Silent Jak

An attractive pair if I ever saw one.

I just picked up Jak and Daxter (finally!) in a bundle of awesome PS2 games that I got for super cheap.  I got Jak and Daxter 1,2 and 3; Onimusha 1,2 and 3; and Beyond Good and Evil, all for only $30.00.  This is my year for amazing deals on video games apparently.

But I’m getting off track.  I’m thoroughly enjoying this game so far.  The colourful environments and subtle but enjoyable music make for a great experience, and the  needy villagers are only mildly annoying as I was expecting a bunch of “daily errand quests” going in. 

Dude! I'm so glad you're here! I'm almost out of milk and I'm too lazy to go get it myself!

The controls are good, if a bit lazy and the camera is only irritating about 10-20% of the time.  So like I say, overall this is going really well.  And of course you already know all of this because if you were interested in the game at all you would have read about all of this 10 years ago when the game first came out.

My real complaint is about Jak’s lack of words.  This is not a complaint about silent protagonists.  Some of my favourite characters in the business are silent.  There’s Link, Jack (Bioshock, hello?), Gordon Freeman, all silent and all amazing. 

And this isn’t an entry against voice actors either.  Sly Cooper’s cool and soothing vocals more than made the character for me.  And those vocals in contrast to cartoonish but kind Murray and couldn’t be nerdier Bentley helped shape all three characters and turn them into the three dimensional characters we’ve come to love.  But with that in mind I move to the strong silent types in gaming.

Take Link, he has the exact same vocalization as Jak.  Both work with a series of grunts and shouts and that’s it.  Except it’s not.  Every character in Legend of Zelda is silent.  They speak of course, but the producers have chosen to communicate their conversations through reading.  When engaged in conversation, we don’t read Link’s side, but it’s more than clear what he’s said.  Every character I’ve met so far in Jak and Daxter has been voiced by a real person and in Jak’s case there have been several occassions already (and I’m only very early in the game) where Jak has gone to say something and just stopped himself.  It’s as if he’s going out of his way to shut up.  One can argue that this is a case of a silent protagonist with an overly chatty sidekick balancing each other out, but it can’t be easy for Daxter to constantly assume what Jak wants to communicate.  It’s like when you’re jinxed and you have to sit there shrugging and wincing your way through a conversation until somebody unjinxes you.

The bottom line is that vocals don’t necessarily make or break a game, there are amazing games on both ends of that spectrum…but if you’re going to pay a voice actor for the crazy farmer who lives next door, it’s just as well to get someone for your main character too.

Cheers!  –Cassie

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