E3 2003: preview / team game-philosophical musing:
jak ii
(naughty dog / sony / PS2)
by tim rogers and justin freeman

As some Chinese philosopher once said, sometimes, the longest journeys begin with a single declaration of videogame-possession. In the case of this evening's too-many-words, that declaration is:

tim rogers: i have a jak and daxter ii demo disc

tim: it's the E3 demo

justin freeman: That game is just fucked up.

tim: i should play it

tim: i didn't play it at the show

tim: because . . . i don't know why not

tim: well, i guess i kept figuring i'd play this demo

tim: fucked-up how?

justin: It's...a mess.

justin: It's got its mature thing going on.

justin: Yet it keeps Daxter.

justin: And the feel of the original.

justin: Takes the same engine.

justin: And puts in a bunch of guns and cars.

justin: Was it ever made for that shit?

justin: I don't know.

tim: guns and cars?

tim: hell

justin: There are guns and cars.

tim: speaking of guns and cars, halo 2 is . . . well, you've no doubt downloaded the videos from IGN or wherever.

justin: Flying cars to be sure; cars nonetheless.

justin: Yeah

tim: so you've played jak and daxter ii?

justin: No.

justin: Just videos.

tim: aHA -- i've got the PLAYABLE DEMO here

justin: I SEE ALL.

tim: and i plugged in my PS2 like an hour ago

tim: thinking i'd actually PLAY xenosaga

tim: instead of let it sit on my floor

tim: shit, i think this demo is a special E3-only thing

justin: EBAY IT

justin: Heh.

tim: it says "NOT FOR SALE" on it

justin: Damn ebay.

tim: not 'not for REsale'

tim: 'not for SALE'

tim: wooo!

tim: heh

justin: RARE

tim: i got like twenty of the prima "E3 OFFICIAL GUIDEBOOK"

tim: i think i can ebay THAT shit, too

tim: you want one?

tim: heh

tim: i'll send you one

justin: What the hell do they put in it?

tim: it's got FULL-COLOR MAPS


tim: . . .

tim: well, actually, it does

justin: Wack

tim: it's got maps of the convention center

tim: with all the booths laid out

tim: and a (long) list of all the companies

tim: and all the presentations to be done


tim: and all the workshops

tim: heh

(ten minutes pass)

tim: you know, i think im going to pop in this jak ii shit

tim: just to see what the fuck

tim: you know?

justin: You should.

(and so in the game is popped)

tim: shit, this game looks good

tim: graphics, i mean

tim: there are two levels to choose from right from the start

(ten minutes later)

tim: shit, did the first jak and daxter have this many . . . guns in it?

justin: Nope.

justin: Any cars yet?

tim: not yet

tim: okay, i beat the first level

tim: which involved much shooting of shit

justin: Any verdict?

tim: which works well in a 3D, third-person environment

tim: i'm guessing the other level will involve the much-touted cars

tim: the first level is called 'strip mine'

tim: no, 'pumping station'

tim: NOW im doing 'strip mine'

tim: aha

tim: the control explanation tells me how to GRIND on my JETBOARD

tim: wooo

justin: I wonder why you need to grind on a jetboard.

justin: The thing must fucking float.

justin: Back to the fucking Future style.

tim: it's not a bad deal

tim: i have not yet GROUND with it yet

tim: i wonder if i can shoot WHILE riding?

justin: Maybe.

tim: no, i cant

justin: Probably not until level though.

tim: and i wonder why conveyor belts carry me up while i'm on the jetboard

tim: am i not HOVERING?

tim: hell, i just got killed

tim: TWICE

justin: From pod racer [in which your backward-pointing thrusters have no impact on your pod sliding when on ice], to Jak II, game designers apparently do not understand the dynamics of anti-gravity devices.


tim: nope

justin: Bastards

tim: okay, and my controller is not cooperating

tim: it keeps randomly pausing the game

tim: you ever get that problem?

justin: One of my old PS controllers did that. Then it started doing it A LOT. So I replaced it. I have, like, seven PS controllers. One of them works. Same with Genesis controllers.


