Novacanoo Jak 1 Reply

Thought you might check this out. We established that our interests lie in slightly different places, but I think this shows massive improvement on those criticisms that I did agree with.

I think it’s a bit reaching to say that naughty dog suffered from genre fatigue. The concept of needing to do something to “reinvigorate the genre” seems more than a bit fuzzy to me.

If the level transitions can’t be skipped, then it’s a load screen. Avoiding loading screens is an impressive technical feat, but what really matters is avoiding making the player wait for things. Loading screens are kind of unavoidable and common, so I think there’s not much that can be done but to view them as a necessary evil where they pop up. On that note, the unskippable scene of the rocket ship going to a planet every time in Ratchet and Clank drove me nuts.

Don’t care about the story.

Sum-up of the tutorial is alright, doesn’t go over how it specifically teaches.

Don’t care about daxter. As an aside I like him.

Okay, Blue Eco Vent. This is a trend I see a lot, where a dude points out the first time something appears in a game, then says that it “teaches players” about that element. The Vent here doesn’t really teach them anything. It’s just a distinctive shape on the ground. It’s not teaching them that they need to come back here. It’s just a thing they might see, and later on when blue Eco vents are activated, they might remember that they saw one here, which, if they remember successfully, will teach them to check back after activating vents of a certain color.

I would like a demonstration of how the enemies work relative to Jak’s abilities honestly. They, and the platforming near them, act in tandem to deliver challenges and bar progression. Instead there’s just a remark that the area is a bit harder and that there’s no bottomless pits, so you have to climb up, which is its own sort of punishment (which importantly means you need to jump across correctly, developing jumping skill)

I think you’re reaching a bit with the sound effect for precursor flooring, but it is a nice sound effect. Having unique sound effects for different flooring is a neat touch in terms of feedback. More important in games with full noise propagation engines that are factored into enemy AI, like Thief.

I think the boss is basic reinforcement of your ability to move and jump. And I think the idea you were searching for was if a vine had gone limp while the boss was still attacking you, so you need to find a point between the boss’s attacks to attack it, opening up the leaves, then the boss would feel less condescending and maybe a bit more back-and-forth, like you’re fighting it as it fights you, rather than simply cycling phases.

Funny that you say variety can make something more than the sum of its parts given my recent criticism of how variety making it so every part needs to stand on its own more than being able to rest on others. I think variety adds exactly what it adds and nothing else. The strength of adding a new mode is that it’s a new mode with a unique strategic space to explore, so it can help keep players engaged by turning them onto a new task. The weakness is that it’s segregated from the rest of the game and doesn’t build on or take from the existing strengths of the game. Also in a developmental sense it can strain dev time and end up half baked, which is a problem by itself that can simply be called out for what it is.

Is there really a lack of acceleration on the net in the fishing minigame? Or is it that it accelerates on a funny curve, moving between low speed and high speed over a short period of time, so if you try to tap it, you go nowhere, but if you try to hold it, you go way too far? Added to that, a slight deceleration curve so it continues moving after you let go? The motion doesn’t look instant from the footage. I’m just guessing. I played about half of Jak 1 before declaring, “fuck this shit” to all the collectathon nonsense, so I don’t really remember.

Hmmmmmm, your discussion on how power cells are the core progression metric, yet are also partially optional is interesting. You bring up a good point and concern as a reviewer. As an aside, I’d say that a collectathon style game where collecting every single collectible was mandatory would be a flaw. There needs to be a suitable amount of leniency. I don’t really know how to resolve the dilemma you’ve brought up here, except by saying that all the content should be reviewed as if it were required instead of potentially optional, but that doesn’t really seem like the correct answer either. Simply put, by reviewing everything, everything can individually be declared good or bad and worrying about the sum total is easier, since most games have good and bad levels anyway.

Fair statement on the driller enemy and drop out floor combination. I don’t think that the combat mechanics and 1 hit enemies necessarily prevent them from combining platforming and combat challenges, I think they just failed to integrate them.

I think they made the punch the way they did intentionally. I think they didn’t want the player to chain the lunge punch into itself and zip across the levels that way, rather they wanted player to use the roll jump. Also canceling the punch into the spin is kinda technical.

Yes, it does make it feel awkward to have a much longer window to self cancel the move than canceling it into other moves. If the lunge punch had a stationary followup then I’d write it down as a flaw without a second though. I don’t think you needed the frame counts, but I appreciate the effort. Yeah, it feels jank, but I don’t think it was done without purpose. I don’t think you’re right in saying it makes the spin kick the vastly superior option, just the superior one up close. Also it means that there’s a clear purpose for both instead of the lunge punch being flat out better.

Hmm, fair point about the level design. Levels are nonlinear, but every possible route involves all of Jak’s moveset regularly, and avoids open areas where you don’t do anything but walk around. I don’t think that keeping the player active is necessarily the path to great level design, but it’s certainly a step up from your cross-example with Ty the Tasmanian Tiger (forgot that game existed).

Okay, I hate the precursor orbs and scout flies. I hate collectathon shit in general. I hate having them stuck everywhere so you don’t just get past the level, but you practically need to sweep up all these little bits and bobs sitting everywhere. I’d be much more okay with this game as a whole if these were totally removed in favor of just the power cells. I’m fairly certain in many areas you’re gated so there aren’t enough power cells to continue on power cells alone so you need to collect these.

