Kave is having a bad day. Expelled from his tribe after failing in a hunt, he is left to wander the side scrolling landscape in search of new adventures. Handily for the game he finds one pretty easily in the form of a crashed alien spaceship. From this he liberates a jet pack and becomes the world’s first, and almost certainly last, jet-propelled cave man.
The game is obviously influenced by the classic Donkey Kong Country games with Kave bounding around the screen and, thanks to his jet pack, flying for short periods of time. He can also attack enemies with his club and hang from certain platforms, and you will need to master all of these to get through the game’s thirty-six levels. The jet pack also gives our Neolithic hero a secondary move, a burst of speed that will fire him through certain blocked areas. This works very much like the teleport mechanic in Futurlab’s Velocity – holding down the button slows the on screen action and gives you a directional indicator, zooming off to where you’re pointing when you release the button.
I never really got on with the mechanic in Velocity, but after a brief learning curve it became second nature in Jet Kave. Soon I was bouncing off walls, pile-driving through floors, and smashing pterodactyls on the bonce with great ease. You can zip through many of the levels with a basic grasp of the controls, but mastering them means you can find hidden bonus areas and secrets.
The game does occasionally force you ‘get good’ and learn a section by rote. Early on the game you are chased by a mammoth and if it catches up with you it’s back to the start of the level, forcing you to learn the exact pattern of boosts, jumps, jumps and club swipes to progress.
The side scrolling sections are broken up with occasional diversions. Kave managed to invent the hand glider a good few millennia earlier than history would have us believe, there are a couple of easily solved puzzles that involve simply shoving a rock onto a switch, and a vertical scrolling section in which you must dodge obstacles scrolling down towards you. There’s also the occasional boss fight, all of which are pretty similar and involve dodging attacks until the boss in knackered and you can land a hit.
The game is 2.5D, allowing the camera to pan and move off a fixed plane during the cut scenes. It looks great with some nice animations and lighting effects and some lovely vistas scrolling in the background as levels venture into caves, across beaches, and through stormy forests. The sound effects are quite simple, with lots of grunting and squeaks, but it’s accompanied there’s some jaunty music and a couple of rock tracks for the more exciting levels.
A full playthrough of the game took me around seven hours as you have unlimited lives and your health is refilled at every checkpoint, but Jet Kave is built for speed runs and those who want to 100% a game. However, without any online leaderboards the speed runs are a little pointless.