justin: My PS controllers do not rumble.

justin: Damn.

justin: You suck.

tim: maybe i do

tim: SIX times

tim: shit, there are a lot of paths through this level

tim: you can . . . grind up cranes and shit

justin: Sounds like the linear levels in the original Tony Hawk.

tim: except you choose your own . . . line here

tim: there are plenty of lines; and not all of them are apparent right away

tim: i kind of like it, though

tim: i don't like getting kicked off my JETBOARD if i touch an enemy

tim: okay, now i just died a seventh time -- for . . . getting stuck between two rocks and then inching slowly off a cliff into the ocean

tim: i shouldn't try to test this game too much until it's . . . completed?

justin: The E3 demo is probably supposed to be completed.

tim: hell, if i ride around aggravating the enemies, they start following me

tim: i just had EVERY enemy in the level (i think) gang up on me right near the entrance, and kill me -- that's eight deaths

tim: nah, there's a lot of shit at E3 that's not finished

tim: like HIDEO KOJIMA

tim: that man is just NOT YET FINISHED with the world

justin: Heh

justin: I saw a video of him going through the training level of Boktai.

tim: okay, nine deaths

tim: and i finally see the big yellow arrow pointing out the correct path

tim: hmm

tim: okay, i jump out over a pit, and i cant double-jump. i can double-jump when i don't NEED to. it's just when i MUST double-jump that i can't. what the hell?

tim: it's like the double-jump ability is turned off just when i go over a place where i could die if i fall

tim: do i need to do this segment on the JETBOARD, is that why?

tim: hmmm

tim: for some reason, the more i die, the later it gets in the game

tim: it's . . . turned to nighttime

tim: the jetboard is fun

tim: if . . . exactly like the shell in super mario 64

justin: Maybe it becomes more difficult at night. Like, with vampires or something.

justin: I don't know why it would do that.

justin: Hell, why not, though?

tim: there should be vampires

tim: that would rock

tim: there are not, however

tim: just more moonlit-looking light-sourcing

justin: Heh

tim: okay, i can NOT make this jump

tim: i don't know what to do

tim: i get to the platform before it, and keep turning around and around

justin: Maybe you need to find some kind of item.

tim: i keep thinking the game might want me to grind somewhere

tim: maybe

tim: however, the big yellow arrow points this way. well, it points into a path up a mountain. this platform-jump is at the END of that mountain-path. and there are no branches off that path.

justin: Well, if you've played your Crazy Taxi, you'll remember that sometimes you have to take other paths way back in order to go where the arrow wants you to go.

justin: So who knows?

tim: oh FUCK

justin: If there's a jump...you would think it requires jumping over. This is a platformer.

tim: i was trying to collect items, right?

justin: Maybe.

tim: and . . . these little black shadow-monster-things kept ramming into me. knocking me off my JETBOARD, like ninja gaiden birds.

tim: hell

tim: here's the deal, though. when they ram into me, they DIE. now, this isn't SUCH a big deal. i mean, plenty of action games have enemies that run into you, and then die, right? (i . . . can't think of any)

justin: They exist.

justin: The little flood bitches in Halo, for one.

tim: the problem is, these guys: they

run into me when i'm on the jetboard,

1. knock me OFF said jetboard


tim: i could forgive them if they didn't scatter items following their self-imposed deaths

justin: Are you supposed to collect these things?

tim: i think so. that's how these games work. you collect everything.

justin: That's dumb as shit.

justin: Heh

tim: well, see, i can SHOOT the enemies, and it'll have the same effect

justin: That's a plus.

tim: hell, i do NOT know how to make this jump

tim: anyway, regarding the little enemy-things

justin: Is there a turbo button for the jetboard?

tim: i can shoot them, and then have a clear path. or i can try to avoid them.

tim: hell, a turbo button on the jetboard would be nice

justin: Shit. Hold up. I gotta leave the keyboard for a while.

tim: i don't know if there is one, though -- just grind.

tim: oh, okay

(five minutes of internet silence pass)

tim: hell, i made the jump. i don't know how. and then i got to a grinding segment, and then died. this game is . . . nice and hard. i dont know (yet) if it's legitimately hard, or just being mean.

tim: maybe if i'd had an instruction manual, it'd be less mean?

