Daxter looks good folks. Real good. Like steak. Steak with A1 sauce. Yum.
There have been a few attempts to bring adventure titles to the PSP, but really great concepts and ideas are constantly getting muddled by the developer's drive to crank way too much ambition into too small a space. Thankfully, Daxter, being developed by Ready At Dawn, is one of the titles slated for 2006 that is looking to change this trend. A good thing, too, because if the Jak & Daxter series got messed up on the PSP, Sony would never hear the end of it.
Combat at times feels obligatory because it's not as polished an element as the rest of the game is shaping up to be. On the other hand, most of the game's design leaves combat as complimentary, and the portions of the game where it does seem to matter (such as boss battles), it's used to a degree that's pretty aware of its capabilities. At his disposal, Daxter has an electrified bug swatter and a tank of pesticide that are used to stun, whack and splatter enemies. In addition to being used as an attack, the pesticide also doubles as a jet-pack of sorts, allowing Daxter to hover for a brief period of time which proves to be great fun in the game's platforming sections. In particular, there is a train-hopping sequence (highly reminiscent of the Turbo Tunnel from Battletoads on the NES) that is just amazing fun. Daxter hops and hovers from train to train and dodges electrified barriers in a way that's retro and stunningly modern when you realize what kind of platform you're playing it on. Things have really come a long way since the PSP launched March '05, and this is where Daxter really shows itself off: level design. So much is packed into such a small space that you'd be hard pressed to become bored or disinterested. All the staples of the classic platforming fare are intact and integrated amazingly. You go from combat, to climbing, to sliding, to combat again, to piloting one of the games various vehicles. Flavor is the key concept here, and you need lots of different kinds for a decent platformer. Daxter feels like it's on the right track.
Controls are comfortable, and when not precise they are surprisingly accommodating. It's great to see PSP developers starting to get a better grasp of what the platform is ideally capable of, and it seems like Ready At Dawn is on the right track. The game controls and responds just as well as it's PlayStation 2 counterparts, and while the mechanics feel quite deep they aren't overwhelming or complicated.
The graphics are incredible, as Daxter is a great display of how deceptive the PSP can be at rendering (almost) console-grade graphics. Daxter himself sports some impressively detailed modeling, and his animations are fluid and carry a life all their own. The levels aren't anything to ignore either, as all are in the traditional off-kilter architectural variety and flavor of the series. The best part is is the visuals aren't making this game: they add one hell of a delicious icing to the cake.
Intact is Daxter's predictable yet witty and appealing dialogue that fans are expecting. The preview version that I played was incomplete, but from the looks of things all dialogue has been well recorded, and from the looks of things right now, personality remains wholly intact. General sound effects and music seem solid as well, and various action adventure themes are cued by whatever events befall our hero.
Right now, Daxter looks like really good stuff. Like, REALLY good. The PSP has one hell of 2006 lineup, with lots of incredible looking titles from all publishers, and SCEA's Daxter is one that should not be absent from the list of titles to check out. The Jak & Daxter games have been great, and as things near completion for Ready At Dawn's Daxter it looks like this title isn't bunking the tradition.