Tough boss battles I can handle. At climactic moments in a game, it’s fair to throw some heat at the player. You push and push, you spend time learning the boss’s moves and attack patterns, and you gain great satisfaction from overcoming your adversary. Jak II has some pretty good boss battles. But there are also a handful of missions in there that are even harder, and they pull the game’s progress curve off balance. There were occasions where I spent hours trying and retrying a mission dozens and dozens of times, only to finish it and see a measly 1% added to my tally.
These missions, and the incessant back-and-forthing across the city (because no mission ever ends any closer to the beginning of the next than two or three minutes cruising through trigger-happy-guard-infested streets) are intensely annoying in their own right. However, what’s even more annoying is that the game has a good story, and very engaging characters that made me want to know what was going to happen next. So no matter how much I swore at the screen and the game designers, I couldn’t just throw the controller away in disgust and bite chunks out of the disc. I had to keep coming back for more punishment.
I suppose that’s the sign of a “great” game, but I’m still not convinced that it was. In too many of those really tough missions I felt like I was battling against flawed design rather than pitting my wits and skills against the in-game baddies. For most of the second half of the game, the missions were something to be suffered between cut-scenes that advanced the plot. For a game that ought to have a wide appeal, I imagine that only a relatively small proportion of people will actually play it all the way through to the end. Which is a shame, because the final pay-off is worthwhile, and despite all the frustrations I did enjoy it. A lot.