Well, here we go- The Ghost Generation’s first official game review! I’m extremely proud to be diving into this as it’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid. Only took me 38 years to go for it, so YAY me lol. You’re going to be seeing a lot more of these as I build more relationships with all the Switch devs out there so be sure to stay tuned and subscribe so you can stay in the know. Let’s get to it shall we?
7Levels is a small team based out of Poland and I came to know them after they released their previous Switch-exclusive Castle of Heart. It was a pretty good game that showed A LOT more promise than the state it was released in so me and a few other folks over at the Nintendo Life forums offered up our feedback/thoughts and they listened. They listened really well in fact, and they fixed the game quickly with a couple of absolutely massive patches and it was vastly improved. Through the whole process one thing was out front and obvious-their passion for game development, and I really respect their willingness to listen to the community and to put their all into the games they make. All of this passion and learning from Castle of Heart has definitely paid off for them, because their next Switch-exclusive release (out tomorrow), Jet Kave Adventure, is polished, focused, and just plain FUN.
So what’s Jet Kave Adventure all about? It’s a 2.5D action-platformer that is very heavily inspired by the Donkey Kong Country series (from now on referred to as DKC) but that also manages to carve out a distinctive place of its own. The premise? Pure, unadulterated, video game nonsense in the best possible sense. Your main cave-dude (aptly named Kave) is being banished from his village for being a crappy chief who can’t seem to protect his people, when a UFO crashes in the immediate distance. Yep, a UFO landing in prehistoric times-stay with me here. Kave dashes over to the crash site and stumbles upon a jet pack. This jet pack enables him to ultimately be the only cave-dude who can save the world from the invaders, thus redeeming himself and enabling the ultimate “happily ever after” via making sure the earth doesn’t explode and blow everyone to smithereens. It’s silly and it’s endearing as hell, and even without dialogue the game sets a funny tone that prevails through out its jut-right runtime.
Let’s get one thing out of the way right now- this game controls like an absolute dream. It’s pretty simple stuff: Move with the left stick or D-Pad, B jumps & hovers with your jet pack, X shoots your slingshot (ZL too), Y is your club (ZR too), A is for eating the various fruits/etc. you find along the way, right stick looks around, L crouches, and R charges up your jet pack enabling you to aim yourself at pretty much everything. Nothing crazy or overly complex and I never felt like I was fighting the controls in any way. I was consistently amazed that this budget-priced indie controlled with the smooth responsiveness of games by much bigger studios, it’s seriously wonderful to play. You have 36 levels here and it’s essentially the same thing throughout the 4 worlds of 9 levels each. Running, platforming, whacking & clubbing, and a particular high point- flying around and shooting yourself all over the place with that fantastic jet pack. You can grab hard-to-reach items & collectibles (mostly shells), find secret areas, and outside of the shells there is also a gold statue in each level to be found. In addition to meeting a certain quota of shells collected, and the aforementioned trophy, you also get a check-mark for finishing the level within a certain time, and for taking no damage as well. It can get pretty challenging to get them all for each level and it’ll likely take me a few joyful playthroughs to get it all myself. Kave isn’t alone by the way, I won’t give too much away but there is a friendly priestess who helps him along the way and sells him upgrades to his club, jet pack, health, and more (purchased with the shells you collect). She’s a great addition to the game and the uprgades are very much welcome along the way. There are boss fights in each world but they honestly aren’t a huge focus, or at least it didn’t seem that way to me. Fine by me, after Hollow Knight & Dead Cells I’m happy for a short & less sadistic variety of boss fight for sure! If you played their previous game Castle of Heart it’s a similar setup: bosses rush at you from side to side, throwing in some attacks for you to learn and avoid, eventually rendering themselves vulnerable long enough for you to get a hit in. 3 hits & done- sound familiar? Like I said, this one is VERY heavily inspired by the DKC series but I gotta say-even though there are some similar mechanics at play here I never felt like this game was anything other than loving homage. I’ll also put it another way: I bought DKC Tropical Freeze and played it for about 15 minutes before finding myself frustrated. Yes, I know there is Funky Kong Mode but screw that! Either way, this game? I played it for 2 days straight and loved almost every minute of it.
Wait-ALMOST every minute? Here’s the thing, and this is honestly pretty much the only thing I have to ding this game on- there are auto-scrolling levels in each world, and I hate auto-scrolling levels with a passion. Maybe I’m just not good at them, I don’t know, but I’ve never been a fan and I know a lot of other people aren’t either. The thing about THESE is, they are a little on the long side (no mine carts, you’re instead either hang gliding or being chased by a big bad) and there are no checkpoints. That means that if you die, and I promise you will, you go right back to the very beginning. The rest of the game is pure happiness but these levels are absolute evil. In fact, if they would have been left out entirely and replaced with standard levels I wouldn’t have missed them a bit. Having said that, I love the rest of the game so much that I don’t really care- I got through them and I finished the game because everything else is a class act and one of the most fun games I’ve played on Switch, period. I’ve played A LOT so my credentials are in fine order I assure you. I don’t even gravitate heavily towards this kind of game by default very much anymore, but this game may be the one that shifts some of my tastes back in that direction.
On the presentation front, the game is stunning to look at. Again, it really is a testament to the hard work of the team at 7Levels that this indie title holds its own against MUCH bigger games. Colors abound and pop everywhere you look, vibrant lighting effects are all over the place, and character models are appropriately goofy but well done. Textures are nicely detailed and though there are a few instances where you can tell some technical concessions had to be made (smoke effects, some background stuff) it never shows itself much and the game is one of the most gorgeous looking indies you’ll find (especially for $19.99, which is a STEAL). Audio is a little flat in places but overall it complements the game very well and it adapts to the action to be an integral part of the storytelling. Sure, the cutscene dialogue is a tad on the cheesy side, but said cutscenes are really well done so it’s hard to fault them too much on that one. It all works together really well and that’s what should count anyway. It’s impressive stuff and it’s cool to see these guys coming into their stride as a dev team.
So, how does it perform? I don’t work for Digital Foundry but I can tell you this- I barely experienced any frame rate drops and it runs EXTREMELY smoothly in both docked and handheld modes, and it looks fantastic either way too. I’ll let IGN tell you about the frame rate, but I’m thinking they targeted 30 FPS and if my eyes don’t deceive me it never dropped enough for me to care.
I’ve decided to not do scored reviews with The Ghost Generation, because my hope is that my words will tell you if you want to get on board with a game or not (although little ghosts would be a rad idea!), so I’m gonna be completely honest here-if it wasn’t for those darn auto-scrolling levels this would be an essentially flawless game (hell, you might LOVE them). That being said, every damn thing else about the game is a joy to behold and I have loved it even more than some of the games it is inspired by. It’s a rare feat to surpass your inspirations, or at least hold your own confidently next to them, but 7Levels does just that here. They are a talented team and they’ve delivered a Switch-exclusive that I want to VERY loudly recommend to you. It’s $20 which is, again, a steal-and I can easily see myself coming back to it again and again, trying to collect all the things, get a better time, and just enjoy this stellar game one more time. Jet Kave Adventure is out tomorrow on the Nintendo Switch eShop and I wish the team at 7Levels the absolute best of luck with the launch. Don’t let this one pass you by, I promise you won’t regret giving this one a shot and thanks as always for reading!
www.nintendolife.com – Fantastic site where tons of passionate people talk Switch.
www.7lvls.com – Keep an eye on these guys, if this game is any indication of what’s to come they’re gonna do some great things!
*Review code graciously provided by 7Levels for this review.