PSP Review: Daxter

This pint-sized sidekick's first title is a silky smooth transition from the previous PS2 entries. Daxter, you will find, sacrifices very little on the go. Fans of Jak and Daxter will also appreciate the renewed focus on platforming.

As the title implies, you will be taking the helm as Daxter. The little orange Ottsel is as irreverent as always too. Without Jak around to shut him up, you are in for a treat as the wise cracks never stop. Daxter's humor has always kept the series lively, and that does not change here.

This game is set directly before Jak II, following the events as Jak rots away in prison. The opening cinematic shows Daxter running off after Jack's ship crash lands. Fast-forward two years, and Daxter is telling tall tales in a local bar. After talking to a bug extermination storeowner, he finds him self gainfully employed zapping bugs in Haven City, complete with electric flyswatter.

Haven City's layout is almost identical to previous games. What is even more impressive is the visuals of Daxter. Aside from the lower number of vehicles and pedestrians, this game draws a striking resemblance to its bigger brothers on the PS2. Production values, all around, are top-notch, and above what we have come to expect from a PSP game.

As the city has a bug infestation problem, and you have a handy electric flyswatter, you are sent off on missions to rid the city of this dastardly problem -- and get into trouble of course. Each mission has primary and secondary goals. The primary goal is always strait-forward and usually easy to complete, the secondary objectives pose a challenge. This is good, because it is easy sailing for a good chunk of the game.

You can always go back to finish off any secondary objective, such as collecting precursor orbs, at a later time. This keeps the story moving forward at a nice pace, as secondary objectives are not a requirement.

During the second mission, you get an insecticide sprayer that (later on) comes with some great upgrades. Turning it into a flamethrower also allows you to jet around a level and over gaps in your way. You will also be on time-based missions using a hovercraft to more easily take care of the bug problem.

Getting back to the old platforming elements is exactly what this series needed, and it just feels right. Controls are solid, allowing for pinpoint jumping from place to place. Camera controls are mapped to the L and R triggers, which help a lot. This is good, because the camera gets in the way here and there, but it is simple to nudge it when needed.

Check points are abundant, and you can save anywhere. This is a consideration that Ready At Dawn Studios took; more developers of handheld games should take note of this generous system. Daxter does not feature much back tracking at all because of this.

Along with the simply beautiful, bright graphics are some remarkably low loading times. When you consider the size of these environments, you cannot help but be impressed. The UMD is accessed when someone is talking to you, this is the only real slowdown throughout your adventure.

As with the rest of this game, the sound design and voice acting is right out of the PS2 versions. The world is filled with great ambient effects, and the soundtrack keeps everything lively. Sometimes it is easy to forget, but you should find a set of headphones to become immersed in the game.

The single-player game was really enough for a complete game, but there is also a multiplayer mode -- Bug Combat. While you play the game, you will find multiplayer items, caged bugs and power-ups you can use in Bug Combat. This is a game that can be played versus the computer or another player in rock-paper-scissors type game play. This is a nice diversion, but it takes a while to get through one match. Still, it provides more to do.

For the completionists among us, there are a number of unlockables including a Jak mask. The game connects to Jak X: Combat Racing to help with finding all the hidden goodies. Talking about goodies, you will find extras and cheats, but it will take a lot of hunting to find all 1000 precursor orbs.

Daxter is another shining example of what the PSP has needed from the start, and is exactly what Sony has envisioned all along -- console quality gaming and graphics for the portable crowd. This is a no-brainer for fans of the platform genre, and is worth a look for any PSP owner. Because of the higher than normal production values, and strong continuation of the series, don't hesitate on giving this game a spin.

(**** out of *****)

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