In the perilous heart of the jungle, two keep explorers are searching for lost treasure; Wyv is a brash, cocky individual who decides to make the journey to the jungle empty-handed, and his reluctant partner, Keep, is seemingly dragged along for the ride. Within the jungle, both of our adventurers will encounter poisonous dart traps, piranha-infested waters, dynamite, and poop… or mud… could be both.
Wyv & Keep is a puzzle/platformer game created by A Jolly Corpse, a three-person indie development team that are – in their words – from the hellish underworld. The game’s core puzzle mechanic is focused around the cooperation of both characters to climb up walls, push boxes across and/or down, and reach the end goal of each level. Every level has a final score, and it’s one of the things about the game that doesn’t work, or at least doesn’t give you a reason to care. You’re scored on how many times you die or restart. The problem is that while there are a lot of levels which can be planned out meticulously ahead of time, it’s more likely you’ll go by trial and error. If you end the level with a bad rating, you can go back to achieve a higher score. There’s no real fun in this, though, as repeating levels in puzzle games doesn’t work as well for replay value as other genres do. The game would potentially end up with a poor sense of pacing playing this way. When it’s clear the high score doesn’t account for much, it’s quickly thrown by the wayside.
Fortunately, the puzzles are put together well, the difficulty is set at a reasonable, gradually-increasing pace, and there is a good deal of logic and thinking that is needed throughout. Each level takes place on a single screen, and it never overwhelms you with too much information at once. The trial-and-error approach mentioned above also helps in figuring out tricks the game has hidden up its sleeve – I’ll leave it to you to go and figure them out. The one instance where pacing is an issue comes from the lack of an instant restart button, which seems like a small issue. However, it’s becoming a standard function for games of this type instead of having to pause every time to admit defeat.
Still, even playing by yourself there is a wonderful connection you develop between yourself and the two characters. It’s about teamwork, figuring out where Wyv or Keep needs to be at any point of the level. You can swap between characters at any moment, and the game – at times – feels like a simplified version of Thomas Was Alone, except while you only have two characters to go between, their uses are exponentially bigger. There is the option of playing online or local co-op, and local works with either both players using the keyboard or the keyboard and a wired controller. It lends itself to a co-op game, having two minds to solve a problem is always better than one, of course.
The game looks like many 16-bit retro titles that are becoming the norm lately, but it still looks beautiful and holds up against the best that are currently on offer. Both characters have charming facial features and react when the other ends up in a sticky situation. That’s the best way to describe Wyv & Keep: it’s a charming puzzle game, and is the sort of experience that could be easily introduced to a non-gamer for the first time.
The Windows version of this game was reviewed using a copy provided by the developer for that purpose.
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