Now, I suspect that Ready at Dawn has been extremely clever here in playing to the strengths of the hardware. The levels aren’t as wide and open as they are in the PS2 games, the action sequences tend to take place inside and the design is certainly more linear, yet you never seem confined and there is always enough going on to make you feel like you’re not just rushing from tunnel to chamber to tunnel. The bugs aren’t hugely complicated foes, but that means you can put more on screen while keeping the frame rate high. And while the game can’t quite deliver that old Jak feeling of one, huge, bustling seamless world, it’s not for want of effort. As in Jak II and Jak III, Haven City provides a hub that links the various levels together, and the game cleverly disguises the pause while it loads a new area through sequences involving slow lifts or opening doors. It’s a fantastic example of how a PSP version should be done.
Even more so when you consider how cleverly Daxter has been designed with mobile play in mind. The levels are neatly divided into small, frequently checkpointed chunks, you can save where you like and the switch-on, switch-off resume is practically instantaneous. How many other PSP games can you really say that about?
Of course, it’s not perfect. As with any 3D platformer there are moments where the camera doesn’t play ball, obstructing your view or even switching angle just when you need to make that spot-on jump. But then even Nintendo’s finest have suffered from this. There are niggling difficulty spikes, with an annoying jet-moped chase sequence and a few boss battles that are low on entertainment value, but even these can be conquered with a little thought and effort. What’s important is that, from the cut-scenes to the voices to the overall presentation, this is a polished piece of work that never makes you feel like you’re playing a second-rate side story. So what is it then? How about the best 3D platformer on a handheld to date, and one of the few PSP games that we can fully recommend to just about everyone.
With Daxter both the sidekick and the PSP have come out of the shadows and proved they can kick ass on their own terms. Consider it a PSP essential.