'Jak II' edgier than original

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

A few years in prison will change anybody.

Look what happened to Jak.

Sony once dreamed that Jak would be their Mario. In Naughty Dog's "Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy" two years ago, they seemed to be on the right track with a cheerful, platform-hopping young hero with big ears named Jak and his furry orange weasel sidekick, Daxter.

In "Jak II," however, things take a decidedly darker turn. Daxter busts Jak out of jail after two years of torture by Baron Praxis's flunkies, who used the evil substance known as Dark Eco to change him in a bizarre way.

In "Jak II," in addition to the cartoony spin moves he uses to batter foes, Jak is now packing. He has the nifty Morph-Gun, which can change into a variety of weapons.

Jak also collects Dark Eco, the substance used by his jailers. Pile up a big enough supply and you can transform him to Dark Jak, a hugely powerful creature capable of massive attacks on several enemies at once.

The beauty almost makes up for the game's difficulty -- but not quite. The high level of difficulty is exacerbated by occasional problems with the camera.

However, keep at it. "Jak II" could be the future of platform titles -- and it's one of the best games I've played this year.

Graphics get an A. "Jak II" is a stunning game to watch, with beautifully shaded and colored graphics and gorgeous detail everywhere.

Sound gets another A. A lush and lovely score serves as a backdrop for the din of combat and excellent voice acting with a minimum of repetition. The game sounds almost as good as it looks.

Control gets a B+. Learning the controls is relatively easy, and Jak always does what he's told. Unfortunately, in some cases the camera has you telling him things that will cost you dearly. It's a pain, but only mars slightly the delight in playing the game.

"Jak II" gets an A. It's a game that is beautiful visually, a treat aurally and a joy to play. It's not easy, but nothing this good ever is.

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