(two minutes later)

tim: i missed the short jump TWICE on the way up last time. the EASY jump. because i pressed the jump button a MILLISECOND too early. i'm reminded of level three of BATTLETOADS.

tim: and . . . day is breaking

tim: i died on the grinding part again. there are two pipes. you pick one. i picked the wrong one twice now. it's the short one. when you reach the end, it's too late to turn back; the other pipe extends all the way across the chasm. i really wish the death they give you would be harsher. more quick. like hitting a wall in battletoads. instead, you end up jumping for life, and getting hung up hopelessly on rocks on the cliffside.

tim: wow, at dawn, this game looks HELLA good. i'm letting jak stand by the portal at the beginning of this level.

tim: i shall try this jumping/grinding thing again

tim: i missed the big jump again. apparently, you have to be going at maximum speed, or you'll fall; i kind of like a game demanding that kind of perfection. i'm only not sure if it's working as planned in 3D; hitting the wall doesn't feel . . . 'sharp' enough. hitting the edge of the platform with the nose of my 'board feels . . . not 'edgy' enough. i want a quick JOLT, maybe a YELP out of my character.

tim: . . .

tim: okay, the controller paused in the middle of the short jump this time. and it won't work. i have to unplug and replug it. hell. if i get up, i might not sit down properly again.

(a half an hour passes)

justin: I'm back.

justin: You're probably going to need a new controller.

justin: And are you serious about the Battletoads comparison? I can't be that hard, can it?

tim: i've got a controller, around here, somewhere. and i've just gotten the hang of the jetboard.

tim: and the game has (somewhat thankfully) lost that battletoads comparison

justin: I only beat that level once in my life.

justin: Now, I haven't played it in fucking YEARS; I was pretty good at games back in the day.

tim: i could beat it OVER AND OVER again. hell, this is getting GOOD. they're really laying out the challenges now. i dont quite appreciate how they stuck me with an Impossible Jump so early, with no explanation how to make it. yet i like it. well, i've COME to like it. i guess the rest of the places i can go from the start in this level are . . . alternate paths, for different missions? in this mission, i'm supposed to reach the top of something.

tim: i don't appreciate at ALL how i can miss a hard jump, land on an outcropping of rock, and be free to move -- even though no combination of moving or jumping is going to save my life. just make me DIE, damn it.

tim: i dont seem to mind trying over and over again. the game feels good once you know how to . . . touch it.

tim: whatever that means.

justin: It's got that feeling, eh?

justin: That's certainly...old school.

tim: jumping needs a little work, though. sometimes i KNOW i pressed the button. and . . . nothing. or it comes late.

tim: or it could be my busted-ass controller.

tim: this long jump is too hard even now.

tim: i miss it like two times out of five.

justin: I don't know why controllers stop working. It can't be too hard to make them sturdy.

tim: hell, i wonder if the xbox controller will ever stop working?

tim: the old one, i mean. it's a sturdy piece of machinery

justin: We'll find out a couple years down the road.

tim: hell, there's a part here that requires me to jump onto a (tiny) moving platform, then jump again onto a pipe, and then grind

tim: this music doesn't seem to be helping much. it's just . . . random beats. jak's voice is too understated.

justin: This is sounding very Crash Bandicoot.

tim: i don't want mario's 'ya-hAAAAAAAAAAAh!' i just want more than 'oo.' when i get hit.

tim: let me KNOW how much it HURTS to weave between two moving chainsaws, only to run smack into the third.

tim: the cutscene voices are alright, though. daxter, as stated by many, sounds like an annoying asshole. and jak sounds 'cool.' the army-ish soldier-guy sounds like he's both tough and black. he even says 'damn' like three times a sentence. i guess that makes the game 'mature,' huh? the back of the demo cover says 'rating pending'. i'd give this a "T", just for the hell of it.

justin: He said "ass" in one of the movies.

justin: He also threatened to kill someone.

justin: Next scene, we have Daxter cracking-wise. It didn't really work.

tim: damn

tim: he says 'ASS'?

tim: whoa

justin: He did.

tim: in this conservative world, we might as well push the game up to an 'M'!

tim: that is some MATURE content

justin: Only a wizened individual can appreciate such maturity.

