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NOTE - A copy of this game was provided to Gaming Instincts by 7Levels for review.
It’s common to hear modern games are looking very similar, with a lot of fans complaining sequels are just becoming remakes of older titles. 7Levels, however, might just have something unique. Jet Kave Adventure is a game about a caveman riding an alien jetpack through a dinosaur-ridden, prehistoric Earth. The developers at 7Levels have been working on titles since 2014, with a focus on Nintendo consoles. Their newest release, however, takes the platformer genre in a bold new direction.
Jet Kave was released September 17, 2019 as a digital title on the Nintendo Switch. It’s a 2.5D adventure platformer where players will follow the story of an outcast caveman named Kave who stumbles upon an alien’s jetpack and needs to fight his way through dinosaurs to protect his clan. With a wild storyline and an endearing art style, this game certainly looks interesting from the outside.
The story will leave players wanting more, a compliment to what story there actually was, though, there didn't seem to be much meat to it. By the end of the game, players get some resolution, but not in any sort of meaningful way. However, with only 36 levels, it would be a feat to cram a rich story into this game, but it would have been nice to see more involvement from the character, or perhaps even cinematics that weren’t created in the game engine. Animated cartoon cutscenes with more frequency could have remedied this issue. With such an interesting idea, it seems there’s some amazing potential for Jet Kave: Adventure's narrative, but it doesn’t show up. Keeping the price of this game in mind, though, does make the lack of story more understandable.
One area where Jet Kave really shines is in its bright, colorful, and all around fun design. All the different monsters and dinosaurs players encounter throughout their journey are adorable and have great animations. While the enemies are still the typical platformer style, staying in one place and repeating the same actions, they’re definitely great to observe.
The environment is even more beautiful than the characters. The contrast of the bright foliage with the dark caves keeps things interesting, and the levels keep enough variety to not seem mundane. Moreover, the sound design is stellar. The background music is enjoyable and will help keep tempers down during bits where patience is required, and the sound effects are all fun and fit the art style well. Overall, the game looks and sounds great, but the mechanics are somewhat of a different story.
The gameplay of Jet Kave Adventure is typical for the mostly-2D platformer genre. Players will progress through levels and encounter a range of enemies they can either fight or avoid, while being interrupted with the occasional story-centered cutscene or boss battle. Admittedly, after the first 30 minutes or so, it feels like the enemies and level of challenge stayed about the same for every stage. Progression of difficulty throughout the game should have been a little steeper, but that’s a minor point.
A bigger gripe with Jet Kave is the length of its instructions. The first chunk of the game is a constant flow of instruction panels throughout the stages explaining Kave's movements and attacks. A handful of the instructional images showed up several times through the hefty amount of stages with built-in tutorials. The first two or three stages could have included all the necessary instructions for how to control the character and navigate the levels.
The gameplay isn’t all bad, however. One positive part of the game is the changing of play styles throughout the different levels. Occasionally, gamers will encounter a level where they're piloting a glider, fighting a boss, or running from a giant beast, all of which keeps the gameplay interesting. However, the save points and respawn method in this game take away almost any sense of importance. It becomes simple to just blast through a level not caring about death at all because save points are so frequent. Also, upon death, players simply respawn at the most recent totem with full health and only lose a couple seconds. Some of these switches in game styles, though, are quite the test of patience, partly due to the way the controls are laid out.
The controls are one of the most noticeable faults of the game. Right off the bat, when the in-game tutorials provide instructions for jumping, crouching, attacking, and so on, it's difficult to control the character in any smooth way. It’s entirely possible there will be people who find the controls for this game totally fine, and are able to navigate easily, but for the most part, they're clunky at best. There are times when Kave seems uncontrollable because of the unusual mapping. Unfortunately, the controller mapping is also unchangeable.
While the layout of controls on the Switch is more of a personal downside, the actual game engine control was also frustrating at times. Generally speaking, throughout the game the character moves as he should and, while combat isn’t very interesting, it works smoothly. In many special areas, however, controlling Kave properly will be an ultimate test of patience, particularly when the game mode changes to piloting a glider or fighting certain bosses, the game mechanics were downright bad. Players may find themselves taking breaks and coming back to beat a level later because they became uninterested from not being able to beat it for such a long time.
All in all, the biggest thing to keep in mind when playing this game is its price point. While the cons of this game still exist, the game only costs $20. Regardless, Jet Kave: Adventure could have performed better. With character death not meaning much, a story that feels pretty bland and thin, and occasionally frustrating game mechanics, it’s hard to put into words why it's still likable. With its beautiful art style and simple, fun platformer mechanics, this game still has a shot. The toughest hurdle this title has for being worthy of taking up space on a Switch’s micro SD card isn’t its own flaws, though. With so many incredible indie games being offered on the Switch, some with breathtaking storylines and design, it's difficult to see this game standing out. Jet Kave: Adventure is definitely a solid platformer, but its flaws ultimately make it hard to recommend.