Long eared, green eyebrowed Jak and the wise cracking weasel-like Daxter join forces once again. This time its not just a simple rescue missions, this time the world is at stake. Eco, the strange source of all power, is running out and the only hope they have is to find its source. Along the way they have to search cities, jungles and mountains, as well as battle sky pirates and countless monsters and robots. It's a desperate journey to the edge of the world to find the source of Dark Eco - the one thing that may save them all.
The Lost Frontier is Jak and Daxter's sixth adventure and returns to the winning formula of the series' first three games. Developed by Naughty Dog, all three games were successful platformers and were hits with critics and fans alike. Unfortunately, the last two games, a racing game and a Daxter focused PSP release, were less well received. Now that Naughty Dog is busy with their Uncharted franchise, High Impact Games have taken over and look to return to what made the earlier games so popular.
The story follows on from Jak 3. It begins with Jak, Daxter and their friend Keira under attack from the pirate captain Phoenix. After defeating him the three heroes meet with Duke Skyheed. We find out that Eco is growing scarce and Skyheed gives them the Eco Seeker that will lead them to Eco's source. You see, an age ago The Precursors ruled the world and though they are long gone, their legacy is Eco. There are a number of Eco, including green Eco that affects health and dark Eco that can transform those susceptible to it, notably Jak and Daxter, into powerful and terrifying beasts. But it's more than that; machines run on it and it's the source of the earth's energy. I guess it's like food and mana and petrol and the force all rolled into one.
If it all seems a bit complicated, it is. Most video games, even the long epic ones, are usually easy to sum up in a few short sentences. Jak and Daxter can't be. Add to the basic story all the references to Precursor pre-history and the explanations of what exactly Eco is, you might see why following the story can be difficult even for those who have played the earlier games. If you’re not familiar with the earlier games, you quickly get to the point where you give up trying to follow the story and just concentrate on getting past the next tilting platform or wave of enemy planes.
Playing Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier takes two forms. At its heart there is the standard searching, fighting, platformer. You jog around cities, jungles, volcanoes and airships looking for the person with your next set of instructions, the next component to upgrade your ship, or the doorway to the next area. You'd think after all these years, this part of the game would be sorted. But no, some of those most basic problems with the genre are still here. For example you still find yourself dying repeatedly until you get lucky and land on the pillar surrounded by lava, lucky because the camera is locked out and you can’t actually see where it is you’re supposed to land. Couple this with a targeting system that wants to lock on to off screen enemies rather then the three or four beasts standing right on top of you - at times The Lost frontier feels like retro gaming at its worst.
But its not all bad. The flying sections are well executed, simple arcade fun. Throughout the game Jak can find half a dozen different ships. Flying them is easy, with the ships being pretty stable and the D-pad providing quick access to roll and loop manoeuvres that can help you avoid enemies and quickly switch directions. While the first ship you own is sluggish, you quickly find nippy fighters that make air battles much more fun. There is enough Eco and weapons to find to continually upgrade all aspects of your ship and this, coupled with a cute little mini-game where Daxter jumps onto opposing ships and rips out valuable scrap, makes air travel the highlight of the game.
But its not just the ships that can be upgraded. Jak can also be turned into a powerful fighter. Eco will upgrade his health and damage, while treasure chests provide him with new unique weapons. As he explores he will also come across old Precursor idols. These idols give Jak powers, such as raising platforms and slowing down time, that are essential to progressing through the game.
Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier is a fairly straightforward platform game with some fun and accessible flight/combat sections. Although it has all the elements in place to be an enjoyable return to a well regarded franchise, it doesn't work out like that. What we get is disappointing. While the new flying sections are fine and the characters and cutscenes are good, the game is beset with targeting and camera angle problems, which simply make it feel old. The problems detract greatly from what might have been an engaging addition to Daxter and Jak's adventures.