(five minutes later)

tim: well, fuck me in the HEAD

tim: i just learned that, if i jump immediately after landing, i do a SUPER JUMP

tim: which can . . . NOT be used to help clear that big chasm

tim: hmmm

tim: it is now the third night of this level

tim: jak has lost 31 lives

tim: yet i am compelled to beat this level.

tim: hell, i'm compelled to MASTER it

tim: what does that mean?

tim: does it mean that it is nearly five in the DAMNED morning?

tim: maybe

justin: It might.

justin: Either way, it means it's twitch as hell.

tim: it's like . . . half-twitch. well, maybe three-quarters-twitch. a lot of times i feel like even perfect reflexes wouldn't be enough to do what i'm expected to do. there's a little luck involved. situational luck.

justin: That sucks.

tim: kind of.

justin: I don't want luck in my twitch.

justin: Defeats the purpose.

tim: no one does

tim: hell, i should throw this whole thing up on insert credit. hey, you say something about this game. the story or something. mention developer names. while i throw myself at this level one last time.

tim: starting . . . now.

justin: Well, shit.

justin: It was made by NAUGHTY DOG.

justin: They are Jason Rubin, and...some other guy.

justin: They made Crash.

justin: Which sold fuck-loads in Japan.

justin: And did NOT help that country get GTA.

justin: The story takes place after the first J&D.

justin: Jak appears to be very angery.

justin: So angry, infact, that his ears point horizontal instead of vertical.

justin: And he says "ass".

justin: Damn it.

justin: He's after revenge.

justin: Daxter is after being funny and/or annoying.

justin: Together, they are going to kill a lot more things than they did in the original game.

justin: Which was a pretty good game, even.

justin: I'm not entirely sure what this revenge business is all about; I think it involves a scientist.

justin: Probably the bad guy from the original game.

(take ten minutes, and . . .)


tim: i can't make this last jump

justin: Death?

tim: death like six times.

tim: as for jak looking angery (i'm going to start using that word FOREVER), he now has a GOATEE.

justin: This level shall be christened one of TWITCH/LUCK.

tim: did he have a goatee in the first one?

justin: No.

justin: TWITCH/LUCK is a new genre, like STYLISH HARD ACTION.

justin: This does not make Jason Rubin as cool as Shinji Mikami.

justin: How many different guns were in the first level?

tim: if this game were a little more stylish, we'd be onto something.

tim: just one.

tim: well, two.

justin: Hmmmm.

tim: jak has this . . . distortion-ish shockwave shotgun.

justin: That doesn't look good on the back of a box.

justin: Yeah. I saw that a lot in the trailer thing.

tim: and the . . . military dude has a bigass electric-bolt gun.

tim: which he snipes shit with.

justin: Can you play as that guy?

tim: no.

tim: you have to cover him while he charges up beams to kill the . . . designated enemies.

tim: he kept calling them 'metalheads'.

tim: which is either an in-game-world slang-word, or their rightful name.

justin: That's not quite as cool as the two-man sniping at the end of Metal Gear Solid 2, I'm afraid.

justin: in-game-world slang isn't bad.

justin: Except the slang usually has no basis.

tim: not exactly as cool, no

justin: Like, these metalheads--they need to have a real name if that is slang.

tim: hell, im getting good at this part of the level

tim: i have to keep using my right thumb to reposition the left thumbstick under my left thumb. which either means that my thumbstick's grip surface is wearing off or my thumb is sweating.

