While the Nintendo DS has distinguished itself with a streak of games that feature high concepts and low barriers to entry, the PSP’s efforts to pitch itself as a full-powered, pocket-sized home entertainment center have been hampered by an underwhelming game lineup. Ready at Dawn’s Daxter has been positioned as the game that will change all that. It’s not only managed to give the Jak and Daxter franchise a shot in the arm, it’s one of the few games that PSP owners can play without getting really depressed.

Daxter is full of the same rich platforming action that the Jak games were originally known for, with only a minimum of the irritating traffic negotiation that they’ve come to be known for. They also do smart things like using objects that in most platformers are signs of creeping collectionitis to mark paths and help the player figure out where he or she is going.

The player needs the help too, because as nice as the level design is, the camera makes the game nigh unplayable. Despite being able to make a game that somehow manages to look better than the original PS2 version of Jak and Daxter, Ready at Dawn wasn’t able to make one with a camera that knows when it should and shouldn’t lurch around. The PSP’s analog nubbin controller doesn’t help; the sketchy controller and constantly panning camera make it really hard to tell which direction you’re heading in at any given time, never mind figuring out where you’re trying to go. It’s bad enough that when I pick up my PSP, I’m more enthusiastic about playing the whack-a-mole-like minigames (which are actually really fun) than the main missions, which is a pity.

Unfortunate camera angles aside, though, Daxter does a great job of making a portable sequel to a console game that doesn’t feel stunted or truncated. This isn’t to say that they didn’t strip things down considerably; they just did a good job of keeping the things that are important (no loading screens, big levels) and either hiding the things that get cut (various Haven City neighborhoods are inaccessible) or making you not care about them (no one misses the heavy traffic on the streets). It’s quite an achievement, and it may be enough to keep PSP owners satisfied until Loco Roco comes out.