[E3 2009] Jak & Daxter: The Lost Frontier Hands-On

The Eco-seeking duo's PS2 adventures may be (almost) over, but that doesn't mean their story is.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: June 5, 2009
We're noticing something of an interesting trend with the PSP: it's becoming the home for continuations of some of the bigger PS2 franchises out there. Rather than graduating them to full next-gen, HD-powered PS3 offerings, the scope and scale of things is being pulled back, but the main storylines and characters are continuing on in a new, smaller venue. Case in point: Jak & Daxter: The Lost Frontier, a fully canonical continuation of the events following Jak 3, which isn't exactly a PSP-only take on things (there'll still be a PS2 version), but it's clear that former Insomniac devs High Impact Games (who have worked on Ratchet and Clank side projects) are putting the PSP version front and center as a testament to their programming prowess.

It might seem like sacrilege to some; Naughty Dog not handling their last big franchise? With the team busily working on Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, however, only a consulting role was possible, and with High Impact having left Insomniac with the goal of getting away from Ratchet and Clank, it made the most sense to have them take over -- at least until Naughty Dog can prepare a proper next-gen sequel.

All that means is that the series is in very technically capable hands. The direct continuation of the story post-Jak 3 (technically it follows Jak X: Combat Racing, but we'd rather pretend that never existed) has Jak, Daxter and Keira heading out to The Brink -- quite literally the edge of the world. See, all the Eco in the world is mysteriously drying up, and the trio heads into uncharted territory to suss out what the hell's leeching the life's blood out of the planet. Turns out The Brink isn't nearly as uncharted as the team thought, though; Sky Pirates have built up quite the infrastructure thanks to looting, and will be giving Jak and pals more than a little trouble during their investigation.

It actually marks a fairly heavy shift from the platforming roots of previous games (even if all the subsequent adventures after the original have moved away from pure platforming and started to incorporate more weapons-based combat). Given that there's very little land at the edge of the world, flight is a key component to exploration and, yes, combat. High Impact reckons there's a 60/40 split between the on-ground stuff and dogfighting.

We spent a little time with both parts of the game, first squaring off against a set of massive gunships that had to be taken down one part at a time until they could finally be scuttled through the use of some press-and-hold auto-lock-on missiles and of course some handy dandy turret fire when closer up. Some basic acrobatics were put into play, allowing us to quickly reverse direction, to kick on some boosters to close or create distance and everything felt quite smooth and responsive -- even on the new PSP go's slightly redesigned analog nub.

On the ground, Jak's got a few new tricks: the Gunstaff, a morphing weapon that can become any number of weapons (the Peace Maker, Vulcan Fury and Shockwave Concussor were all mentioned, though we didn't really get enough time to goof around with 'em). Jak's Light and Dark Eco halves also let him tap into a handful of powers to help even the odds, and the game's Eco pickups have actually been broken up into four different colors. Those colors will help upgrade Jak's base powers -- stuff like the Rocket Jump (which lets him thrust with his hands after leaping off glowing yellow pads and glide around to high/far platforms) and the Construct Power that lets him create platforms to cross wider chasms.

Aside from some funky camera issues that we were warned were still being worked on before we even started playing, The Lost Frontier feels very much like a traditional Jak game, just done portable-style and with a few important new additions. Seconds into playing the game we were uppercutting and ground pounding like we'd been doing it on the PS2 for years. As one of Sony's hallmark franchises, we're sure to see more of the game as we inch closer to its release this Fall. We'll have more soon!