tim: or . . . what?

justin: I don't know.

justin: That's kind of weird, though.

justin: I don't think I've ever used one thumb to mess with the other.

tim: it reminds me kind of like using one hand to steady a steering wheel while you . . . quickly do something with the other.

tim: like grab a tissue before you sneeze or something

tim: yet . . . i'm not sneezing

justin: Or driving.

justin: Just SHREDDING

justin: On a JETBOARD

tim: holy shit -- i just jumped over a ramp on accident, and . . . DIED!

justin: How long do you think it's been since you last died this much in one gaming session? This could be useful information.

tim: hell, i really can't say.

tim: well, the first time i played ikaruga?

tim: except that was a little more extreme

justin: That would make sense.

tim: i made PROGRESS in that game, though

justin: Yeah.

justin: Dying in Ikaruga doesn't mean anything

justin: Its part of the game.

tim: i'm not MAKING PROGRESS, here; i'm getting to a jump i cant make, and then not making it, and sometimes dying while GETTING to that jump -- dying on jumps i've MADE before. every time i die, i start at the beginning, and i don't mind that. it just makes me wonder: is this game going to feature LIVES? i mean, super mario sunshine made me think we don't really need extra lives in these types of games anymore. you know?

justin: It's true.

justin: SMS was hard, yet you could stock up any time you wanted.

justin: And yet, it was still hard.

justin: The extra lives aren't doing anything for you either way.

tim: i mean, why not just die, and get a 'retry this level / return to hub' prompt?

justin: Yeah.

tim: the game's not about winning in a set number of lives anymore

tim: though, this game makes me think . . .

tim: what if someone made a 3D platformer that WAS about winning in as few lives as possible? this game makes me very hopeful for mario 128.

justin: It might be hard to do.

tim: i was thinking about mario 128 the other day. miyamoto said something about it being something like the hidden stages in super mario sunshine, right?

tim: obstacle courses?

tim: remember BUBSY on SNES?

justin: I do.

justin: Well, I played it on the Genesis. it was the same game.

tim: how all the magazines talked about it having 'BIG LEVELS' with 'MULTIPLE PATHS'

tim: (not to mention lots of 'DEATH ANIMATIONS' and 'VOICES!')

tim: well, the 'MULTIPLE PATHS' thing is . . . cool

tim: in bubsy, it was all vertically oriented

tim: one path was hidden above or below another

tim: super mario 64 hid things all over the place

tim: super mario sunshine's 'hidden' levels reminded me slightly of crash bandicoot; the goal, to a certain extent, is always to go 'up' -- like in super mario bros., where you're going 'right'

justin: Yeah.

tim: wouldn't it r0xx0r, i was wondering, if they made an obstacle-course-like level, in 3D, where the goal is to go 'up' toward the goal -- yet the whole level is WIDE, with 'alternate paths' being horizontally oriented? go right or left to find . . . something else. either way, you're always going 'up'?

justin: Well, that's kind of what the better Sonic games always did (and do)

justin: You are always going right

justin: You can do it up or down, though, depending on what you want.

tim: this game, on this jetboard -- it makes me think of that, in such a way as to suggest that it's REMINDING me of that game, which i've never played.

tim: well, to a certain extent, the sonic ADVENTURE games have narrow paths. you feel walled in.

justin: It's just that Sonic was about efficiency in that regard.

justin: Yeah.

tim: sonic 's secret paths are too . . . i don't know. they don't feel like alternate paths; they feel like simply parts of the main path. they're like wallpaper. bubsy's levels were like . . . paint. whatever that means.

tim: and in sonic adventure, since the game is "3D," and they love to flaunt it

tim: (and who can blame them for loving to flaunt it?)

tim: the path through the level winds around itself so many damned times, in mind-boggling ways. sometimes, the camera pulls back, to show you, 'THIS is how cool we are, and how hard we rock it!' at those times, no matter how '3D' the game is, i feel . . . like it's really 2.5-D.

justin: Yeah

justin: And you can actually fall back to earlier parts of the levels in the Adventure games.

