Game Spotlight: Jotun
I’ve been playing through Jotun, an excellent 2D action game by Thunder Lotus Games and William Dubé. It’s along the same lines of what Titan’s Souls is, with a little more focus on direct narrative than on punishing, fast paced boss encounters. It’s difficult to talk about games that make use of expansive, exploration-focused interludes between huge scale boss battles without mentioning Shadow of the Colossus and comparing how they shape up in comparison. It’s interesting to see how much of a precedent that game set for adventure games beyond it, pretty much the same way that Dark Souls has forever changed the face of action-RPGs. Both of those games essentially pioneered entire genres simply by existing and I’m sure they will continue to spawn a number of excellent games and franchises as their legacy grows. That being said, while it’s clear to see the inspiration from Team Ico’s oft lauded masterpiece, Jotun sets itself apart from it’s predecessor by painting to life, the rich and vibrant world of Norse mythology. Literally. Much of Jotun is drawn and animated by hand.
Even stills are breathtaking of this game, and it’s very clear to see just how much blood, sweat, and tears have gone into crafting the game’s visual aesthetic to be just right. The hand-drawn style is able to convey a lot of personality in the enemies, environments, and protagonist as well. It’s an interesting choice that translates quite well into movement, giving complete control of how quickly or slowly animations resolve while keeping fidelity entirely intact. The game benefits greatly from it’s simplicity in places, but the impressive scale of the battles and environments coupled with excellent narration throughout, makes sure that there’s enough there to keep the player interested through the interludes. You play as Thora, a recently deceased viking warrior who met her end somewhat less gloriously than a viking would like. As such, she has taken it upon herself to impress the Gods and enter Valhalla by travelling across the nine worlds and casting down the Jotun, powerful and primordial beings that wield mastery over the elements and more. This essentially translates to an informative and exciting romp through the worlds of Norse myth, and Thunder Lotus Games definitely did their homework. Whether you’re an expert on the subject or, like me, your knowledge of the nine worlds is strictly bush-league, the attention to detail with the narrative and bosses is doubtful to unsatisfy. The game is short and sweet, but it packs a serious stylistic punch. The gameplay is challenging without getting too intense, and as the precedent set by its forerunner, most of the boss fights are little puzzles in and of themselves. I won’t get specific but I will say that the design of the bosses keeps the player on their toes and forces them to make the most of their simple moveset. In addition to all this, all of the narration is spoken in Icelandic, which adds an excellent immersive quality to the story, along with a consistently solid soundtrack that perfectly fits the epic scale of the task at hand.
Since its release in September of last year, Jotun has been winning hearts left and right with its charm and attention to detail. The gameplay is challenging but not frustrating and the game has an excellent amount of focus, especially in the aesthetic department. If you’ve ever wished you could play a Disney film, this one definitely is for you. Maybe not in terms of content, but the visuals certainly are something else to actively move around and participate in. Give it a shot if you’re looking for a concise and gorgeously animated story to curl up with out of the snow. Good gaming!