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Game 52 of 52: Jak & Daxter The Precursor Legacy - 01/07/24


Ryannumber1gamer

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Well, it's been a long journey through over 50 games, and it's all led to this. If you recall back to the last time we looked at this series, you'll recall that I mentioned that that wouldn't be the last time we'd be visiting this series over the course of the challenge, and that's because I knew full-well that Game 52 had to be a special one. While I intend to continue the series after this post, much like other blogs are doing, I still wanted the 'official' end to be a game that was special to me, and honestly, there's not many other games that's as special to me than this one.

My earliest memories with The Precursor Legacy starts years ago, with a demo disc. Not the famous demo disc that contained the Misty Island demo. No, while I had the famous one that held the demo of Ratchet and Clank, which included my first ever glimpse of Metropolis. No, the demo disc I had was one with a much more random selection of games. Airblade, Klonoa 2, and Dark Cloud being a few off the top of my head.

However, in that demo disc, there was a video for a game just called 'Jak and Daxter', and when I saw the trailer? Little did I know it would become not only one of my all time favourite trailers of all time, but it would be one of my all time favourite games, if not my actual favourite.

The perfect song choice (The song for the record is 'In a Ocean of Joy' by Dreamcatche, btw), bold, ominous, peaceful, and downright beautiful. It does such a good job accompanying this trailer that's all there to just show you this grand, epic world, filled with different locales, friends, enemies, and everything inbetween. The trailer just does such a perfect job of feeling whimsical, peaceful, and adventurous, climaxing with the montage of Jak collecting power cells throughout the game's many different worlds. It's so simple, but damn if it isn't effective. 

Luckily, unlike other cases of just seeing a trailer on a demo disc and waiting forever to play the game, I had a friend at the time who had Precursor Legacy in their collection, and as such, I was able to play it quite a few times, even getting a lend of it on occasion, and finally getting my own copy of it at some point.

Funnily enough at the time, I thought the entire game was just the first hub world, and all you needed was 20 power cells. I never really got far as a kid, because I could never beat the Fisherman's minigame, which mean I couldn't get that power cell, and therefore couldn't get the boat to access Misty Island. Yet I kept coming back repeatedly, to play through the starting levels. If that's not a testament to how good the game is that a kid comes back to play the first few levels to the point Sentinel Beach becomes a iconic level to them, something's been done right. 

But as time went on, I got better and better, eventually beat that damn minigame, got into Misty Island, and continued along, and boy was it a experience getting to finally see what there was after Fire Canyon. Now, let's just stop beating around the bush and get into it.


Moving the (Open)GOAL posts:

First things first, before moving into things proper, I wanted to take a minute to shout out this incredible project. For anyone who doesn't know what OpenGOAL is - it's a community effort by a team of hardcore dedicated Jak fans who love the franchise so much that they're working tirelessly not only to decompile and port the original game to PC, but to do so for the ENTIRE trilogy. 

OpenGOAL is a complete port of the game to PC, with numerous QoL changes, remastered textures, higher resolutions, support for higher framerates, glitches fixed, mod support enabled, subtitles + cutscene skipping added, a speedrunner mode added, and a heap of other features that I don't know if I can fully cover, so I'll just drop this to do so:

On top of that, OpenGOAL works perfectly on Decky, and at the time of writing, both Jak 1 and Jak 2 are properly decompiled and ported, with Jak 3 well in the works at this point. Be sure to check the project out, and give it a shot yourself, as it's the definitive way to play the Jak games at this point, just be aware you need to supply your own copy of the game for the decomplication to work. 

https://opengoal.dev/


The Many Mysteries of the Universe (The Story):

As one of the earliest PlayStation 2 titles, Jak & Daxter firmly fits into a middle area in terms of story where while it's still fairly simplistic and to the point, there's still a fair amount of characterisation, detailed cutscenes and voice work. All of the characters is very well voice acted, the writing is pretty funny and witty, and the game does a good job of setting up this world filled with so many quirky characters all over the place, who all work to further your goals. Each character feels distinct and memorable, for the short time they're around. But still, let's not get ahead of ourselves.

