It's not immediately evident how flawed The Lost Frontier is when you begin playing it. Perhaps it's because that's exactly what you don't
do for the first ten minutes. From the moment the PSP logo fades away,
players are thrust into a lengthy cutscene with Jak, Daxter and Keira
searching for more eco. What's eco, you ask? If you're new to the
franchise (or you've simply forgotten in the five years since Jak 3), The Last Frontier
makes no attempt at reintroducing the world or the characters that
inhabit it. What is Jak's secret ability? Who are the Precursors? Don't
expect any answers. Perhaps this is simply an oversight of the preview
code, but we're certain many people would appreciate a "previously on"
recap of the franchise's lengthy story.
Eventually, players will
take control of Jak's ship in an air combat battle against sky pirates.
The gameplay should be familiar to anyone that's played any flight
combat game before. There's no lock-on -- at least at the beginning of
the game -- so players will have to manually aim at the targets. There
are also a few evasive maneuvers mapped to the D-Pad, although the lack
of any threat didn't really encourage much fancy flying.
The aerial combat wasn't broken, nor was it particularly inspired.
The controls did feel spot-on, though, so there's the possibility that
later levels may reach the chaotic fun of a Star Wars or even a Ratchet & Clank game. The platforming, however, felt broken even in this close-to-release state. Considering platforming makes up most of a Jak game, this seems rather troublesome.
The act of jumping shouldn't be such a trial, but it is in The Lost Frontier.
See, Jak doesn't have a jetpack like Daxter, so players are relegated
to using his double jump (and spin). Unfortunately, the spin doesn't
really give players a boost of any sort, making platforming a bit more
difficult than it should be. The camera is also problematic, with
players needing to constantly make manual adjustments to see where to
go. Even worse, the camera can only be moved on the X axis. The default
low angle makes it difficult to gauge distances, and adds to the
problematic nature of the platforming sequences.
combat is no better, with the camera significantly hampering the
experience. Melee combat is not fun; needing to manually adjust the
camera as enemies constantly move out of view is frustrating. Gunplay
is also not particularly exciting, with the over-generous auto-lock
removing any semblance of challenge. Why not take a page from Ratchet & Clank
and give players an over-the-shoulder option in addition to standard
lock-on controls? And yes, once again, the camera refuses to follow
enemies in any way, making The Lost Frontier a constant battle with the PSP's shoulder buttons.
The best moments of The Lost Frontier
look to happen beyond the core platforming gameplay. For example, the
Dark Jak sequences promise adrenaline for a game that otherwise feels
stagnant and boring. It also helps that players won't need to fight the
camera during these sequences.
It's a shame that The Lost Frontier
isn't any better than it is -- at least, in the preview code we've
begrudgingly played. Fans have waited so long for a proper continuation
of the Jak and Daxter franchise, and it doesn't seem like they're going to find it in this PSP game.