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Jak II

Developer: Naughty Dog | Publisher: SCEA
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 10/14/03 | Genre: Platform

A couple of years ago, Sony introduced a new platformer from the creative minds of Naughty Dog. While it wasn't an all-new Crash adventure, we were introduced to a new hero, Jak, and his furry friend, Daxter. Together, they set off on a wonderful platforming adventure that sold like crazy and can now be found on the PS2 Greatest Hits at a reduced price. For those of you who still have not gone through the original game, it is well worth the price of admission and still has plenty of platforming goodness to be found.

Fast forward a few years later and we find Sony and Naughty Dog teaming up to bring players Jak II. However, this is not your normal sequel. While it is a continuation of the original storyline, Jak II has been designed to be geared more to the older gamers unlike the original which was geared toward the Mario and Crash crowd. Players will once again control Jak but this time he is out for revenge. Having been tortured for two years, Daxter comes to Jak's aid and rescues him only to find his friend to be changed. Jak wants to destroy the evil Baron for experimenting on him. This sets the tone for a much different game.

As you begin, the player must navigate Jak out of the prison in which he has been held captive. This level acts as a brief introduction to the game and will remind players of the basic controls of the first game. For those of you knew to the series, you will be able to pick up on the action fast. However, as I mentioned above, I highly recommend that you first begin with the original Jak and Daxter. After making your way through the prison you will then have to destroy some of Baron's guards and save a young lad and an older gentlemen to get information on what to do next. This is the first time you will get to see Dark Jak. This metamorphosis is the result of two years worth of torture. While it isn't much use at first, once you learn how to control the dark powers, you will be able to unleash quite a bit of damage upon foes.

After saving the lad and his grandpa, you will then need to begin navigating the world. This acts as the hub to go to different levels and can be completely overwhelming at first. While there are icons over the areas of the map you need to travel to, if you are far enough away, you won't be able to see the icons until you get closer. This can lead to the player wandering around the city not knowing where to go or what to do. While wandering around, you can attack citizens, the baron's army patrolling the city, or steal vehicles. Be careful when picking fights on citizens, the army, or driving your vehicle though. If you make the army mad, you will have an endless supply of enemies pursue you. It is possible to escape; however, at times it can be very difficult especially at the first of the game when your weapons are limited.

As you find your way around the vast city and begin to start playing missions, the game begins to go at a very fast pace. Most of the levels are pretty easy. However, a few will make you scream with frustration as you try to inch towards the end of a particular mission. You can save the game at any time and if you pull up the Missions screen in your menu, players can look over their current missions, tasks to complete, and missions that they have already completed. As you progress deeper and deeper in to the game, you will have several choices of what missions to take on and in what order. This leaves the player with a very non-linear progression through the title. On the other hand, this can also make the gameplay a bit frustrating as you are flying from one end of the large city to the other trying to find the entrance to your next mission. But for the most part it works very well.

Each mission begins with a cinematic scene that gives you a bit more insight to the story and further develops the characters around you. After you complete a mission, you will occasionally have another brief cinema. However, for the most part, the story will continue once you return to the place where you got your mission. Then you can start up another mission there, if it is available, or move on to another base to get a different mission (if it is available to you).

A few hours into the game, Jak will begin to obtain a few different types of guns to use. These are very helpful in disposing the many bad-guys that will get in your way. But because these weapons use ammo, you will have to pay close attention to your supply and refill when you see it lying on the ground and in barrels. If you happen to run out of ammo for your weapons while in battle, you may not survive the fight and be forced to start a particular level over. However, the advantage to this is that you can replenish your weapons and armor if this occurs.

While it is possible to go through Jak II without ever dying, it is not very likely. This game can be very frustrating at times because you can't get through a particular level or get past an annoying boss. Be sure to pack pillows all around the chair you will be playing at to guard against a broken controller after you slam it down in disgust. If you reach this point, just take a breather and come back to the game later. You will have more success getting through a difficult portion of the game when you are relaxed and not stressed out over dying continually.

Those of you who have played the original Jak and Daxter, you will feel right at home from the start. While a brief tutorial is given to the player during the initial stage, I found myself comfortably dispatching of enemies without any problems. The controls stay pretty simple with the players moving Jak around with the left analog stick and rotating the camera with the right stick. Unfortunately, I found the camera to be much like the system in Super Mario Sunshine. You are forced to babysit the camera and move it around. While the game tries to give you the best possible perspective on the action, there were numerous times when I was struggling to move the camera fast enough to view a certain angle so I could see an enemy attacking me. To make things worse, there is not an auto center button. While not every game in the genre includes a button to center the camera behind the main character, more often than not this is included to give the players an easy camera angle to get to. The inclusion of this would have made my experience with the camera much better. Don't get me wrong, I was able to manage the camera. However, I am not sure if I enjoy having to babysit the camera in platform games.

With the addition of many cinematic scenes, it is important to have good voice actors. Naughty Dog did a good job of picking very nice actors to lend their voices in the game. While there are a few that may get on your nerves, the voices are very good overall. The sound and music are also great. However, because the gameplay is so incredible, I am choosing not to focus much towards this aspect of Jak II.

To help us get through some of the more difficult places and just know what the heck we should do next, we stuck with the Jak II guide from BradyGames. These folks know how to put together top of the line strategy guides. I really recommend picking up this guide along with the game. Don't worry, it isn't cheating it is just making sure you have the best experience possible with Jak II.

Lets look a little bit closer at the Jak II Official Strategy Guide by Greg Off. There are over 200 pages of details about the secrets, side missions, and missions in Jak II. The covers are glossy and each page is in full color. Like most guides BradyGames publishes, you will find a full color poster tucked in the very back page.

Because Jak II has several different missions that you can complete at different times, using the guide is very helpful in knowing what is the best order to complete them in. You will also be able to easily locate where you need to go. However, even after you get there, as I mentioned above, some of the levels can be very difficult. Fear not, this guide will provide you with plenty of details to overcome any obstacle within Jak II. Whether that be a boss or just a level you can't get through. Another big advantage to using the Jak II Official Strategy Guide is to help locate all of the secrets within the game. While it is possible to locate them all on your own, this guide will help make sure you don't miss anything.

2003 has been a year of really good titles. Jak II ranks right up there with some of the other great titles that have been released. I have been addicted to the game and continue to explore it more and more. At the moment, I am having a hard time thinking of a better, more polished game that has been released in 2003. Whether you are a fan of action games or platformers, Jak II has something to offer you. While I don't know if Jak II will end up winning any of game of the year awards from the staff here at CVGames, I do know that this title will get my vote for several categories and is a game you must add to your library. I give it my highest recommendation.

By Kaleb Rutherford - 10/25/03
ESRB Details: Comic Mischief, Mild Language, Mild Violence, Suggestive Themes
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Screenshots for Jak II

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