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The game begins on a starry night, where our titular heroes, Jak & Daxter have opted to ignore the advice of the wise Samos the Green Eco Sage, and sneak off to Misty Island - a dark, dangerous island off in the distance where a army of dangerous lurkers live. It is during this visit that Jak & Daxter discover that a mysterious duo of evil villains has taken lead of the Lurkers, enslaving them, and planning to use a dangerous substance named Dark Eco for their own nefarious goals. 

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Sneaking further into the island, Jak & Daxter find a pool of this Dark Eco, and upon accidentally activating a old precursor bomb, and being ambushed by a lurker, Jak gets knocked back and accidentally sends Daxter flying into the pool of Dark Eco. Moments pass as Jak looks on in concern, when Daxter is suddenly flung back out of the pool, albeit...

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...Yeah, like that. That my friends - is a ottsel. A mix of a otter, and a weasel. Understandably freaked out, Jak and Daxter hightail it back to Sandover Village to seek the aid of Samos the Sage, who tells them bluntly that he can do absolutely nothing - because there's a sage for each type of eco - green, blue, red, yellow, and dark - and the Dark Eco sage - Gol - lives far, far off in the North, and with him being the only chance of returning Daxter to normal, and the other sages having not turned their portals on, the duo are essentially trapped within Sandover, as the only way north is via a very dangerous lava canyon.

Luckily, this is where Samos' daughter comes in. Keira is a expert mechanic who has been working on a special zoomer that can do the job of getting them across the canyon - if only they can find 20 power cells scattered around the world to power a heat shield.

With little choice, this sends Jak & Daxter off on a long quest around this entire world, meeting eccentric villagers, taking on fearsome foes, and eventually, learning that they'll need to save the planet from being bathed in a flood of Dark Eco in a effort to recreate it anew. 

You Scratch My Back...

While I could go into more detail about the story, I'd rather keep the surprises in store, and actually talk more about what the game's real best attribute is in the story, and it's the world-building, and characters. You meet so many wonderfully unique, quirky, and silly characters throughout your adventure to gather power cells and journey north to Gol's lab. Like any good collectathon, you have many villagers who have things that can help you, but will only hand 'em over if you do something for them.

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There's a blathering mayor who will only hand over two power cells if you sort out a power problem that's happened due to a temple being unkept and overrun by Dark Eco infected plant life. You have Jak's uncle who wants you to supply orbs for his expeditions while accidentally insulting Daxter right in front of his face. You have a birdwatcher who wants you to save a literally horse size bird that mistakes Daxter for it's mama. You have a mumbling tired farmer who'd rather sleep while you go and gather all of his yakows. 

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You have villagers that actually tie into each other's stories. For example, you have a now emotionally crippled 'fearsome' warrior that got bested by a giant Lurker, and is now utterly terrified to go anywhere near a enemy, instead preferring to wallow in his misery in one of the last remaining structures, as well as a Gambler who outright lost all of his money, and even his pants betting on the Warrior's attempt to beat the lurker, leading on you to now need to fund both of them to get out of there, as well as help collect on another bet for the Gambler.

There's just so many unique faces you meet during the adventure, all of them unique, and fun to speak to. Of course, I'd also be remiss to not mention the absolute peak of the characters in this game.

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While Jak is completely mute in this game, beyond a few annoyed grunts, Daxter does more than enough dialogue, and interaction for both of them. Daxter - bluntly - is one of my all-time favourite comic reliefs. I love the snarky comments he makes at the expense of the oddballs you meet throughout the adventure. The death quotes you get upon dying adds so much humour and character to a death, to the point it makes it a bit of a treat seeing all of the jokes Daxter can crack at your expense. His big ego mixed with rather cowardly ways, yet still joining Jak for the adventure adds such a fun contract.

Admittedly, he is a little one-note in his position as wise-cracking comic relief in this game and the later games would add more development, but Daxter still gets a good showing here.

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That's not to act like Jak is completely one-note and has no personality like other mute characters (*cough* Link *cough*), while later games would give him a voice and give him more of a personality, he still actually gets to emote a fair bit here, both thanks to Daxter's inclusion giving him someone to bounce off, but his body language does manage to convey a lot.

