I didn’t know “Jak”

If you think back to the mid-90s console wars, you’ll remember that Sony found itself lacking in one department: They didn’t have a “mascot” character, the sort of character you can base toy lines and saturday morning cartoons and breakfast cereals around.

The solution was Crash Bandicoot, a character who was The Big Hotness at the time, but which has thankfully faded into relative obscurity.  I’m not sure whether there ever was a “Crash Bandicoot” cereal, but I don’t think that there’s a big market anymore.

That is to say, they’re still making “Crash” games, but the original developers aren’t involved any more, and they’re not specific to Sony consoles, and, well, it’s sort of like the Sonic situation, except people still care enough about Sonic to bitch when a bad Sonic game is released.

Anyway.  Back in the day, I wrote Crash off as a bad case of trying too hard, so I’ve never played any of the titles in the series.  I understand they feature an awful lot of collecting various bits and pieces and, uh, jungle themed levels.

The “Crash” people, after wringing as much money out of the property as possible and then selling it off to the highest bidder, went on to develop the “Jak & Daxter” series for the PS2, which became one of the Big Three mascot/platform games for the PS2, and after playing through the first Sly Cooper and Ratchet & Clank games over the last couple of years, I figured I should try out Jak.

Also, I have “Daxter” for the PSP, which I’ve heard is excellent, but I figured I should probably know who the main character is before I start playing that.

Anyway, back to Jak & Daxter, which was OK.  It got a tremendous amount of good press when it was released, it doesn’t hold up QUITE as well today but that’s to be expected, and I found myself quite appreciative of the game’s relaxed attitude to death; there’s no such thing as “lives” and dying usually means simply starting anew from a nearby checkpoint – and you retain any progress you’ve made even if you happened to grab, say, x or y widget on your way off a cliff to your death.

I also deeply appreciated the last boss; they put in a nasty tricky platforming bit just BEFORE the last boss fight, but the actual boss fight is pretty easy and avoids the “Am I just going to pack it in right now and give up after getting this far?” question that I was very much faced with in Sly Cooper and a little less concerned with in Ratchet & Clank.

If I had to rank the three series, I’d put them in Ratchet –> Sly –> Jak order, but that’s a bit misleading.  There’s a long way between Jak and, say, the Bubsy or Bug! games.

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