Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Daxter (PSP)


By Michael Palisano

Daxter for the PSP is an engaging title places the second-banana character from the Jak series squarely in the spotlight. The game follows him as he battles a ton of bugs and other insects in his attempts to free his captured friend from the savages of Haven City. The vast majority of Daxter involves standard platforming with vehicles, mini-games and, dream sequences thrown in. There's a variety of weapons at your disposal as well, making the gameplay that much more exciting. Daxter's visuals are also quite impressive, with large, expansive environments that come to life brilliantly. While it isn't the most innovative game, Daxter is a solidly entertaining and challenging title that delivers a surprisingly expansive adventure in a small package.

Some players are likely to feel somewhat dubious about a spin-off title to a popular series appearing on a handheld system. These elements alone are usually enough in and of themselves to put off most players. However, Daxter for the PSP defies expectations to create a solidly entertaining and surprisingly robust experience that stands on its own two feet. While it's been developed by Ready at Dawn Studios, Daxter definitely has the classic Naughty Dog spirit and players who loved the previous games will feel right at home with this title's familiar play mechanics. In addition to Daxter, other characters will also make an appearance through the game, giving it a strong continuity with the previous titles. Set just before the events in Jak II, Daxter finds the irascible hero trying to help rescue his kidnapped buddy Jak and save him from an evil fate. Players must traverse the streets of Haven City and can travel to other locations. As the story begins, Daxter is approached by an old man, who offers him a job. While Daxter may boast of his skills, the job he gets as a bug exterminator isn't as glamorous or dangerous as it might seem to be at first. Initially, his job seems relatively simple but it's actually a much tougher assignment than he realizes when he confronts the bugs on the first level.

These are actually robotic, metal-bugs, making them far more dangerous than your average insects, and actually fire back at him. They're fairly intelligent and put up quite a fight. While some of the earlier insects are somewhat easy to defeat, it takes a lot of skill to beat the tougher boss enemies. As you defeat enemies, they'll release gold coins which you can use to purchase items. Daxter will also find Green Eco, which helps to increase his powers and Precursor Eggs, which are helpful in his quest as well. Additionally, he can earn additional items and weapons by completing quests. Daxter is quite dexterous and can climb walls, maneuver under doors and perform special spinning attacks in order to beat the bugs before they over-run the city. The game's platforming is smartly designed with intuitive controls that make performing the moves a simple task. Running and combat moves are simple and most special moves and, combo attacks are easy to perform. Fighting the enemy bugs is intuitive and fun. You point at the enemies and either swat them at close range or shoot them when far away. Daxter can also be able to pilot several vehicles during the game, including a motorcycle, a hovercraft and, other racing vehicles. The controls on these are simple as well, making them easy to use while giving the gameplay more variety.

To help Daxter with his extermination chores, he's only been given a fairly basic weapon, an electrified fly swatter initially. More advanced weapons like a gun that shoots bug spray can be earned later on. He's also been armed with a pump which he can use to shoot poison at the various bad guys and he can also swat them using his swatter if they come too close. However, his tank can only hold so much fuel, and he has to replenish it along the way. Most of the missions are straightforward with players progressing through the levels while unlocking secrets and finding hidden areas along the way. Daxter can also collect energy by running over green clouds throughout each level that refills his pump. Exploring the levels allows you to find other hidden items such as additional gadgets and items that upgrade his abilities. In addition to these standard missions, players can also experience Daxter's 'dream' missions. Here, you can help Daxter live out his dreams of being the big shot instead of the second banana. They're shorter and simpler than the main missions, and unfold like mini-games and make a welcome change of pace from the standard platform action. In one mission, a take off on The Matrix, Daxter has to knock off a group of enemies who come at him from all directions. Timing here is important, since you have to make sure not to hit the correct button too soon or early. There's a limited number of mistakes you can make, which makes things challenging. These missions make a nice diversion from the main game and are fun to use.

Exploring Daxter's world is interesting because of its non-linear approach that allows for plenty of exploration with divergent paths and goals. However, Daxter's missions are linear in structure and have rigid sets of objectives to complete. The game offers an interesting variety of tasks, which can change within a single level, which means there can be an almost entirely different challenge around every corner. One minute, he might be walking along a corridor, only to be surrounded by a series of bugs. Daxter also has to overcome other obstacles, such as large walls, steam pipes, vats of lave, large gaps, and more. To keep things interesting, these standard platforming sequences are punctuated by several areas where the player has to guide the hero over zip lines, race through tunnels and jump over large distances. There are also some more complex sequences that require some thought to defeat. Daxter's levels are large and offer plenty of room for exploration, though many areas seem impassible, most players should be able to progress through the game easily. This is thanks in large part to the frequent save points and the unlimited lives that are provided to the player. In addition to its solid single player modes, Daxter also support several multiplayer modes with Wi-fi support for 2 players. You can battle it out head-to-head in a variety of locations from the game, including arena battles and racing modes. Another interesting feature of Daxter is its connectivity with the PS2 that will allow players who own Jak X Combat Racing to exchange data and information between the two games. For example, winning a race in Daxter might unlock an additional vehicle in Jak X, or lead to a previously inaccessible area of the game. This definitely marks the game as a well-rounded title, and these extra modes add plenty of replay value to the experience.

From an aesthetic standpoint, you can't help but be impressed by the high quality of Daxter's visuals. The game's smooth, polished appearance makes it feel more like a console title than a handheld release. Its richly detailed environments come alive with expansive levels highlighted by detailed lighting and texture-mapping that lend the experience an excellent feel throughout. The streets of Haven City are appropriately bleak, but there are other areas, such as a forest which are much brighter. The production values are superb, with extensive voice-acting, cut-scenes and music that gives the game a cinematic feel. All this ties together to create an immersive, engaging title that creates a challenging and engaging experience that lives up to the Jak & Daxter legacy. The game's camera system is decent, and rarely gets in the way of the action. Players can also spin the angle using the PSP's shift buttons, allowing them to get a better look at the action. Daxter's beautiful visuals and smooth animation make it one of the best-looking and most ambitious PSP titles to date. The fact that the game lives up to its promise and does so effortlessly is a testament not only to the PSP hardware itself, but the quality of work that has gone into the design, which shows in details small and large.

Daxter's highly polished appearance is fantastic and its large scale is likewise impressive, and the gameplay itself is solidly entertaining and challenging. However, there is the problem of the protagonist himself. The developers seem to have realized that Daxter's biggest problem is ironically, Daxter himself. They make fun of his annoying reputation during the game's opening sequence, which definitely takes the edge off these concerns. As you play the game, you do indeed bond with him, and his personality makes the game more enjoyable in the end. While not all the jokes work, the game's sense of humor helps to keep things light throughout. The gameplay itself is solidly implemented with an interesting mix of traditional platforming with dream sequences that make the game a joy to play. Daxter's approach and structure are straightforward, and there's definitely a sense that the game has played it safe. There's very little here that hasn't been seen before in many other platform titles over the years. That said, the game's visuals are quite impressive, even by PSP standards, with huge environments, great character animation and extensive voice acting used to visualize Daxter's adventure. This is an entertaining platforming title with a fantastic amount of polish, making Daxter an excellent addition to the PSP library.


Grade: B+

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