You can get pieces of personality from how you see him react to situations. He intentionally disobeys Samos' orders because he wants to seek out adventure and excitement. He expresses annoyance with how Daxter calls him his sidekick at points, he expresses confusion, determination, anger, and annoyance during several cutscenes, and yet you can also see playfulness and excitement in how he reacts to the power cell animations with Daxter. It'd be easy to just have Jak do some generic item get animation while Daxter's the one doing the playful animation, but often times, Jak and Daxter are coordinated with these collection animations - a small touch, but it does a lot to show how the two of them do share a similarity in terms of how they like to celebrate victories and all of that, all capped off with this:

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I'm not saying it's a ton, but I appreciate it, and I do think Naughty Dog had good experience with it, considering Crash is Jak's direct predecessor, a character all about body language and expression work.  

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(excuse the use of a Jak X image, apparently it's hard to find a image of Keira and Samos together in this game lol)

Keira and Samos round out the main cast, and they're just as fun additions as Jak and Daxter. It would've been really easy for them to just be tutorial characters who just hang back at Samos' hut following the first world, but by using teleporter gates, that also double as fast travel points, the game manages to include them the whole way through, and I'm really happy they do, because they round out the cast fantastically. Keira is a hot-headed mechanic who can fire back snarky quips right back at Daxter every time he tries to flirt with her, and does a great job as Jak's mission control when you need to bring in new vehicles for certain levels.

Samos on the other hand works extremely well as both the wise sage character, but also having his own quirks in that he's the sage of Green Eco, which is life, meaning he has literal wildlife living on his head, but his short temper, anger, and like of being alone makes him a good foil against both Jak and Daxter too, and makes it satisfying when he acknowledges them as true heroes.

The lore itself is also just really interesting. The mysteries established with the precursors, the world and how it works with eco, the sages, the oracle statues with a mysterious tie to the Precursors, and all of the various ruins you can find that connects to the precursors just does absolute wonders for the worldbuilding and making the world feel so realised. 

Really, what else can I say? The character work in this game is really fun, often times overlooked a lot compared to Ratchet & Clank that would come just a year later. Now that we've pretty extensively covered that, I think we can jump into the next thing I'd like to cover.

Daxter taught Jak everything he knows! (The Gameplay):

So, much like how Sly Cooper and the Thievius Racconus was kind of the evolution of the A to B platformer, I would consider Jak and Daxter is one of the final big hurrahs of the Collectathon. In a world where Banjo-Tooie and DK 64 would sink the genre due to the ridiculous requirements, and the contentious nature of Super Mario Sunshine in how it opted to handle it's progression, Jak & Daxter is what I would consider the peak of what Super Mario 64 established was back in 1996.

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Much like Super Mario 64, or Banjo-Kazooie, you explore various levels, each with about eight objectives in each one that has a power cell, and you're free to collect specifically, only the power cells you want to find. The only one that requires all of them is the tutorial level, while the rest is fully up to the player. All you need to progress is the bare minimum of Power Cells that Keira asks you for. 

Just like many like to say about Super Mario 64, Jak controls smooth like absolute butter in this game. His movement abilities are so insanely fun to play around with, and there is just so much flow to them that he is just a absolute delight to play as. You can long jump, high jump, uppercut, spin kick, punch, double jump, and more. Even better, you can combo all of these moves however you like, giving you much more freedom as to how you use Jak's movement abilities to access certain areas. You can even do as intended, or use Jak's abilities in certain ways to let you reach areas early. Again, I like to think this is a game that fully realises, evolves, and perfectly handles something set up back in Mario 64, and other collectathons. Honestly, I think it took all the way until Mario Odyssey before we got a platforming game that controls as tightly and as nicely as Jak does here.

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On top of Jak's natural abilities, what really changes up the game as well is the game's four different types of eco (technically five), all of which have different attributes. Green eco restores Jak's health, and in certain levels, can heal infected plant life from the effects of Dark Eco. Blue eco can enhance Jak's speed, making him run extremely fast, destroying nearby boxes, attracting Orbs, and activating doors, platforms, and launch pads. Red eco doubles Jak's attack power, making it easy to kill hoards of enemies, and yellow eco gives Jak the ability to fire fireballs as projectiles, destroying certain metal boxes and taking enemies out from afar.

It's simple enough with these power ups, but it doesn't change the fact how much fun it is to actually grab these for the times it changes up the gameplay experience. From taking on ambushes with red eco, to doing shooter segments with the yellow eco, or racing around with blue eco, it adds some needed spice to the game without taking away from it.

