Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier
Some things are better left lost
Posted 3 years ago By - Kyle Baron
Sometimes developers with a good track record mess up. Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier is one of those mess-ups. Developer High Impact Games have made some good PSP action games that play well, like Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters, so it’s confusing when they release a mediocre product. Sure, there are some things in the mixed blessing of Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier that make it a playable game, but read on to find out what makes it little more than that.
Lost Frontier starts out well enough. In an opening video, Jak, Daxter the weasel-like ‘Ottsel’, and a lady friend of theirs are in their space ship talking about saving the world from ecological ruin and so forth. To cut this story short, they get in a harrowing fight with a bunch of air pirates and they become shipwrecked on what really looks like the end of the world – a waterfall-cradled island above a misty abyss – but is really the game’s tutorial and the first game world of several.
Within that first hour, you’ll grab a staff with a gun on the top, fall of ledges until you figure out the quirks of platforming, and Daxter will say some clever things while his ride/friend Jak will remain relatively silent – content to be the player’s blank and boring slate.
This sort of on-foot gameplay is what makes up the bulk of Lost Frontier, and as wrinkles are added and enemies get tougher, the game begins to fall apart.
Special powers are acquired to aid as platforming and combat aids, but having to perform thumb gymnastics to use them makes me wonder how this was a good idea. While using your left thumb to control movement and your right thumb to press action buttons, you have to press the select button to cycle through powers, then press down on the d-pad to use them – if this sounds uncomfortable, it’s because it is. Oh, and you can fight with the camera by trying to adjust it with the two shoulder buttons. I could only stand to play this game in hour intervals at the most because my hands cramped up.
Another problem that will likely push gamers away from Lost Frontier is the lack of a lock on system – while dodging projectiles or trying to make use of the limited melee combat under the scope of the game’s uncomfortably close camera, there isn’t a good option for maintaining a focus on your enemies. If I wasn’t dying from enemy projectiles coming at me from outside the view of the camera, I was falling off edges because I couldn’t see anything that was behind me.
Most of my experience with Lost Frontier involved me running around in circles with hordes of enemies in tow as I periodically did a quick turn back to fire off a shot before I kept running. If I was lucky, I wouldn’t die. High Impact Games’ misstep in their otherwise tightly controlling action platformer history is made more confusing by the reality that the flight portion of Lost Frontier controls better than the platforming bulk of the game.
Lost Frontier let me explore the small snow-globe sized areas above each of the game’s several game worlds in a number of upgradeable spacecraft, taking part in basic “go here, kill this” tasks to earn upgrades. During each of the many dogfights I had, I was able to literally shoot Daxter out of a cannon as a projectile, engaging in a quick-time event frenzy where I frantically pressed buttons to make Daxter tear apart enemy ships – usually stealing an upgrade for my own vessel.
The ship controls were well implemented, with the often misused directional pad being relegated to shortcuts for basic air maneuvers such as loop-de-loops. With how forgiving the air combat was, and how it wasn’t necessary to move around with the stick while pressing the directional pad buttons, it didn’t create a problem at all. This ease of control and exploration found in the air combat made for several exciting, if easy, moments throughout Lost Frontier that did as much to relieve my suffering as they did to point out much of what was missing from the core game. I’ll tell you what else was in the flight portion of the game - a lock-on feature.
Graphics and Sound
The visuals are one of the few strong points in Lost Frontier, with sparingly lush forest environments and aluminum-sheen abandoned laboratories giving the game a convincing edge-of-the-world feel. The joint character models of Jak and Daxter have a nice, subtle bobbing gait to them that would have gone a good way in complimenting the characters had they been more fleshed out. As far as technical performance goes, the frame rate seldom plods below what seems to be a solid 30 frames per second, only faltering during a few of the increasingly hectic combat sequences.
The voice acting in Lost Frontier is pretty good, with characters delivering their lines with as much expression in their voices as they do with their well animated faces. It’d be nice if the characters were more fleshed out and interesting aside from the wise cracking Daxter, as he seems to steal a spotlight that no other characters in the world are even interested in taking.
Lost Frontier is currently selling for an average of $40 CAD. Although that may be the average going rate for most PSP titles, I’d have to recommend getting a few older and better PSP games for that price.
With the two crucial pillars of an action-adventure game’s quality being story and gameplay, some games in this category make up for their shortcomings in one department by excelling in the other - The Lost Frontier isn’t anything of such sort, as a shortage of interesting characters stumbles over an average gameplay design that’s difficult for the player to even interact with. The flying portions of the game served as a good bit of white-knuckled fun, but I wish that the rest of the game was able to achieve that hallmark, rather than get bogged down to a frustrating mess of poor design choices. A wise reviewer once said that if a game fails hold your attention, it has failed as a game - On that note, save yourself $40 and hours of mixed levels of distaste and go play Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters.
+ Environments are linear, but have character and substance
- Horrible on-foot sequences comprise most of the game
- Aside from Daxter, there are no interesting characters
- Lack of lock-on system except on flying vehicles
- Poor camera control, with only one fixed angle available
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Release Date : 2009/11/03
System : PSP
Publisher : Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer : High Impact Games
Category : Action-Adventure
ESRB : E
7.0 / 10
8.5 / 10
8.0 / 10
8.7 / 10