Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier (The Lost Frontier) follows the reckless duo as they search out for a new source of Eco, a potent source of energy that also grants powers to those whom can wield it. With the worldís supply running low, the remaining Eco has become unstable and is creating devastating storms. Jak, Daxter, and longtime friend Keira find out that an Eco Seeker and Eco Core can help track down the energy and reveal the source of the problem. Along the way, the crew runs into pirates, deadly robots, mutants, and the perhaps the most dangerous beast of all, a temperamental camera.
The Lost Frontier is the second release in the series on the PlayStation Portable (PSP), but the events actually take place directly after 2005ís Jak X: Combat Racer and years after 2006ís Daxter on the PSP. The chronology is a little convoluted, and save for a brief recap in the manual, High Impact Games doesnít do much to flesh out the timeline for newcomers and casual fans. While I donít see a muddled story putting anyone off from beating down a bar full of pirates, as someone whose been away from the series for a bit, I would have appreciated a more inviting approach.
As the trio goes about in their search of the Eco Seeker and Core, Jak slowly attains powers from his ability to harness Eco. Each of his abilities is unlocked based on the color of the Eco that powers it - red, yellow, blue, and green Ė with each having eight upgrades. Dark Eco absorbed from defeated enemies can be utilized by Keira to boost Jakís abilities, which span a wide array of power- and character-specific enhancements: health boosts, shockwaves released from rocket jumps, saturating enemies in Red Eco to cause an explosion, etc. In addition to coming in handy during combat, many sections require the powers be used in combination for Jak to progress in some light navigation puzzles; for example, Jak might find himself in a hallway that has caught fire and needs to escape before being consumed, so he will need to slowdown time in order to create the crystal formations necessary to safely traverse the flames and make his getaway. Unlocking and powering-up Jakís abilities is addictive, and is made more so by the inclusion of additional side tasks that can be accepted between the core story missions.
Shortly after meeting a rowdy band of pirates, Jak is allowed to dock on their massive ship, the Phantom Blade. While docked, Jak can seek Keirís assistance in addition to outfitting his ships with new mods and mod upgrades. The upgrades are created from scrap metal collected by blasting enemy ships or sending Daxter over to dismantle them. Aside from gathering scraps during missions, you will also come by some through side missions for the Pirate Radio Station and the pirateís bartender. The stationís host will often task you with hunting down Aeropan transport vessels to gather their Precursor Orbs. The transportís escorts will often need to be dispatched, which will require some enjoyable and arcadey dogfights where you can loop, barrel roll, and slip turn. Destroying them will net you some scrap, but to get the most from a ship, and possibly a mod, tethering one and sending Daxter over is your best bet: once on the craft, a series of quick-time events will appear that will cause Daxter to rip portions off and either depart or engage in a longer sequence to remove a mod chip. When the segments arenít overly restricted by story considerations - mess up once, youíre done - they are pretty interesting. Taking advantage of the side missions will not only really bulk up your ships but also unlock secrets through the Precursor Orbs, which are more for a laugh than anything else Ė see: Dark Daxterís giant football helmet Ė but add further incentive to tackle all of the additional content.
Speaking of Dark Daxter, those sections are, without a doubt, The Lost Frontierís weakest segments. Whenever Daxter finds himself submerged in Dark Eco, he transforms into a beefed-up, monster-like version of himself. These portions tend feature a sewer of some sort, stiff controls, and rudimentary puzzle elements. Dark Daxter can pick enemies up, smash the ground, throw balls of energy, and turn himself into an unwieldy tornado of dark energy to knock down obstacles. These throwaway sections revolve around two things: swatting back swarms of enemies and redirecting electrical charges by punching the ground, causing charges to change polarity, to break down barriers. And thatís about it: a surprisingly unimaginative and sluggish addition to such a wild franchise. Thankfully, there are only a handful of these portions.
Throughout all portions there is one problem that will plague your time throughout The Lost Frontier: the camera. This is really the case when a second analog stick would come in handy, because the current scheme simply isnít up to the task. Letís say youíve been jumped by six or seven bad guys, but the gun and power you have equipped arenít up to the task, what do you do? Well, you run like crazy, hoping you find a spot far enough away so that you can hit up on the directional pad to select the preferred weapon, left or right for the preferred power, down to engage the power, all while trying to swivel the camera with the shoulder buttons to make sure youíre still in the clear. And thatís if the camera is unlocked. Sometimes the camera is locked into a position that is often the least helpful Ė e.g. facing towards Jak, so you are running straight towards the screen Ė which can be downright infuriating.
Smaller and long-range engagements tend to go smoother, thanks to a minimal auto aim. The lack of a targeting function and numerous instant-kill environment hazards, however, often frustrates things. I would say camera and control issues crop up in about ten percent of the game, but that ten percent is unbelievably frustrating and really slows things down: thereís nothing quite like having to repeat a three-stage process over and over because the camera didnít pan enough to properly gauge the depth. In addition, there were some rare instances of slight cracking and dropping out of the audio in certain areas. Aside from the unfortunate instances when the designís foibles occur in conjunction with the technical hiccups, The Lost Frontier is a good game that offers a lot for platforming fans.
Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier is a solid action-platformer that is hampered by an obtuse camera, stiff controls, and some uninspired portions. The negatives are spread throughout the 11 or so hours that it will take to complete the story, taking part in a side mission or two, so they wonít so much overwhelm as offer a few spikes of frustration in an otherwise enjoyable title. The addition of the side missions, as well as the various power and plane upgrades, adds a great deal to the gameís addictiveness - and fans will enjoy unlocking all of the secrets. A solid, if sometimes exasperating, outing.
(This review is based on a retail copy provided by the publisher.)