tim: you can.

justin: Which just doesn't work at all in Sonic.

tim: true

tim: part of sonic is getting somewhere and it being TOTALLY ridiculous to even THINK of going back. like . . . you've just run through a loop. why stop and go back? it requires too much buildup.

justin: Which is kind of the problem with Sonic Advance 2 -- that's a different story, though.

tim: i have not yet played sonic advance 2.

tim: i thought for a second you said SONIC ADVENTURE 2

tim: at which point i was going to type:


tim: yet . . . couldn't, because that isn't what you said

justin: heh.

tim: just died again. twice.

justin: Damn.

tim: hell, i want to die this many times in a mario game

justin: You almost could in Sunshine.

justin: In the bonus areas, at least.

tim: i hate to sound this way, though . . . i want miyamoto to come around and make this kind of rock-hard gameplay . . . POLISHED.

justin: They just weren't long enough to really hand it to you.

tim: yet, there i am, making miyamoto into a god again

tim: they weren't.

tim: some have brainstormed: why not remake super mario bros. 3 in the style of those sunshine bonus levels? and ive thought . . . it could work

justin: It's a better idea than forcing people to buy a damn E-READER to unlock new shit in the GBA port.

(five more minutes of my morning, and . . .)

tim: okay: i can make the jump. consistently.

tim: i just can't make the one after it. and now i've died twice in a row falling off a pipe because i'm not control-sticking properly while grinding. i think i should just . . . grind, without having to pay attention to the stick. it's hard enough now as it is. and we reach the fourth night of this level.

justin: You have to balance, Tony Hawk style?

tim: yeah

justin: Huh.

tim: i think that balancing is a little too much.

justin: I would've figured Jet Set would've set the rules for this type of thing in a platformer by now.

tim: well, jet set radio future's sucking ripped all credibility from the series, perhaps.

justin: No.

tim: hell. this game's aesthetics are really growing on me. and, at the same time, speaking volumes for the unbalance in difficulty.

justin: I liked JSRF a lot.

tim: well, good for you

tim: anyway

justin: heh

tim: when jak whips out the JETBOARD, he does it with a SWINGing motion; his hair flops up, his clothes flop around; daxter flips around, clings to jak's pant leg, twirls, lands on the board. when you land from a jump, daxter hangs in the air a second, and then lands on the board. all these needless graphical flourishes. they're well-animated, sure. they just . . . they make the game look -- and maybe even FEEL -- loose.

justin: I'm not really sure what to think of useless graphical things like that.

justin: I don't really care about them.

justin: Yet, without them, maybe I would...?

justin: I could see those animations throw off your jumping timing though.

tim: FUCK

tim: i just died TWICE on this one jump i've done a HUNDRED times, because my board got caught on the tip of a chasm.

tim: i just died on the moving-platform jump again

tim: because i inexplicably slowed down when i hit the platform, then did a double jump, which went straight up -- the downward arc of which coincided with the platform's being GONE.

tim: wow, i just discovered that i can apparently kill the little monsters by landing on them with a double jump

justin: The nuts and bolts of this level seem a little sloppy.

tim: which . . . is really asking too much of me.

tim: i mean, this being 3D and all.

tim: pop-quiz: when you fought goombas in super mario (this is the simple example)

tim: did you:

tim: a. punch them most of the time

tim: b. jump on them most of the time

tim: ?

justin: Punch.

justin: Which is...why the punch existed.

tim: exactly. now, if mario ran 40 miles per hour, you'd most likely want to punch, right?

tim: i mean, there's only so much you can handle as a player.

tim: people say manual aiming in halo is more 'realistic' than auto-targeting in metroid prime. i don't think so. case in point: you give me a skateboard and a field full of squirrels, and i can probably kill them all more efficiently and simply than i can kill these little things in jak and daxter ii.

tim: okay, i just BREEZED through the level up to the tough part again.

tim: i am half-amazed.

tim: yet i wonder . . . will i die here, only to be defeated four times trying to get back to this spot again?

