Developer/Publisher Thunder Lotus Games
Genre Action Adventure Platform Played PC
Valhalla is a coveted place in Norse mythology, where warriors who die noble deaths go to spend the rest of eternity among other honourable warriors. Unfortunately for the protagonist of Jotun, Thora, she is dead but does not find herself in Valhalla. She is given a second chance, tasked with fighting her way through several worlds connected to Ginnungagap to impress the Gods. What follows in an action epic which stays true to the source material and takes players on an incredible journey.
A small level, a mini boss, and an actual boss battle serve as a training ground when Jotun is first started. Neither the bosses nor the level are particularly challenging, but allow an introduction of each game mechanic which will be used throughout Thora’s quest. It becomes immediately clear that dodging and picking your spots to attack are absolutely crucial when battling jotuns, and even the simplest of obstacles can be fatal if you are not cautious. Upon defeating the first jotun, you are set free in Ginnungagap (a void connecting the “Nine Worlds” of Norse mythology) able to choose which of the four remaining worlds you wish to address next. In this central hub area, mini maps of each level are shown on the floor, highlighting which key features of the levels you have found. Only aspects such as power-ups and runes are displayed on these maps, but it simplifies the process of determining which worlds or levels you have yet to complete. The jotuns themselves are even represented on the hub floor as well, finding a unique way of showing progress through the game without providing a typical statistics page.
In order to unlock the jotun fight within each world, you must locate the rune from both levels. Some levels simply require you to reach the rune while others will task you with collecting certain items from across the level before granting access. These runes are the only mandatory items found in Jotun, but those who dedicate the time to locating extra health or power-ups will find their journey far less excruciating. Boss battles can be punishing even with power-ups and extended health bars, making them near impossible without anything extra. Making your way to the runes and additional collectibles may seem easy at first glance, but the way each level’s map is portrayed adds a learning curve to navigation. Rather than placing an arrow or circle on the map to identify the player’s current position, the map remains blank save for icons representing the level’s power-up and rune locations. There is a relatively detailed outline of the map, but if you do no keep track of where you venture, you will undoubtedly find yourself lost in no time, making it far more challenging for those incapable of using maps and landmarks effectively. It may seem like a hindrance at first, but this modification to the traditional map system makes exploration both satisfying and more interesting than the more traditional versions with player indicators. Occasionally identifying marks will appear on the map to indicate things such as the healing pool once the player has found it, but at no point is the player’s position ever displayed on the map.
Part of what makes Jotun so enjoyable is the ability to freely wander between worlds without committing to the completion of one. If you unlock a boss battle in one world but decide you want to locate a few more God powers or feel your life bar could be a little longer for the fight, you are more than welcome to begin other levels. This prevents players from getting stuck on a more difficult level or boss fight with no path forward except to struggle and die repeatedly. It may seem like a rather minor detail, but it allows you to play the game in the order of their choosing, making it feel like a more organic experience when compared to a more rigid, linear title.
The hand-drawn art found in the game is absolutely breathtaking. There are several moments in levels when the camera slowly zooms out, offering a far more panoramic view of the surrounding area and it showcases precisely how much effort went into making Jotun look as gorgeous as it does. Whether it is lush forest, frigid glacial waters, or a celestial backdrop, the environments found in the game never cease to amaze with their beauty and detail. The style is not limited to stationary environments though, as enemies, Thora herself, and every jotun is masterfully brought to life. In the midst of heated battle, you may find yourself distracted by the level of detail in a jotun’s attacks, potentially causing an untimely death or two.
On the topic of boss fights, there is not a solitary battle found in Jotun which does not feel epic. Each jotun feels unique from the others, commanding a separate force of nature, while utilizing completely separate attack patterns. As the fights progress, new attacks are added, making the giants far more lethal, and forcing you to adapt on the fly. While there are always moments in the fights which allow you to deal some damage quickly without fear of being struck, most of these moments are brief, and some of the fights still have various other enemies or obstacles preventing you from easily taking advantage of those moments with reckless abandon. The fights which fall into the latter category are even more memorable as you never get the opportunity to lower your guard. You are constantly observing your surroundings even as the enemy lays immobile in front of you struggling to stand up. Having this constant state of awareness significantly increases the tension of any fight in addition to making each victory feel like a great accomplishment. As far as boss fights go, Jotun easily houses some of the best battles from any game in recent memory.
There may not be much reason to return to Jotun after completing the title, but the gorgeous art style, creative level design, unforgettable boss fights, and an intriguing plot centered around a relatively unused mythology more than makes up for this. Long after turning off the game, players will be thinking back to close calls during the epic battles with jotuns or the sheer amount of time they spent wandering levels without a clue as to where they were going because they lost track of where they were on the map. Any fans of action titles and mythology will undoubtedly fall in love with Jotun and the quest to impress the Gods.
- Epic boss battles
- Ability to play levels in order of your choice
- Breathtaking visuals
- Map forces you to manually navigate levels
- Little replay value
- Relatively short play time with only nine levels and six bosses
The Score: 9.0
Eric is an Xbox editor for Analog Addiction where you can find all the latest gaming news, previews, reviews, and everything else that rhymes with those words. ‘Like’ Analog Addiction on Facebook to receive all of the updates as they’re posted.