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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 October, 2003, 08:02 GMT 09:02 UK
Platform video games evolve
As platform games get more complex, they must at some point evolve into another genre, says Daniel Etherington of BBCi Collective in his weekly games column.

Screen shot of Jak II
Many of the elements in Jak II borrow from other genres

In certain sections of Jak II: Renegade, the sequel to the hit 2001 PlayStation 2 title Jak & Daxter, you can experience the entire history of platform gaming.

You find yourself leaping between platforms, running across collapsing walkways, climbing up things, and eluding traps and enemies.

You also find yourself doing it over and over again until you have got it perfect.

Such is the essence of the classic platform game.

But beyond the platforming stages in Jak II is a gloomy city, clearly influenced by Grand Theft Auto, where roaming, car-jacking and police avoidance is the order of the day.

You also acquire weapons and can blow the stuffing out of a series of beasts, or the cops if you prefer to cause a scene.

There are also missions that take you beyond the city walls, which all show that platforming really has come a long way.

Something else?

Naughty Dog, the developers of Jak II, had a key role in this evolution with their Crash Bandicoot series, and of course Miyamoto is at the heart of the history of platforming with games like Yoshi's Island, Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine.

In terms of the visuals and game environments, the advent of three dimensions was superficially a big leap in the evolution of platformers.

Arguably, a new genre has emerged with the likes of Jak, Haven, Ratchet & Clank, and Mario Sunshine

It also proved how the genre, in its basic form, could only support so many variables and motifs, so the games got larger and the narratives became more elaborate.

But do more fancy narratives dictate that the platforming game needs to start picking and mixing from other genres? Is diversification the only way for the platformer to evolve?

If so, one might ask when does it cease to be a platformer and become something else.

Jak II is a quality game. It is fun, elaborate, it looks good and largely has decent controls, although the camera is mildly problematic.

Arguably, a new genre has emerged with the likes of Jak, Haven, Ratchet & Clank, and Mario Sunshine.

With its mix of jumping, exploring, collecting, racing, shooting, puzzling and lots of fighting, the question is whether such a game like Jak II can still simply be called "a platformer".


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