Not every game has to be revolutionary, you know. While it’s always nice when a developer tries to push a genre further and break new ground, there are times when all we want is something familiar, something solid, something safe: a warm, cosy jumper in a world full of attention-seeking t-shirt slogans. Jet Kave Adventure is that game; a competent, old-school platformer that doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. Though in fairness, that’s because it’s set in an era when the wheel hadn’t been invented in the first place.
Kave is an exiled caveman who used to be the chief of his tribe but has been banished, because reasons. Just as he’s being unceremoniously booted out of his village, an alien ship crashes into a nearby rock. An alien emerges and, realising it needs a new power cell to fuel its broken ship, uses a jetpack to fly off to the island’s volcano in the hope of removing its power source. Which will destroy the island, but hey, aliens have places to be. Stumbling on a spare jetpack, Kave decides to ‘borrow’ it and head off to find the invader, give him a swift kick in the alien bits and save the island.
Jet Kave Adventure is a platform game that immediately throws up Donkey Kong Country vibes, though this is mainly because of its jungle setting. Kave can run, jump and use his club to attack enemies, and at first, that’s about it until you discover the aforementioned jetpack early in the game. Once you get this you acquire two new moves that go on to form the bedrock (ahem) for most of the platforming shenanigans you encounter in the game.
The first of these new abilities is a straightforward hover mechanic. By pressing the jump button again in mid-air you can use the jetpack for a useful boost that keeps you in the air and carries you upwards a little until it runs out. Your jetpack fuel only lasts a couple of seconds, but it’s enough to help you reach platforms that are otherwise too high or far away and as soon as you hit the ground again it refills almost instantly. This will naturally bring up Donkey Kong Country Return comparisons again, what with Diddy’s jetpack in that, but it’s an altogether more powerful one here and doesn’t really feel the same.
Speaking of more powerful, it’s the jetpack’s second ability that really gives the game a unique feel. By holding down the R button you can slow the game down to a crawl while an arrow appears around you that you can aim with the left stick. When you let go of R, you’ll blast off in the direction you pointed with a super powerful boost from your jetpack. Not only does this let you get to platforms that are beyond the reach of your standard hover move, it also lets you smash through some walls, activate some switches and fly unharmed through some hazards later in the game, like lasers and bosses’ energy bursts.
The game’s 36 stages – split into four themed worlds with nine levels in each – are designed well enough to make the most of this small array of abilities at your disposal, though by the time you’re into the game’s second half you start to get the feeling it’s running out of ideas and is just going through the motions until you reach the credits. There’s only so much you can do with breakable walls and ever-so-slightly too far away platforms, and while it also chucks in platform staples like wall jumps, pressure-sensitive switches and cling-friendly vines to mix things up a bit, you do feel like you’ve seen the full gamut of possibilities by the time you reach the volcano.
Extra variety is added with a series of chase sections – where you’re being pursued by some sort of dinosaur, tiger or robot and have to keep moving to avoid becoming extinct – as well as the occasional hang gliding and vertical-scrolling flight sections (where your jetpack becomes turbocharged and you’re constantly blasting upwards, avoiding debris along the way). These do break things up a bit and are welcome to an extent, but they can also provide some of the more frustrating moments because it’s often too late to get out of the way of some obstacles.
Thankfully, the game is pretty generous with health. You’re initially given an energy bar with three hearts (meaning you can take two hits before dying), and every time you pass a checkpoint these are restored. If you can’t last until then, you can also hold food items in reserve and any time you can spare a free second you can hit the A button to stop and eat one, restoring a heart. What’s more, by collecting seeds in each stage you can access the in-game store to upgrade (among other things) the number of hearts and the number of food items you can store. By the time you’re fully upgraded you can plough through most of the game with ease, with only the last few stages offering the occasional death.
If you’re looking for more of a challenge, each stage also has three bonus objectives for you to complete, should you so desire: beat the stage in a certain time (the most enjoyable of the objectives to attempt), collect a certain number of seeds and beat the stage without taking damage. There’s no massive incentive for doing this, but it does provide extra replay value if you aren’t happy enough with the 2-3 hours it’ll take you to beat the game if you’re an experienced platformer fan.
There are plenty of things to complain about with Jet Kave Adventure. The story is completely throwaway and not even the introduction of a pterodactyl friend who follows you for a few stages (but doesn’t do anything) then says its goodbyes – only to inevitably turn up later in your hour of need – does much to get you involved in it. The boss battles are never too tricky but are a tad on the long side, and so they’re a bit annoying to play through again when you die right before delivering a final blow. And combat feels really light: when you kill an enemy with your club they may as well be holograms.
None of these ever feel like major enough issues to call Jet Kave Adventure a complete write-off, however. All they do is combine to ensure that the game never feels like a stone-cold classic, merely ‘good’. But you know, sometimes that’s all that’s needed.
Jet Kave Adventure will be on nobody's Game of the Year lists, but that really doesn't matter. What it does do is provide a reasonably solid 2.5D platformer that will keep you entertained for a few hours (and beyond, if you want to try to beat all the optional objectives). At a little under $20, it's a bit steep for what's on offer, but if you've been craving a no-nonsense platformer that offers a decent selection of levels and looks pretty while doing it, you could do far worse – of course, you could arguably do a lot better, too.