Originally released on Switch a couple years ago, Jet Kave Adventure is now available on Microsoft’s home console. Upon first glance, it might be easy to make the assumption this is a generic 90s 2.5D mascot platformer. Well, you would be right but gameplay is actually a lot better than expected.
You play as a caveman who has been banished from his tribe and stumbles upon a crash landing alien in the process. Stealing the alien’s jetpack, the player must reach the end of each stage and stop a volcano from erupting to regain the trust of his people. To be clear, a caveman uses an alien’s jetpack to avoid dinosaur attacks to prevent a volcano from destroying everything. Did you get all that?
As ridiculous as the plot might be, Jet Kave Adventure feels like a spiritual successor to Strider, only with a caveman swinging a large femur instead of a futuristic ninja swiping swords. The gameplay encourages the player to constantly move forward and complete each stage within the shortest amount of time. Having the ability to attack without stopping keeps the action fast paced, fluid, and exciting. The jetpack also plays to its strengths by making platforming and combat entertaining instead of tediously getting in the way. Holding the jump button results in a slower hover technique but pressing the trigger creates a power boost which is always fun. What makes this boost mechanic so approachable is that it can be used even at the last second when the boost canister is basically empty. Getting that extra push makes for some tricky but last second saves in the platforming department. It just feels right.
Completing each stage doesn’t provide a difficult challenge and the game can be completed in a few hours. Instead, the challenge comes from collecting everything in the stage, finishing it without taking any damage, and earning a fast completion time. All this is tracked with online leaderboards so competition is always fierce and provides a higher degree of replay value than assumed. This is because most stages can be completed in just a minute or two, so making that better jump or throwing that stone to save a fraction of a second can really affect your rank. This game was designed with speed and winds up being its biggest strength.
The gameplay might be better than expected but the cheesy 3D visuals are lacking. Animations are chunky and each stage is ultimately composed of the same environmental elements. Collected shells are used to enhance the life meter, make the jetpack boost last longer, and increase a few additional stats. Unfortunately, unlocking these perks takes a while and some grinding might need to be involved. Further, a player with maxed stats has a better chance of completing levels faster so leaderboards might be a little skewed as all players might not immediately be playing on fair terms.
The soundtrack is composed a tropical vibe that is well put together but then loops poorly and the sound effects are as cheap as they come. Boss battles require pattern recognition and the last half of each battle usually involve some cheap and frustrating tactics. There is also the occasional hang gliding segment that has weird controls but they do break up the platforming segments just as they start to get repetitive. The most annoying part comes from the level design that splits into multiple paths. There is a good chance you will not be able to return to the origin point so if you want to collect it all, you will need to randomly take the correct path the first time or replay stages with memorization.
From the generic box art and screenshots, I was ready to dismiss Jet Kave Adventure as another 90s me-too mascot platformer. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by the high action, speed, and overall playablity of this sleeper hit. If you can get passed the ridiculous set pieces and plot (humans were never around in the age of the dinosaurs and now aliens are thrown into the mix?), there are a few hours of unexpected fun to had here.
Also available on Switch and PC.
Also Try: The Donkey Kong Country games on the Switch Online service
Better Than: those 90s mascot platformers you forgot about
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