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Daxter and Pursuit Force

By Johnny Bray

Daxter is the next in the line of Jak (or Jak & Daxter) games for Sony’s game systems. It is the first for the PSP.

Having never played any of the previous incarnations of the series, it’s hard for us to make accurate comparisons. However, we did check out some reviews, and the entire series is very well regarded by video gamers everywhere. We took each review with a grain of salt, and did our best not to have any preconceived notions before playing Daxter.

Well, we have to admit the game is quite a bit of fun. It reminds us very much of a Mario or Sonic the Hedgehog game in its style and gameplay. And those are two fine franchises.

In this particular adventure, Jak is in trouble, so it’s up to his always-trusty sidekick to bust him out of it. Daxter, the cute little Ottsel, must pretend to be an exterminator in order to gain access to areas that have things he needs to do. Basically, what he needs to do is kill all the necessary bugs with his variety of weapons and vehicles. Bugs can also be collected for use in wi-fi gaming, but the basic point of the game is to kill them.

Daxter travels to different areas of Haven City, enters the level, and does his deeds. Each level is large, free-roaming (although you almost always have a specific way you’re supposed to go) and beautiful. The 3-D backgrounds remind us of Mario 64 with their lush visuals and exquisite details. It’s almost as much fun to just stand and look around as it is to play the game itself.

The graphics and animation are otherwise just as good. The characters all look great, and there is no choppiness during their movement. Even when there are several things going on at once, everything runs perfectly smoothly. Best of all, once you’re in the game, there are pretty much no load times whatsoever.

Control is dang near flawless. A lot of PSP games don’t seem to quite understand the mechanics of its tiny little analog joystick, but Daxter understands and embraces. The character responds to the slightest movement (which may sound too sensitive, but this is not the case; and in fact is absolutely necessary in many cases), and if you do it properly you can very quickly spin Daxter around and whip out groovy combos to attack multiple enemies. Some of the vehicles are a tad tricky at first, but they all have their own mechanics that you just have to get used to.

As good as the elements of the game are, they would be all for naught if the game itself weren’t any good. Fortunately, Daxter is old-style platform gaming like we don’t see much of anymore, and even more fortunately, it’s done every bit as well as one could hope for. There are plenty of levels, with plenty to do in each, enough variety to keep things interesting, and it’s just one heck of a fun time. There are even bonuses to collect, so once you finish the game you can always go back for more excitement.

This is a great game that we recommend to anybody who enjoys pure entertainment. And it even makes you appreciate the wee little PSP.

Pursuit Force

Pursuit Force

Pursuit Force embodies the heart and soul of an action movie and lets you play it out.

It's rare, especially these days, to have a game so wonderfully unique and different, that at the same time doesn't really offer anything we haven't seen before.

You're a member of a new police department known as the "Pursuit Force." There are some jobs too dangerous for normal cops, so they have to call in the big boys. Your job is to play a series of increasingly difficult and mostly unrelated missions, take out the gangs and save the streets.

The initial impression is that this is a typical driving action game. You can select one of thirty different missions (you start with only four and have to finish and do well to unlock more difficult ones) from five different gangs, and you must complete all of the goals to move on.

Shortly after starting your first game, you'll realize that this is no ordinary driving game. Or an ordinary action game. Pursuit Force requires you to commandeer as many vehicles as you want or can by leaping through the air, landing on the hood, killing the baddies inside, and taking over. Different vehicles have different stats, too, so picking the right one for the job is always beneficial.

This is not simply a driving game, either. Depending on the mission, you may be driving cars, trucks, jeeps, motorcycles and whatnot, but there are also boat missions, third-person shooter missions, and other fun stuff.

The boat missions are, naturally, a lot of fun. The control is annoyingly realistic in the sense that you're chasing a bunch of bad guys, but can't just swerve this way and that as much as you want. You have to know what your doing, or your boat will be hitting the side of the river in no time. It makes it harder to commandeer boats, but forces you to learn some control.

The third-person shooter missions are quite enjoyable, as well. Admittedly, the control is a bit wonky, but it's made up for by the ease of targeting. None of the missions require anything other than shooting bad guys, so you simply press the L Button to target, the R Button to fire, and the guy is history. If he moves around (or you do), the target will always stay on him.

There's also the occasional mission that puts you in a helicopter, firing a chain gun down at, well.whatever you want. They don't last long and aren't that common, but you don't get sick of them and simply enjoy the destruction.

What such game would be complete without a barrage of weapons? We have to admit that we still have no idea what causes you to change guns randomly at certain points (you have no control over what weapon you use at any point that we noticed), but it's nice to press the R Button and are suddenly firing a machine gun or magnum or whatever. It's not a huge selection of guns, but just enough to keep things interesting.

As if the fact that the game is really fun wasn't enough. It seems the developers have truly put their heart and soul into it, right down to the most seemingly insignificant detail. There are plenty of vehicles to choose from, each of which handles differently, the graphics are excellent, and each of the five gangs has their own unique traits, clothes, insignia, and characters. Even the designs of the menus are pretty cool.

But nothing's perfect. Randomly, the commandeer icon doesn't show up, meaning you can't take over the vehicle, meaning you have to keep trying it until it works. This wouldn't ordinarily be such a problem, except that time is a very important element in this game. Some levels don't leave room for even a slight error, so having to slow down and try taking over a vehicle several times means you might as well just start the whole bloody level over again. And some of the levels are really, really hard. The later levels don't even have checkpoints, and so become frustrating beyond comprehension.

Fairly moot points, however, for a game that provides so much entertainment. It's a great new twist on the entire action driving genre, and actually makes you feel like part of a Hollywood blockbuster. True fans of video games and lovers of action should find little to dislike about Pursuit Force. Very highly recommended.

Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

We welcome your comments!