How archivists and fans saved a long-lost Jak & Daxter Flash game from obscurity

(Image credit: Naughty Dog)

PlayStation heroes Jak & Daxter are in a tough spot right now. The recent mascot revival which restored Crash & Spyro passed them by, their more modern rivals Ratchet & Clank are rumoured to be heading for a PlayStation 5 launch slot, and while they're still part of Naughty Dog's history, they're not exactly the priority right now. Even though it's been 11 years since Jak & Daxter's last adventure, a deeply average PSP spin-off, there's still a dedicated and active fan subreddit. Of course there's a subreddit—there's always a subreddit. But how often are those fans dedicated enough to dig into the depths of internet history and rebuild a long-abandoned web game, just to relive the good times?

I love Jak & Daxter, too, but I wanted to know why several fans remembered a 2001 Flash game built to promote Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy with enough enthusiasm to recreate it. It was a fairly basic adventure game, designed mainly to introduce the characters of Jak & Daxter, or perhaps lure kids into buying the game on PS2. But it has none of the platforming the franchise is known for, and outside its characters, there's nothing notable about it at all. Rebuilding it, as it turns out, was part dedicated fandom, part crusade to preserve gaming history.

"I loved the game as a kid, so I really wanted to see it restored and playable again," one of the fans, who goes by the handle Powercell Freak, told me. "I remember when I was about 10, me and a mate tried burning the Flash game onto a blank disc, but we couldn't figure out how. It was incredible [seeing the finished game], it took me back so many years, I was real giddy with excitement."

Image via Kroooooooo

Image via Kroooooooo (Image credit: Naughty Dog)

Keeping the Jak & Daxter history alive was a priority for Powercell Freak even before recreating the lost web game. "I run a preservation website for the series, so I'm always wanting to help out the community however I can. In this instance I thought there was a good chance I would be able to, and I was!"

Powercell Freak didn't actually start the project; they came to the rescue after u/Kroooooooo put out an appeal on the subreddit for some missing assets: Two Daxter sprites, an unknown character, a landscape file, and the entire dialogue file. "I've almost finished piecing together a long-lost official J&D web game, just three files remain to be found! (Help please)" the original post read.

After Powercell Freak supplied these missing parts, u/Kroooooooo and their team at BlueMaxima's Flashpoint were able to get the game fully running. Though it was a labour of love for Powercell Freak, the game itself wasn't as important as the process for u/Kroooooooo. "I wasn't hunting for this specific game when I found it," u/Kroooooooo said. In fact, they didn't even remember ever playing it when it was live.

u/Kroooooooo's passion is abandoned internet history. BlueMaxima's Flashpoint is a community initiative aimed at saving old Adobe Flash games from dusty servers before their websites go dead—or, as in this case, reviving them from the crypt. "During my time with the team, I've curated a couple hundred games, but only two or three that I'd consider previously 'lost,' Kroooooooo said. "This was the first one that actually had to be rebuilt too, and it is a very strange feeling to play something from such a major franchise that you know probably hasn't been played in years."

u/Kroooooooo alone has touched a couple hundred restorations, but the entire BlueMaxima's Flashpoint team has archived more than 38,000 games and 2,400 Flash animations across 13 different platforms since 2018.

Video via VTNVIVI on Youtube

This curation and restoration means salvaging old game files and making them work with the Flashpoint software, which essentially tricks old web games into thinking they're still running on the internet. u/Kroooooooo already has their next challenge lined up: the Cartoon Network web game Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends.

"It was a hugely successful game but despite that, we have not found a single official file for it so far. The only real hope is to get people to search the web caches of their own computers to find the file of this beloved and long lost game. With a bit of luck, we could be able to revive this game and many more like it."

BlueMaxima's Flashpoint has an open Discord server with a channel specifically devoted to people combing through web browser caches for lost files. Even with community crowdsourcing, though, the Jak & Daxter game seems like a special case.

"I was very surprised at the help," u/Kroooooooo said. "I had reached out to the subreddit in the hope that somebody remembered it, but because I could barely find any concrete information about the game online I assumed the chances were very slim. The fact that someone responded on the same day and had the correct files is incredible."

Over on the Jak & Daxter subreddit, the revival was welcomed with fanfare. "Fuck, this community is amazing," the most upvoted comment from u/wateryonions reads. "Honestly my favorite sub to be a part of, and it's for my favorite games."

Some were excited to dive back in, while others weren't even aware of the obscure game's existence. "Amazing! This little game is totally new to me, so I appreciate so much the effort you put into this so others can experience it," u/cakehavenvitriol wrote.

"Holy crap thought this memory was a fever dream!" u/DonDove.

(Image credit: Naughty Dog)

For Powercell Freak it wasn't a shock to see the Jak & Daxter subreddit rally around something so readily. They said that the community is unusually creative and active, considering how long it's been since the last Jak & Daxter game. "We've gotta keep ourselves active somehow, and we always seem to be bringing up new topics of discussion." 

Jak fans are still keeping themselves entertained in other ways, too. Powercell Freak pointed out u/SuperduperFan92's lore deep dives and Luminar Light's YouTube channel, full of research and unused files found on the game discs. 

Even so, the Jak & Daxter community was in dire need of a win. Not only have they been waiting for a new game since 2009, they haven't had a good game since Jak 3 in 2004. Now, thanks to a not-quite-forgotten web game, they might just have that elusive victory.