Wish you went into more detail on the roll jump move than just that you can access some power cells that unskilled players cannot with it. Like, it’s more than a gating mechanism, it’s a fundamental part of movement.

I dunno about the spin. It always felt kinda lame to me, like it didn’t last long enough, compared to contemporary hover mechanics. I don’t think it’s really that hard to press the appropriate buttons. Something feels fiddly about the jumps in Jak, but I’d mostly chalk that up to the slow movement speed of the character.

That’s the common argument against ice physics? Shrug. I thought it’s just that people don’t like characters moving independent of input, of sacrificing some measure of direct control over them. Also I don’t really approve of your logic that the ice physics are dumb because they’re only there to make something normally unchallenging, challenging. The order you present it in almost makes it seem like they had the buttons first, then threw in ice so it was harder to step on the buttons. I think the buttons are a legitimate challenge, they emphasize not only being able to orient yourself on the ice so as to move across it to a desired location, but because they require you to jump, you carry the momentum on the ice into the air, and it’s noticeably higher than your normal top speed on ground or air, so you have this excess momentum in the air that you need to control by either jumping preemptively so you’ll land smoothly on the button from afar, or control in the air to correct your trajectory onto the button, or slow yourself down close to the button in order to make a more easily controlled jump on top of it. You also neglected to mention the rather genius move to have a force field around the buttons that repels you if you get too close, because then the challenge could be trivialized by getting really close to make a completely slow and controlled jump instead of trying to get as close as you can without getting rejected. Plus they throw enemies at you at the same time. Also the lunge punch has a unique affect on your ice momentum which is cool. I think they were on top of their game here honestly and your criticism isn’t coming from the right angle. You gotta look at the challenge as it is, in context, not as what it could be. or would normally be. The ice serves to make a difficult task that takes some coordination and thought to do.

You make a fair point about the opportunity lost here, though I wouldn’t use the word cancel, just for the sake of clarity. they could have had more cliffs around the ice, and more circumstances where you need to be careful not to overshoot into danger.

Using the base mechanics doesn’t necessarily determine whether something is a decent test of skill or not, just that it’s consistent and probably deeper than whatever variety themed system they try to shoehorn in at the last minute. If it suddenly switched into a full-on dark souls or bayonetta style boss fight with all of those mechanics completely replacing Jak’s mechanics, then it would be a greater test of skill, and deeper than the rest of the game, but incredibly inconsistent. Whether it’s a bad thing or not, I don’t really know, it’s never happened before and I think my reaction would be, “why wasn’t the rest of the game like this” rather than panning it. And speaking of that, weren’t there other bosses in this game than the first and last ones?

I think it’s intensely debatable whether Jak 1 outdoes Mario 64 (I can’t debate the rareware collectathons, I haven’t played them) on its very first try. Beyond that, I feel like you’ve somewhat missed the spirit of the game here. I didn’t like Jak 1, and I liked Jak 2 a bit more, due in large part to the removal of collectathon elements. I feel like Mario 64 keeps its collectathon elements extremely constrained, limiting them to just the goals of each course, not littered throughout the game world. Mario has always used coins, but never as a barrier to progression, and the 100 coin challenges in Mario 64 are not only optional, but far in the periphery of available stars for progression. There is an excess of stars that can be used to progress that are not 100 coin challenges, where Jak 1 felt like collecting things was much much more obligatory.

I feel like many of the level design challenges were probably interesting, but glossed over. Mario 64 very directly creates challenges that require dynamic platforming skill with control over velocity and momentum, where jak is very much about simply jumping as far as possible to the next platform with each jump, since Jak has such high friction and accelerates to top speed so easily, a speed that is rather slow to begin with. That and it doesn’t mention how frequently progress is barred by things you need damnable power cells for, rather than simply allowing one to clear areas and progress and get it over with (like the later Jak games did).

And because it’s me, here’s a speedrun. Pretty cool. Notice the combination use of rolling and punching and other moves.

An appreciative rebuttal, since I bet you’ve never seen a critique of a critique of a critique before. Critique-ception? We need to go deeper:

I thought collectathons died out because they were never particularly popular.

I liked the transitions in R&C the very first time I saw them, and was in agony thereafter. If I can’t skip it, it sucks. I’ll eventually replay the game, I’ll eventually want to cut to the chase. I don’t want to deal with anything forcing me to just watch.

I like Jak 2 better so far. I only just got the two gun types, but it’s a lot more straightforward than collecting endless power cores.

I don’t play levels fast. I just dislike being asked to visit every possible location in a level. It’s not that these elements obligate slow collection, it’s that you’re not really allowed to find your own way through a level and whatever works works. You’re obligated to collect whatever comes your way to speed up progression, or you might hit a roadblock and need to backtrack to collect more things to clear it.

Yes, I do think the roll in OoT being slightly faster is a fundamental part of movement. I think it was put there intentionally to encourage you to move faster. Sidehopping and backflipping are never required in OoT, but they’re important too. I don’t think something has to be strictly required to necessarily be fundamental, though definitions and cut-off points may vary. I think roll jumping is a big deal to the movement system, and it deserved a little more focus.

We’ll see what happens with Jak 2.

I’ll check out whiplash, it sounds interesting.

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