The original Jak and Daxter is still regarded by many as the PS2's paramount platformer. It delivered a thoroughly entertaining adventure, packed with involving narrative, impressive visuals, and exuberated an overall polish rarely achieved in video games. So what does one do for a sequel? It would have been easy for developer Naughty Dog to just knock out more of the same and have it still sell by the bucket load. Instead however, the company has created a much bigger, more immersive adventure that, rather than fall under the genre of 'platformer', reworks it entirely to form something quite unique.
The first thing you'll notice in Jak II is the overall mood - it's dark and much more sinister. Following the events of the Precursor Legacy, J & D find themselves propelled 500 years into the future, whereupon Jak is immediately captured by a tyrannical Baron who, for the next two years, uses him as a guinea pig for dark eco experiments. Consequently, Jak emerges with attitude, aspirations of vengeance, and a new and very welcome penchant for high-powered weapons. Oh, and now he speaks.
Unleashed into a futuristic foreign city, our two heroes begin their adventure. This time around, the gameplay is much less collect-em-up orientated and offers players more of a choice of how to carry out their quest. Within minutes of escaping onto the city streets, you'll begin meeting the game's diverse cast who, more often than not, will provide you with more objectives/missions. In each case it's up to you how you go about it, offering a much more open-ended spin on the proceedings.
The missions themselves consistently vary in style, combining elements of platforming, puzzles, strategy, racing and exploration throughout the game. As mentioned before, Jak now has the use of guns at his disposal, so shooting things/baddies now plays a big part in the game. Also, it's hard not to notice the GTA influence throughout Jak II - a lot of the missions involve similar objectives to Rockstar's crime-em-up, such as obstacle races and rescues, and, more obviously, you can now steal cars to make your way around the city.
Graphically, Jak II looks even more impressive than its predecessor. The game's massive environments are much more highly detailed, characters benefit from a considerably higher poly count, and the general visual atmosphere throughout the game is pretty stunning.
The prospect of developing a sequel to such a celebrated game as the original Jak and Daxter was never going to be an easy task - Naughty Dog must certainly have had their work cut out over the last couple of years. But that work has paid off and the result is an extremely impressive continuation of the adventures of the two unlikely heroes, improving on the Precursor Legacy in just about every way imaginable.