Wyv and Keep was featured in the Indie Royale Alpha bundle way back in the mists of 2011. The game is only now seeing its official release – so, despite the fact I’ve had access to it for a long time, I’m only now finally playing it.
The game opens with a gorgeous and intriguing pixel art cinematic, reminding me of the arcade games of my youth, and it is instantly apparent how much time and love has gone into Wyv and Keep. Is it necessary? Probably not, but it does a sublime job of introducing us to the plight of our heroes, establishing our goal of reaching that big, magical pyramid in the middle of the jungle, and it also serves to tell us what to expect over the rest of the game – a carefully constructed yet retro affair.
At the start of the week I talked about Beep, but where Beep had large, Mario-esque levels littered with physics puzzles, Wyv and Keep instead confines its levels to a single screen. There’s no room for cheesing, just meticulously crafted levels with precise solutions.
You control both of the titular characters – Wyv and Keep – and it is this simple mechanic that informs a lot of the puzzles. You might need to send each character to a separate section of the level – sometimes a one-way trip – so they can work in tandem, or simply stack them on each other’s heads to get to otherwise unreachable platforms.
The selection of available actions is extremely limited – you can jump, you can pick up some items (dynamite, each other, but not boxes), and you can cut loose boxes that are hanging from ropes – but it is these restrictions that give Wyv and Keep its special brand of head-scratching difficulty. You might be able to see what you need to do in some vague sense, but figuring out exactly how with the limited toolset on offer is where the fun lays.
The story that begins with the aforementioned cinematic is that Wyv and Keep are in South America to raid some tombs, or temples or whatever. Wyv is some special sort of idiot, and Keep is a constant nag with a plainly sexist idle animation, so don’t expect any sort of deep or interesting characterisation. Their chatter is dull, the backstory uninteresting, and the jokes are absolutely awful.
Thankfully you can skip past Diary pages, and dialogue without losing out on anything interesting or important, it’s just a shame that after such a captivating intro the presentation of the rest of the story is painful.
The retro aesthetic won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but the pixel art is crisp, the soundtrack is interesting and the puzzles are nothing short of superb.
- Be Ambidextrous – the game is designed for local co-op, and the controls are set for this by default. What this means is that instead of switching between the two characters, I was able to play them both at the same time. I don’t know why I recommend this, but I do.
I guess a better recommendation would be to play it with a friend – two brains are better than one after all, and Wyv and Keep is a delightfully difficult puzzler.