tim: the better i get, the more i seem to like this game.

justin: That's not a bad formula for a designer.

tim: which is odd -- many games use initial challenge as a draw; the game gets old as it gets easier for the player.

justin: Well, maybe.

justin: Look at shooters, though.

justin: Or fighters.

tim: in this genre of TWITCH/LUCK 3D PLATFORMING, i die, yet . . . don't feel like dying is making me better

tim: well, yeah, in a fighter, the more you are defeated, the stronger you become.

justin: It is weird for a platformer, though. Even a TWITCH/LUCK one.

tim: i don't feel like i'm learning from my mistakes. in a kung-fu movie, the young guy loses to the old guy, and the old guy says, 'see, i used my _____ ________ __________ing fist!'

tim: then, later in the movie, the young guy uses the _____ ________ __________ing fist to conquer the final enemy. it works.

justin: It does.

justin: Full circle.

tim: so yeah. i'm not learning any SUPER MOVE in this game. i'm making mistakes and dying, yet not learning from my mistakes.

justin: and still playing.

tim: and still playing.

tim: the game is on the verge of defeating me philosophically.

justin: Heh

tim: and it's still just a DEMO.

tim: which I've been playing for two hours now.

tim: in other words: i want MORE.

justin: That would be quite an accomplishment.

justin: ...do we even know what percentage of the actual game involves jetboarding, and TWITCH/LUCK platforming action?

tim: if it's as full of 'cars' as you hyped it to be, i'd say there's plenty more insane shit where this came from.

justin: Well, I hyped it to be full of guns too, and we've only seen two of them, so who knows?

tim: shit

tim: i just died by running into a poison swamp without my jetboard.

justin: Those naughty dawgs could throw anything out there. No good.

tim: and then just got hit by a little enemy on the way to the first ramp. hell, this game keeps on surprising me. yet i MUST beat this demo

tim: regarding naughty dog: remember that nude code for RINGS OF POWER on genesis?

justin: I remember hearing of it.

tim: i remember when ULTRA GAME PLAYERS ran a picture of the naked woman in the game. and said 'this is nothing you couldn't find in your parents' closet, kids.' it was great. i never felt like they were talking down to me; it was nice. a good magazine for a fat, depressed high school student to read.

justin: UGP was a pretty fucked-up read.

tim: hell, i was in the local import game store a couple of weeks ago, and they had WAY OF THE WARRIOR for 3DO set up. i remember EGM interviewing the naughty dog guys about that one. they said, 'we heard you made this game in your basement.'

justin: Wasn't that the Fabio game?

tim: no, you're thinking about IRONSWORD: WIZARDS AND WARRIORS -- by rare. for NES .

tim: so yeah. naughty dog said, 'no -- we didn't have a basement. we made it in our garage.' and they were DEAD serious.

justin: Damn

justin: Rare. Figures.

tim: WAY OF THE WARRIOR was a suckass 3D fighter a la mortal kombat -- only with grainier digitization.

justin: Sounds like Rise of the Robots.

tim: only a little better.

tim: i remember kids at school SQUEALING about how "WAY OF THE WARRIOR KICKS ASS!!!" rise of the robots didn't get that kind of treatment.

tim: so it seems that naughty dog got paid, in the beginning, for copying shit. now they get paid for copying shit WELL. jak and daxter was a more-than-decent mario "clone". this is . . . something else.

justin: I think Naughty Dog should make more something elses. Things that aren't platformers. They strike me as talented enough. They're Rare, with a little more...focus.

tim: well, rare wouldn't allow this many loosenesses in their platformers.

justin: They'd just have you collect widgets and screwdads and humptyfucks instead of making the jumps.

justin: And when Rare temporarily left platforming, we ended up with Goldeneye.

justin: Which is their best game.

tim: it just might be.

tim: fuck, i just died.

tim: i died by hitting a chainsaw. on my best-yet run.

justin: (though RC Pro AM was the god-damn shit)

justin: No good.

