Jet Kave Adventure puts you in the shoes – alright, the bare feet – of Kave, former tribe chieftain and current owner of a fancy alien jetpack. Prepare to fly through the air with the greatest of ease in this platformer heavily inspired by classics like Donkey Kong Country. Help him win back the trust of his people and stop a nasty-looking extraterrestrial from condemning the land to a fiery cataclysm!
Story – Captain Caveman
Banished from his tribe for being unable to provide for them, protagonist Kave happens across a mysterious alien and its crash-landed UFO. Narrowly escaping with his life, Kave manages to make off with a powerful jet pack and, pursued by those who ejected from his tribe, soon learns that the nearby volcano houses a spare power source for the alien’s ship. So begins a race against to time to chase the malevolent extraterrestrial and stop it from taking the power crystal and causing a devastating volcanic eruption.
Along the way Kave will cross paths with a smattering of supporting characters, including a shape-shifting shaman, the two jabronis who kicked him out of his tribe in the first place, a friendly pterodactyl and a not-so-friendly sabre-toothed tiger. They’ll provide help or hindrance in your journey across the land before time, though none of them are particularly fleshed out in a meaninful way. Even Kave, the main character, is little more than a blank slate upon which to hang a jetpack.
And that’s fine, to be honest: Jet Kave Adventure is a fun and silly little story with a decent sense of humour, and even if it’s not going to win any prizes for meaty and substantive storytelling it’s at its best when it leans into that jokiness. The gags don’t always land perfectly but there’s enough in there to make you chuckle, from humorous chase sections to weird two-headed dinosaurs. Even the achievement list encourages you to be ridiculous from time to time: you’re rewarded for, among other things, falling flat on your face on a preposterously distorted floating fish, ignoring a clear warning not to swim at the beach, and beheading every single one of the aforementioned two-headed dinosaurs in a level while leaving the other head intact. It can get wild and silly, and that can be pretty fun.
Gameplay – Donkey Who Country?
You’ll primarily be doing a lot of platforming in Jet Kave Adventure: jumping from platform to platform, crossing wide gaps with the jetpack and bashing your way through obstacles. There’s also combat involved: Kave possesses a hefty club with which to bonk incoming critters, you pick up a sling fairly early on which gives you a bit of ranged capability, and you can also blast through enemies with your jetpack dash attack (try saying that one five times quickly).
Every so often you’ll come up against a boss fight, where you must combine your combat and traversal abilities to best your foe and continue on your journey, or a brief but radical gameplay change where you must pilot a hang-glider or wend your way through a Galaga-esque vertical shooter section. You can use shells that you pick up in levels to upgrade health, jetpack fuel and so on, and on top of all that, each level has three optional challenges to attempt (clearing the level within a certain time, taking no damage, and collecting a certain number of pick-ups along the way) with their own online leaderboards, inviting replayability.
In general the platforming is fun enough, but not particularly challenging. The difficulty curve is extremely gentle and while there are some enjoyable moments late in the game which chain together several different obstacles and challenges, I never really felt that ebb and flow of having to work through a section and the satisfaction of getting past it.
This is partly due to the jetpack mechanics, which make the platforming extremely forgiving. Your two main uses of the jetpack are to extend your jump with a hover function (like Yoshi’s flutter jump or Super Mario Sunshine’s FLUDD) and a single mid-air dash attack that can break through barriers and flatten enemies. They’re fun additions to the gameplay, but the issue is that, somehow, they feel like an afterthought to the level design.
Playing through Jet Kave Adventure, it seemed as though 80% of the level design was fashioned in the style of a regular platformer like Donkey Kong Country: it felt like the jetpack mechanics were a bonus, a quicker and easier way to solve some of the platforming puzzles, rather than having more of the game specifically built around them. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – there’s a reason those classic games still hold up pretty well these days – but the result is that what would have been challenging platforming sections in those games are rendered simplistic and easy by the fact that you can just hover or dash back to where you need to be if you biff a jump. Considering that a lot of the marketing makes note of the game-changing nature of the jetpack, I expected a little more originality and, well, change to the game.
Take the mid-air dash ability, for example. Having recently played Ori and the Blind Forest, I was immediately reminded of Ori’s Bash ability that they pick up fairly early on: in Ori, you can catapult off enemy projectiles and certain bits of the level, lending a sense of strategy and tactical thinking to how you might use that ability to solve puzzles and explore the map. In Jet Kave Adventure, the dash ability is available at any time, in any direction, and the only stipulation is that you can only do it once before you have to land on solid ground for a second to recharge. It’s simply a less exciting implementation of a similar mechanic, and it feels like a real missed opportunity to try something novel and interesting. This isn’t to say the level design is bad, exactly, but just that it doesn’t always seem well-paired to the mechanics they’ve chosen to implement.
One thing the game does do well is in the time-tested way of introducing new obstacles to the player. Since the art and environment style varies significantly between levels, things like breakable or disappearing platforms might look quite different from one world to the next, risking dissatisfaction if the player unwittingly steps on one and plummets to their doom, but the devs have made sure to introduce any new impediment in a safe place the first time it appears to avoid that particular brand of frustration.
The boss fights are alright, and here too inspiration seems to have been taken from the classic platformers of yore: bosses have predictable attack patterns that you can work out pretty quickly, but there is at least some challenge in reacting to those attacks, especially as they usually get faster and faster and add more attacks as the fight goes on. They’re certainly more challenging in the early game though – once you purchase one or two health upgrades, the margin for error in most boss fights gets pretty forgiving and, though you won’t be tanking every single attack, the consequences for taking a hit become significantly less drastic.
Possibly the sections I enjoyed most were the moments when you’re launched into an arcade-style vertical (and later horizontal) shooter section, albeit without the shooting. Your jetpack gets souped up, the music segues into some thrashy rock and you must zigzag your way up the screen, grabbing shells and avoiding dangers. These moments were where the dev team’s sense of humour really shone for me: in many cases the pick-ups and enemies were deftly placed so as to match up with the emphases and accents in the background music, making it feel like I was playing a rhythm game, and I don’t mind admitting that made me laugh.
Graphics and Audio – Rock and/or Roll
Jet Kave Adventure is a very pretty-looking game, especially the level backgrounds with their verdant trees and lovely-looking water, and the attention to detail in many of the character and enemy models is evident. The animation, unfortunately, is a little slow and heavy, occasionally lending a sense of the uncanny valley to the odd cutscene as the characters attempt to haltingly and mechanically emote something that they’re simply unable to do.
The effects, both audio and visual, are good, but somehow still lack a bit of punch: this is a prehistoric world where you’re playing as a caveman with a massive club and a jetpack, but whenever you knock out an enemy it feels like you might as well be brushing them away with a feather duster. Perhaps this is another animation issue – there’s a little screen shake, the right sound effect plays, but the enemy just falls to pieces and Kave barely registers that his club has done anything more than cut through a stick of warm butter.
The music, however, is enjoyable. As you might expect from a game set in the stone age, there’s a certain percussive flair in most of the background music, with things like drums and xylophones taking centre stage, but there are also the previously-mentioned moments when Kave takes to the skies and the music switches – you can practically hear the record scratch – to fun, thrashy rock while he deftly manoeuvres his way to his goal.
Jet Kave Adventure was reviewed on PC with a Steam key provided by Galaktus PR.