Review: Wyv and Keep: The Temple of the Lost Idol
At this point in your life, you’ve probably seen more crates in video games than you have in real life. You’ve also pushed and arranged more virtual crates than anyone in the history of the world, all for the privilege of arranging yet more crates. It’s easy to bag on the ubiquitous boxes of the game industry, but there’s still some joy to be found in crate-based puzzling. Enter Wyv and Keep, two smart-mouthed novice treasure hunters with only a vast assortment of crates, switches, and ridiculously challenging puzzles between them and fortune.
Wyv and Keep is a puzzle platformer pitting you against single-screen rooms full of traps and treasure. You control both feisty finders, switching between them with a press of a button (unless you opt for the co-op mode) to unlock and reach the exit of each level. Along the way you’ll find riches to collect, secret doors to crack, notes to flesh out the story, and tons of deadly perils to stop you from reaching any of them. After each level you’re rated on your performance in terms of speed, attempts, and treasure secured.
Doubtless you’ve heard this pitch before, but Wyv and Keep manages to transcend the tired genre in a couple ways. The most prominent of these ways, of course, is how incredibly fucking hard it is. I’ve played a fair share of pushing/shoving puzzle games and beaten or come close in most of them, but W&K started kicking my ass by World 3. Right away you’ll be faced with those insidious puzzles that appear completely impossible at first blush, but begin to reveal themselves after a dozen or more attempts. I guarantee there is no smooth sailing through this game, as you’ll soon be spending a good twenty minutes staring at just one of the game’s sixty-plus perplexing puzzles.
That’s really the big thing you need to be prepared for, the withering difficulty. These aren’t the ah-ha moments of Braid, these are brick walls of intricate pitfalls and switches. Every level is going to take careful planning to work out the precise sequence of moves to complete it, thanks to the two-character element. Both Wyv and Keep can push crates and cut ropes, but they can also serve as blocks themselves, giving the other the leg up they need to reach a high ledge or fill a gap for a crate to cross. These basic abilities are used to the fullest extent to tax your brain in ways you may very well have never been challenged.
Your quest for fortune and glory is rendered in a pretty close approximation of SNES graphics, softly pixellated and lovingly detailed. The sound design is equally charming and pleasant, a necessity as you struggle with the brain-teasers in your way. The only place the design really falls down is in the options, because they don’t really exist. As long as you don’t mind a smallish windowed experience, though, it shouldn’t bother you much. The only thing that might bother you is the precipitous difficulty curve, but if you want your puzzle games to challenge then you’ll find your match in Wyv and Keep.