By: Justin Redmon
History shows that the best treasure hunters always work alone. You don’t have to look much further than Indiana Jones with his trusty whip or Lara Croft with pistols at her side to see some merit to the argument. Sure, every now and then they might get some unsolicited help, and both might have some disagreements as to whether the goods belong in a museum or one’s bank account, but they’d probably agree that treasure hunting still seems to be a decidedly solitary endeavor.
Developer A Jolly Corpse seems to want to change the standard, putting forth a treasure hunting duo in the aptly named indie puzzler, Wyv and Keep, pitting you and a friend against puzzles galore in the search of every treasure hunters greatest fantasy: fat stacks of gold.
Supporting drop-in and drop-out gameplay, controls more than provide for the co-op gameplay. Both players can find themselves situated comfortably on the same keyboard, or with one relegated to a connected 360 controller. The only real change between solo and co-op play is the ability to switch between Wyv and Keep, but I’d honestly recommend tackling this title with a friend, as later puzzles require a level of precision and synchronization that can be extremely difficult to pull off on one’s lonesome.
In the graphics and sound department, Wyv and Keep doesn’t disappoint, boasting both an impressively detailed pixel art style, and a lovingly crafted soundtrack that manages to fit the Amazonian scenery without falling into the indie staple of 8-bit beeps and boops. Wyv and Keep themselves are quite expressive throughout, both in their interactions with each other and through idle banter, while a bevy of facial animations for both characters round out their individual personalities.
Although some might find the stages to have a slight cookie cutter appearance, Wyv and Keep actually uses this to its own benefit in its level creator, where inspired players can create their own puzzles that can closely match the detail placed into levels created by the developers themselves.
The Amazonian rainforest find itself home to many a secret, so much so that intrepid explorers Wyv and Keep find themselves diving headlong into its depths in search of treasure. That being said, the way they go about doing this is in typical puzzle platformer fashion, with plenty of block pushing, button pressing, and explosions to make the journey worth the effort.
Puzzles focus heavily on the value of teamwork, and although it’s quite easy to play the game alone at first, later on the puzzle logic finds itself at odds with a single player switching between Wyv and Keep, requiring precision and timing that can be quite tricky to pull off alone. This makes the experience one that is best enjoyed with a friend, either on the same computer or over the internet.
One thing Wyv and Keep does remarkably well is pacing, slowly ramping up the difficulty of puzzles from cakewalks to head scratchers, but to alleviate some of the strain an easy mode is supported, taking away some of the roadblocks that make each puzzle harder to keep the experience as enjoyable as possible. The end result of each level of puzzle solving ends up with a final score, scoring players on things like time completed, total deaths, and gold collected. Sadly, it’s one of the things about the game that just doesn’t seem to work out all that well.
The trial-and-error nature of the game makes it so that deaths come quite often, coupled with the fact you’ll more than likely restart a single puzzle multiple times to get the timings and such right. Thus, scoring a player in such a manner seems counterproductive when all is said and done. Replaying puzzles to get the best times doesn’t serve much point, either, unless you’re looking to 100 percent the game or unlock tokens to purchase hats, which while enjoyable, doesn’t offer enough of a change to really be worth the extra effort or frustration.
As a whole, Wyv and Keep is an incredibly enjoyable puzzle experience that lends itself to the co-op mechanic quite nicely. Even with the few disagreements I had with the title, it’s easily recommendable to any who find themselves seeking their next puzzle fix.