tim: (so was solar jetman)

tim: hell, now i think i understand why the sony reps were handing this demo to people as they entered the sony booth. i think they WANTED us to take it home and log a couple hours on it. that was the booth babes' INTENTION.

justin: Maybe.

tim: shit, there's this part on a half-pipe. where you have to time your jumps to get up and out. it doesn't flow well. as a matter of fact, it flows mind-blowingly not well. i can actually feel my toes curl here. it causes the inside of my head actual physical pain to try to jump out of the end of this halfpipe; there's not even a pit to die in inside this thing. holy hell.

tim: it interrupts the speed of the level. i'd like to tell some designers to just get rid of this whole segment. pave it in or something. tell them to 'edit' it out of the level. just to hear someone say, 'that's not the way we make videogames'. and i'd say, 'well, maybe it SHOULD be'.

justin: Bah. Five o'clock. I'm going to bed.

tim: shit

justin: You beat that shit before you go to bed.

tim: i'm about ready to quit this shit.

justin: Heh

justin: And I'm out.

justin: Tell me how it goes, or something.

tim: i'll try.

tim: later, man.

(fifteen minutes . . .)

tim: i . . . think I beat it.

An hour after I thought I had won, I beat that cursed demo. Upon completing the last jump, the screen went black. I'm staring at that black screen now, as I write this up. Behind the black-screen-curtain, I can hear the machinery of the "Strip Mine" level clicking and whirring. The game froze after I jumped out onto the crane I was supposed to jump on. I think a cutscene was suppose to load. I'm not sure.

I get the idea no one was supposed to have come this far.

This was the single hardest game demo I have ever played. If you can beat this demo, dear reader, there is nothing you can't do in the world of videogames. You probably beat Ikaruga on your first life on your first try. You're probably that good. You are Captain N: The Game Master. You probably have a Nintendo Entertainment System pad for a belt buckle; when you press Start, the world pauses, and you're free to totally go feel up girls or steal lollipops.

Or, well, scratch that. Beating the "Strip Mine" level of the Jak and Daxter II demo doesn't rely so much on skill at videogames as it relies on . . . loving videogames a whole hell of a lot. The guys at Naughty Dog, no doubt, love more videogames than they ought to. My mother always told me that I love more games than I ought to, so maybe the guys at Naughty Dog and I have something in common. And God knows someone like me can't be a bad person!

I want to play more of this game. I'm hoping that the several glaring flaws will be fixed. For one thing -- really, Naughty Dog, either your play-testers were former members of the US National Videogame Team, or that jump involving the grind-transfer to a moving platform is too fucking hard. Try making the platform's patrol line a little shorter on the sides; try making it move a little faster, and be a little god-damned closer to the grinding rails.

I beat this demo first because I wanted to write detailed impressions of this game, which I think I've done, and secondly because it made me feel a burning need in the pit of my soul. Looking very closely at one tiny portion of Jak and Daxter II has helped me understand many deep things about my nature as a gamer, my potential as a game designer, and the future of the world to come.

In the beginning of the demo, where the title Jak II is displayed, Daxter being nominally neglected despite his polygonal presence standing atop the logo, we can see a futuristic city. In cut-scenes, we hear a scientist talking. We see Jak acting cool. We see flying cars. The game pulls back from the city view of the beginning, and it feels right. False as the "maturity" may be, unbalanced as the challenge may present itself, I want to walk down a street in that city, in this game that is made by people who hold the power to, some day, make something more than completely grand.

I await that something, Naughty Dog -- and your dastardly demo, which no one may have been meant to beat, has quite impossibly excited me about your game. I shall play it, and conquer it, when it is released.

Four hours and sixteen minutes have passed since I turned on my PlayStation2 with the Jak II demo inside. In the easy stage, "Pumping Station," I died four times. In the hard stage, "Strip Mine," I died seventy-seven times. Upon beating that stage on my seventy-eighth attempt, I was awarded with a black screen.


--tim rogers actually has a copy of rings of power lying around somewhere