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That isn't all the gameplay has to offer though, as there's two main forms of vehicle segments. The first is the Zoomer, which drives a bit looser compared to Jak's tighter controls, but it's still pretty fun to blitz around, ramming down enemies with it, racing through hoops, and jumping over ramps to hit certain collectibles. 

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That's not all though, as you also have Flutt-Flutt, the bird that you save earlier in Sentinel Beach who deems Daxter as it's mama. Keira will teleport the small bird in during certain levels where Jak can't normally traverse, due to Flutt Flutt having a high flutter jump that can easily platform segments Jak can't easily get around, do so at a faster speed, and remain immune to certain hazardous materials that'll damage and kill Jak otherwise. While they don't feature in the game a ton, both the Zoomer and Flutt-Flutt does a good job of changing things up whenever they show up.

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Compared to the extremes that other collect-a-thon games were reaching at the time, Jak thankfully keeps the collectibles down to a reasonable level, with only three main items to collect. The main collectible is Power Cells, which acts as your power stars of the game, with each level having about eight power cells per level for a total of 101. This can differ in certain areas, however. The other main type is precursor orbs, that are scattered everyone, much like your music notes or coins from Mario or Banjo Kazooie. 

Luckily however, these are limited to about 150-200 per level, with a tally counter to tell you exactly how many you have, and thankfully - most levels are extremely easy to find orbs and collectibles. The final collectible on the other hand is Scout Flies, contained in red metal crates that upon collecting seven in each level, will reward a power cell, which I honestly like. It's a reasonable number of collectibles, they're fun to seek out in the levels, and in most levels, you can 100% them out of the gate. Only two levels require backtracking, and it's possible to avoid one instance if you go to the Forbidden Jungle first. 

Now that we've covered all that...

Far, Far to the North (Levels):

Some people have Green Hill Zone as their iconic starting level. Some people have Peach's Castle as the world that they love so much as a iconic opener. Some people even choose Mumbo's Mountain as one of the best opening areas of a game.

For me however?

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Sandover Village is probably my all-time favourite starting area of any game. True, Geyser Rock is the first level as the tutorial, but Sandover is where you truly get to experience the rest of the game for yourself. It's filled with fun and interesting villagers to speak to. It naturally leads you to the first other two major levels of the game, and it's a good safe area to introduce you to a lot of the mechanics while not being as thick as the tutorial was.

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In general, I think the sheer variety of levels in Jak and Daxter is just great, and they're so well-designed and tightly built that it makes them just extremely fun to traverse and explore through. From the sandy beaches of Sentinel Beach, which contains some silly missions like attacking a seagull and racing it back to a power cell before it can steal it repeatedly, to chasing down a flock of pigeons who accidentally destroy a cliffside, which frees a power cell.

Forbidden Jungle similarly is great for showing how different the vibes can be and giving a good intro to how varied the gameplay can be, especially with how it's built to showcase blue eco usage, exploring and platforming through some ruins, activating the blue eco around the world, showing how actions in one level can affect other levels, and even taking on your first miniboss with a plant.

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Honestly, it's just great how varied the worlds are in the game. You have Rock Canyon being completely different to Sandover, a rain drenched village that's been torn asunder by a giant lurker who acts as the boss of the area. You get to explore a Lost Precursor City that's hidden underwater, giving you a glimpse of the sealife around you outside, as you traverse through the tunnels and do various slide challenges and more. There's the peaks of Snowy Mountain, a huge snow area where lurkers have built a base up there, a base you need to sneak into by finding a hidden gate lever, as well as exploring both up and down, and inside caves to find a yellow eco switch and more.

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I can't say it's all good mind you. There's certain levels I tend to dread playing, such as Spider Caves and Boggy Swamp, although I also don't find them bad either. Like, it's always just one particular segment I just don't really wanna replay too much, before I go in and go "oh okay this actually isnt too bad" and start to have fun again, which is nice. When even the worst levels still have good portions like unique designs, or great visuals, or certain fun challenges, I think it's fair to say the game's level and world design is pretty good all around.

