I’ve spoken at length before about how much I like the Donkey Kong series. In fact, when I started my series “Killer Franchises the Vita Needed” over at our sister site Vita Player, the first piece in that series was Donkey Kong. Not only do I like platformers, but Donkey Kong: Jungle Climber was the first video game I ever played with the woman who is now my wife. So when I saw Jet Kave Adventure, I knew I had to cover it. But is this game simply a knock-off? Or does it take inspiration while at the same time bringing something new to the table? Let’s find out!
First things first: when I received the code, the game was in pre-release state and patches were going to be released to address some issues regarding bugs and performance. Most outlets published reviews based on that build. I preferred to wait until the patch was in, at least until launch date, and see what the final customers were getting. I’m glad I did.
In terms of story, there’s not much to it: you’re a caveman named Kave, vanished from his village. In exile, you stumble upon the wreck of an alien ship. While you don’t really get too far with the beings piloting the ship, after waking up from being knocked unconscious, you discover a jet backpack. You must take a piece of the ship to a volcano because reasons. Yeah, I know, it doesn’t make sense. But, it really just sets up an excuse for a caveman to have a jetpack. What the jetpack does, basically, is allow you an extended double-jump, limited flight as it were, not unlike Mario’s famous Tanooki suit.
This opens up a hole host of gameplay opportunities, as you not only fly with the jetpack, but are also able to use it to push big rocks, or propel yourself towards enemies with enough force to knock them out. There’s a little bit of puzzle-solving in Jet Kave Adventure, but it’s very light, much like the franchise it’s inspired in. The platforming is faster than Mario, but slower than Sonic, though there is some of the blue hedgehog pedigree in there, as momentum does build up as you traverse the world. It’s not necessary like it is in Sonic, but rather a product of your dexterity (and the great level design). It really plays rather nice, this. There are fun boss battles, too, but not all levels require you to beat a boss: some require you to memorize a sequence to jump just right, while others have different “requirements”.
The combat is, I’m afraid, far less satisfying than the platforming, and seems almost secondary. It’s a bit repetitive, and some enemies feel a bit cheap due to timing. I’m not a fan of all of the vehicle stages, either, though I found some quite fun as well.
Visually, the game looks and runs great. The level selector is mbeh and almost feels like an afterthought, but the actual level themselves look vibrant and feel alive with environmental elements like water, torches, as well as flora and fauna. The whole 2.5D is very reminiscent of the later DK games, such as Donkey Kong Country Returns and Tropical Freeze. I like it. I like it a lot.
While the game runs great and looks fantastic, I’m afraid the music is nothing to write home about. As a person with a background in sound and music, I’m always very interested in seeing how game developers increase their production value through the use of great soundtracks and sound effects. What’s here is serviceable, but far from memorable.
In the end, though, Jet Kave Adventure shines through its gameplay: a rich mix of momentum platforming, light puzzle-solving and encouraging the player to use the right combination of abilities through clever level design. The game also looks great, particularly in larger, open stages that include water and other dynamic elements. Sadly, the presentation is let down by the music and sound effects. As a whole, though, players who are fans of platforming and who enjoy the Donkey Kong franchise will feel its heritage here, while at the same time reveling in the clever level design and fun, momentous gameplay. It’s a bit expensive for some, but I think it’s worth it for people who appreciate good 2D platforming of this ilk.