Naughty Dog made its bones with the hugely popular "Crash Bandicoot" series.
But its place in the Video Game Hall of Fame, if they ever build one, is guaranteed with its latest tour de force — "Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy."
The PlayStation 2 game is one of the best platform titles ever. Naughty Dog took a genre that caught fire with Nintendo's Mario franchise and brought it close to state-of-the-art perfection.
You play as Jak, a cute youngster living with his buddy Daxter in a land created by the long-gone "Precursors." Sadly, Daxter has been turned into a big-mouth catlike creature by a magical material called Dark Eco, one of a variety of Ecos that handle various tasks.
For instance, there's Blue Eco, which provides Jak (briefly) with extra powers and runs the machinery in his world. Or Green Eco, which is essentially a health booster for Jak.
The game sends Jak off on a fast-moving quest, to restore his now-furry pal to his original form and to complete a series of tasks that will restore his land's supply of Blue Eco.
J&D will remind you of Crash in many ways. Like Crash, many goodies are stored in boxes. The easiest way to open them? With a Crashlike spin move, which also is useful for dispensing with enemies.
While Eco is important, Jak also must collect about 100 Power Cells, which he locates in hard-to-find areas, receives as rewards for completing various tasks or in exchange for orbs, which he collects in his travels.
A farmer gives him one after Jak rounds up his cattle; he gets one from a fisherman after helping him catch 200 pounds of fish.
You might notice that Daxter isn't being mentioned much; that's because he's mostly along for the ride. Daxter doesn't do anything in the game except shoot off his mouth, but some of the game's most amusing moments come when Daxter has something to say.
The areas in J&D are vast and almost every inch can be explored. You do have to go everywhere and look behind everything if you want to collect all the Power Cells. That's not a huge hardship, as there are things to do almost everywhere; boxes to break, enemies to clobber, things to climb on.
As you go, pay attention to what you're seeing. The developers have called on all the PS2's power to create clear and vibrant detail as far as the horizon, with no pop-up, no slowdown, no problems.
Your memory will be tested, because you often have to backtrack with items or intelligence you've gathered elsewhere to accomplish a task or collect a Power Cell.
Graphics get an A. This is a beautifully detailed creation, with a brilliant use of color and movement. You'll enjoy just looking at all the eye candy Jak and Daxter offer.
Control is another A. The camera lets you see almost everything you need to see, and a push on one button provides a nifty telescopelike view that lets you look at every inch of your environment. All of Jak's movements and attacks are easy to learn and use.
Sound is a B+. While Daxter is funny, he's not always that funny, and a bit of self-control would be appreciated. But sound effects and the background musical score are perfectly matched to the on-screen action.
Give "Jak and Daxter" a solid A. This is a game adults can enjoy and children will love.
"Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy" is rated E, for ages 6 and up.