"Where did they go, why did they build this crap?!" (Visuals, Music, and Technical Prowess): 

Ah ha, I bet you thought we weren't going to talk about what really pushed Jak and Daxter to be the peak of collect-a-thon game design way back in the day, but instead, I was just saving it for it's own segment! 

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Back in the day, what was common practice for collect-a-thons, and any level based platformer really was that there'd be a hub area, to which you can then access the individual areas from there, either via portals, portraits, or whatever. Technically, Jak still has this, but with one big fact - you don't portal. You don't teleport, you don't do anything of the sort. You just enter these levels seamlessly.

Jak is one of the first games to barely feature load screens. Due to it's unique code, Jak & Daxter has a unique way of loading levels and collision so that the player is almost never hit by a load screen unless they deliberately choose to sit through it (IE - one of the fast travel portals at the sage huts). But hypothetically, you can run from one end of the world to the other end in one straight shot without a single load screen if you chose to do so, and it's just so damn cool.

In fact, to show just how far this goes, you can see certain levels from other levels. As you can see above, you can see the Fire Canyon and Rock Village from one of the end points of the game. Even from the tutorial level, Geyser Rock, you can see Sandover in the distance. In fact, when the debug mode cheat was found, I personally used it to fly Jak from Geyser Rock to Sandover - and to my surprise, despite the fact I had done so - and despite the world still being super low-poly - the game recognised it and loaded in the collision, NPCs, and even allowed me to move into the connecting levels in spite of that. That is just insane to me. Even more insane - a ton of these levels have a full blown day-night cycle built into the levels over a period of time, adding a new degree to life to these levels too.

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The art design is just so wonderful as well. While the series would evolve it's character designs, making them a little less blocky, especially in Daxter's case, the game's art style and models is still just insanely charming. How it mixes fantasy and technological elements, along with the precursor ruins and text just does so much to give the game it's own unique flair and style. I could go further, but I've done literally nothing for several segments but gush on how much I love the levels, the locales, the world, and even the lighting, shading, and so on. It's just all so damn good, especially for a 2001 game.

The music? Oh god, it's so good. One of the most memorable, iconic, and downright nostalgic soundtracks I've experienced. I love it, I love it so much. I could post nearly the entire thing, but if I had to pick my absolute favourites:

It just hits this perfect sweet spot of atmospheric, but also adventurous, exciting, and catchy, with a varied soundtrack that meshes extremely well with the game's levels. It's great, just great. Genuinely super underrated OST in my opinion. 

A New Legacy Is Born (Conclusion):

This has been a long blog. A extremely long blog. Probably the longest I've done with exception to maybe Sonic Adventure, albeit considering I've done nothing but lap praise upon this game, I'd say that's a accomplishment in of itself, considering SA1 had six different stories and a lot of problems to address.

Honestly, what else can I say? I love this game. It's hard for me to ever pin down a favourite game. I jump a lot between this, Kingdom Hearts 2, or Jak 3, or one of the Ratchet or Sly games, but even then, after all this gushing, after all this looking back on the game? It's probably Precursor Legacy. Jak & Daxter is my favourite game of all time. Bar none. 

This game is my Super Mario 64. One of the games that truly made me fall in love with gaming, that made me fall in love with a genre, that made me adore video games as a whole. Precursor Legacy is the game that I can play over and over and over again, 100%ing it every single time, and not get bored or tired of it. I have 100%'d this game repeatedly on PS2 and PS3. I've 100%'d it on PS4. I even 100%'d it on the damn Vita, which is a disaster port. 

Now I've 100%'d it on OpenGOAL, and to see my childhood game, my Super Mario 64 - reach that upper echelon of iconic, critically acclaimed games that have such a insanely dedicated fanbase that they decompile the game, and port it with a gigantic load of QoL changes, fixes, and enhancements to PC, giving it brand new life with a full-blown mod scene? It feels so gratifying. I cannot thank the team behind OpenGOAL enough for making not just this game, but the whole series, this series I absolutely love accessible to everyone.

OpenGOAL will be how I play the game from now on, with my Steam Deck offering a full blown, 60fps HD experience. I could never have dreamed of this game being portable as a kid. Hell, I was a apologist for the Vita port being 20fps way back when. I loved this game so much, I would look through nearly any flaw for it. To have it in it's best possible form now, widely available to everyone? It's something special to me.

