3D platformers are damn tough to do well on the PSP. The analog slider is too imprecise, and the d-pad doesn't offer the analog control that's a necessity for the genre. But that's not stopping High Impact Games, developer of Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters and Secret Agent Clank, from taking another swing at the genre.
This time, they're adapting the Naughty Dog franchise Jak and Daxter to the small screen. In The Lost Frontier, our cartoonishly heroic duo finds themselves exploring the most distant areas of their world, where they discover the areas where the legendary Precursors stopped building the planet. With a new perspective into the inner workings of their world, they learn that the Eco -- the magical essence that flows through the world -- is dramatically out of balance. Their job, of course, is to restore it.
But they don’t have to do it alone. They're accompanied by Kiera, who will explore her sage roots to develop abilities not seen in previous adventures. And they also have the help of a whole new suite of Eco powers for Jak, including two I got to play around with in my hands-on demo: a rocket-powered super-jump, and a power that causes structures to rise out of the ground, allowing Jak to reach otherwise inaccessible areas. And they have access to a customizable aircraft, which lets them soar through about a third of the game, fighting enemies in the sky and performing various aerial acrobatics.
Both a traditional platforming segment and a new flight segment were on display here at the show (I was told that each comprises about a third of the game; the other third is still a mystery), and both were playable. The platforming was pretty much exactly what you'd expect from a Jak and Daxter game: running, jumping, swinging on bars, and engaging in both hand-to-hand combat and simple gunplay. Using a combination of all this, plus those new Eco powers, I worked my way through a fairly traditional volcanic level as lava rose below.
Like I said, pretty much what you'd expect.
The flight level was a bit more novel for the series, with Jak's ship tasked with taking on a huge flying galleon equipped with a mess of turrets. Controls were simple and fluid, making it easy to make multiple passes on the flying behemoth to snuff out all those pesky turrets.
The Lost Frontier isn't likely to revolutionize the genre, but then, it's not trying to. Fans of High Impact's previous PSP efforts will no doubt get exactly what they're hoping for when the game releases this Fall.