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Really, who would be a sidekick? You’re just expected to tag along, risking your neck, while some other schmoe bags the goodies and the glory. Your smart wisecracks fall on deaf ears, and on the odd occasion when you get a chance in the spotlight, it’s all menial tasks – crawl through this vent, flick that switch, open that door. It’s a wonder that the likes of Daxter bother.
And you could argue that the PSP has had the misfortune to turn into the video games equivalent. After an initial run of promising titles, it’s become a dumping ground for afterthoughts. Instead of brilliant, original games, it’s getting a steady diet of lazy, half-assed ports, dropping a month after the PS2 original with half the content clumsily removed, the controls wrecked, and any surviving visual fidelity poorly balanced against ludicrous loading times and ruinous pauses in the action. It’s a wonder that anyone sensible bothers to buy them.
Well, there’s good news for these neglected sidekicks. Daxter comprehensively proves that it doesn’t have to be this way.
Perhaps the biggest compliment I can pay Ready At Dawn’s game is that, as with the PSP’s other top titles – Ridge Racer, Lumines, Virtua Tennis, Outrun 2006, WipeOut Pure – you can play it and forget that you’re playing a good handheld game; you’re just playing a great game, full-stop. And also as with those games, a lot of this achievement is visual; the graphics are so damn near PS2 quality that you don’t feel like you’re playing a compromised, cut-down version of a superior home console game. Graphically speaking, Daxter is possibly the PSP’s finest hour, at its best equalling the first Jak and Daxter – itself a groundbreaking title in the PS2’s early years. It has the same sort of bright, cartoon backgrounds, cool lighting and lavish detail. In fact, one level – Breezy Valley – is a vivid green paradise full of rushing waterfalls and lush vegetation that could have been dragged directly across from the original game.
What’s more, character design is up to the series’ usual high standards. Daxter himself is beautifully rendered and animated, his face and body every bit as expressive as in the PS2 originals. It’s a similar story with the long-eared supporting cast as well. Best of all, the game is as fast-paced and fluid as any great console platformer, with loading times kept to a bare minimum and not a pause or stutter to be found.