything from footsteps to explosions sounds bang on. Sounds also vary in terms of what you are hitting or doing too, as each separate environment has an effect on what you are hearing (e.g. metal vs. grass). Along with the good sound effects comes a great soundtrack too. Sound on every level you are on seems to be uncannily matched with the visuals you are experiencing. Overall the total sound package is very well done and it compliments an already a great looking game.
Storylines in platform games have been hit and miss, and Daxter is no exception. Here the developers pull no punches and it is clear that the story is fairly light. The main focus here is that our good friend Daxter is at a local bar bragging about his heroic exploits of the past. As his boasting puts him in a very positive light he is talked into a new job of squashing bugs. This starts Daxter off on his journey as bug killer extraordinaire and this is what the story is all about, plain and simple. For those wondering if there is more to it, well there is a secret that eventually is exposed (EDITOR'S NOTE: find out yourself, we don't want to ruin it for you) but the crux of the story is his bug blasting exploits.
Daxter is a fairly linear platform game and the key word here is platform. It is like the developers realized that the PSP needed a kick ass platform game that tries, and succeeds, to get back to the roots of what really started so many people gaming. You will find yourself having to rely on skill as you face many types of platform oriented tests. It was a refreshing change to find myself having to time my jumps and climb various objects to continue my adventure; it reminded me of the first time I played what is known as the true first 3D platformer starring a well recognized plumber in a red hat. Control is also paramount in a platform game and Daxter seems to nail that too as it is responsive to every action you do, from jumping to walking to sprinting across the screen. The skill level ramps up pretty evenly in this game as you are treated to harder challenges later in the game. What is also evident in Daxter is that you will have to think once and awhile in an effort to solve some of the various puzzles that block your way. It is the mix of control, skill, puzzles and objects that give Daxter such a good platform feel to it.
As mentioned this game is also linear. As you venture through the various levels you will find that there is not a whole lot of room for you to go anywhere you want to as the progression of the game is pretty much laid in stone. There are a few instances though that the game does stray from the main course though. As this is a platform based game, collecting is part of what you can do. Here you collect Precursor Orbs throughout the levels and after reaching certain numbers of these orbs it opens up dream sequences that Daxter can participate in. These are really interesting in that they seem to mock various films that have become iconic in today's world (e.g. Matrix or Lord of the Rings). The main difference between the dream sequences and the rest of the game is that you time marked button presses to get rid of the various enemies you encounter. Although you are rewarded for your performance in these mini-games (e.g. larger health bar) and they are a nice break I found that they do become repetitive after awhile.
Progressing through Daxter is much easier then other platform games in the past as you are given a checkpoint system. These checkpoints, which are relatively close together, allow you to try to master a task over and over again until such time that you finally get by it. Add to this that you can save at anytime in the game, so these checkpoints are pretty important as you can pick up the game anytime and continue on from your last checkpoint. There is also an autosave feature in Daxter that allow you pick up from the checkpoint closest to where you finished as well. All in all the Autosave feature, as well as the save where you want feature, is very handy to have, especially for a portable game where you may not always have the chance to finish a level before you have to turn your system off and run.
Daxter also makes sure to add a multiplayer component to an already good game. This mode can be played against the computer (alone) or against a friend using the Wi-Fi Ad-Hoc mode. The game is simply entitled Bug Combat. As you play through the game you will find hidden bugs throughout and these can be used for Bug Combat. This multiplayer game is very akin to a simple game of paper, rock, scissors but here claw beats fire, fire beats shield and shield beats claw. You breed your bugs and then pit them in combat against your opponent. To add further tactics to this you also have the ability to add potions and enhancements to boost their stats in certain areas and you can also change your attack prior to "showing your hand" in an effort to second guess your opponent's choice. It is a nice simple change to the game and can be kind of fun too.
I have to say that Daxter's first starring role in his own game was a successful venture. With great graphics, great sound and a fun multiplayer game the simply titled Daxter is a hit on the PSP and no one should be without this game in their gaming library.