It's so very hard to review a port of a game that's already been released on another console where very little is changed from the original. At least with Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, for example, enough was changed and new content was added, making it possible to complete a review based on those changes alone. I didn't expect there would be enough differences between the PlayStation 3 and Vita versions of the Jak and Daxter Collection to make a review worthwhile, but I was wrong. I was so very wrong, and not in a good way.
As with the Jak and Daxter Collection on the PlayStation 3, the Vita iteration comes packaged with the trilogy of PlayStation 2 classics, upscaled and given HD textures, although on the Vita it's not quite as upscaled as it is on its console big brother. You can choose to jump right from one game to another with relative ease, allowing you to witness the series' progression from a lighthearted collect-a-thon to a stylized, gritty action platforming shooter. Even now, the change between the first and second is jarring, and the jump to third is a bit disheartening, but that's how franchises change, and the follow-ups were definitely better made games.
However, the change to a handheld platform has left the Jak and Daxter Collection with some truly crippling issues. The first and most impactful of these issues is a framrate that chugs like a steam locomotive from the 1700s. I'd heard whisperings of a poor framerate amongst my friends, but I imagined their complaints were grossly exaggerated due to their tendency to blow up small issues into much bigger ones. Mountains from molehills, if you like. However, much to my disappointment I came to realize that not only were these complaints justified, they were horribly understated. I had only made it to the sandy beaches next to Sandover Village before I realized that Jak and Daxter on the Vita is nigh unplayable. Rotating your camera from side to side – an action mastered over a decade ago – makes the game look like it's being played through a rotoscope with what I imagine is 6-8 frames per second.
The framerate is even worse later in the game when you have to complete races against the clock or eco meter to unlock or activate switches. Trying to get down precise motions with a framerate as bad as this is like trying to drive a car through an obstacle course on ice; it can be done, but the retries required are maddening, to say the least. I was hoping that, due to the increased production value of Jak II and Jak 3, the framerate issues would be fixed, but I was wrong. It was equally bad throughout, and given their huge, open worlds, occasionally worse. Like I said, nigh-unplayable, but that didn't stop me from getting my platinum trophy, dammit!
Along with the grossly inept framerate, the camera is an absolute chore to deal with. In addition to having to deal with framerate chugs on races, you will also have to struggle to deal with the camera getting stuck behind walls, in objects, or against various obstacles, resulting in more than a few frustrating deaths. The sequels are better in this respect, but the camerawork in Jak and Daxter: the Precursor Legacy is some of the worst I've ever seen in a 3D platformer.
To make matters worse, the PlayStation Vita is (at least in theory) meant to be taken with you on the bus or when you're in a situation where you're unable to get to your TV, so why is it that the audio levels are so messed up in the first game that you literally have to squeeze the system against your ear to catch what people are saying just to understand the story or know where you have to go? Again, this is another issue that was addressed in the sequels, but this is a collection so you might expect a bit more uniformity between titles.
I also don't remember any Jak and Daxter game being this glitchy. Not only was the framerate broken to the point of affecting the gameplay, but some of audio tracks refused to queue up and others wouldn't go away for hours after they were supposed to. At one point, I was competing in a race that had an urgent theme playing, but even after I finished the race against time, the track kept looping for an hour afterwards. I actually had to save my game and shut it off to make the urgent track stop looping. There were also multiple instances of Jak facing to the right or left, and not turning when I pushed forward, causing me to only jump in that direction. Again, I had to restart my game just to fix the issue. Despite all three Jak and Daxter games having very nice graphics and sound, I can only compare them to previous iterations, and it's just such a colossal failure that it's hard to recommend. Framerate issues, a broken camera, no subtitles on the first game, as well as a mixture of audio and control glitches; truly unacceptable.
I like Jak and Daxter. Like many others I am eagerly hoping Naughty Dog make a Jak and Daxter game for the PlayStation 4, but this is not a good way to get your Jak and Daxter fix. The Jak and Daxter Collection on the PlayStation Vita is a horribly optimized, buggy, glitchy, inconsistent mess that should be avoided at all costs. Don't let the promise of playing a collect-a-thon (which should be perfect for gaming on the go) persuade you to buy this. Just play it on the PlayStation 3 instead.
This review is based on a retail copy of Jak and Daxter Collection for PSVita, provided by the publisher.