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It's been over two decades now since I first played Jak & Daxter. While I think I'm pretty fair to all consoles, and so on. I can't deny that I have a certain bias to PlayStation franchises. It's what I grew up with in a lot of instances. It's all series I followed for so long. From Crash, to Spyro, to Jak, Ratchet, Sly, to Uncharted, Gravity Rush, and so on.

But the blunt, solid truth is...I don't know if I would have so many of these favourite franchises without Jak. Jak is the franchise that made me love the PS2 as a console. It's what got me into franchises like Ratchet. It's what got me to follow so many of these series. It all starts with these two for me, and I don't think my gaming history would be the same without them. For better or worse, these two are for me - what Mario or Sonic is to a lot of people.

Hell, I'm not afraid to admit that I was a bit of a Naughty Dog fanboy for a long while, someone who felt they could do no wrong until I eventually fell out of turn with their games, and became rather disgusted with the upper management and horror stories of crunch behind that studio. There was a time where I dreamed of being a Naughty Dog developer. In fact, I don't think it's wrong to say Jak might be one of the biggest inspirations I had for studying IT and game development to begin with, and it broke my heart to see the state Naughty Dog would fall into. 

These days, Jak & Daxter remains rather overlooked in the grand scheme of things. Naughty Dog changed and shook up quickly, and following Jak X, they stopped touching the series altogether. Whereas Ratchet, or God of War, or even Sly got to continue on in new titles over the years, after The Lost Frontier was a unmitigated disaster for the series, Jak has just become the Metroid of Sony. A franchise that so many is nostalgic for, and Sony will occasionally pull it out of the woodwork in ports or merch. While I'm happy Ratchet and Sly get the occasional game or scrap of info, I do think it's sad that Jak has just been left behind in the dust. 

But then when it comes to the question of if I wanted Jak 4...honestly, probably not. I don't like the concepts for Jak 4 that Naughty Dog had prior to The Last of Us, and as time goes on, it becomes clearer and clearer to me that the Jak 4 concept that came from way back when was made by basically a completely different team and studio that created that wonderful, colourful, imaginative world that I fell in love with to begin with. I want Jak to come back to be recognised for all of the insanely great things it did back in the day. Not to just be forced to be altered to fit some dark 'mature' mould that Naughty Dog at the time wanted to force it to be, and I'm happy they saw reason and cancelled it.

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Personally, I just want a remake. Get Bluepoint on this, get them to do a full blown Demons' Souls remake to the game. Give me a N-Sane Trilogy or Reignited remake. I want to see this game in a modern graphical light, with it's great qualities in tact, but updated for all to experience for the first time. 

Jak & Daxter deserve to be remembered. They deserve to be considered up there with all the iconic gaming mascots and platforming heroes, and the day we see them come back, with a quality game? I'll be there, day one, ready to buy it and play it.

But in the meantime? Thank you, Jak and Daxter. Thank you for everything.


But more importantly - thank you - everybody. This is the 52th game, and with it, the challenge is complete. I wanted this one to be a special game, and I really hope this blog post did a good job in explaining why this game means so much to me. 

If you've been with me for all 52 of these random, thought-ridden blogs, I can't thank you enough for taking time out of your day to listen to me ramble on about all of the games I play through, for better or worse. If I managed to convince you to try one of these games out, or even just connected with you for a moment or two over a mutual enjoyment and love for games, it was worth it. Even if this is the very first blog you've tuned in for, I still can't thank you enough for taking some time out of your day just to listen to me gush about a game I love so much.

I suppose that leaves us with the question of what now. What happens now that the challenge is 'officially' complete?

This isn't the end of the blog. Not by a long shot. I intend to continue on, posting blogs for stuff I play, both as a little record of what I play through this year, and for those who enjoy listen to me ramble on about the stuff I play. So while the main challenge is done, stay tuned - because we're not done. Not by a long shot.

But all that said...

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CHALLENGE COMPLETE!!

 

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Ghelatlishol

Posted

This is an amazing and very fun game. My best friend introduced me to the series when we were college roommates. Over the summer we had nowhere to be, so we stayed inside the air conditioned apartment with cheap pizza, Southern Comfort mixed with Coke, and took turns playing these awesome games! 

I still can't have that particular drink mixture without thinking of this game. :tea:

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