There are some games that catch the eye immediately. Whether that be through the visuals, the audio or the premise, it’s hard to not take notice. Jusant excels in all three of those areas, throwing in an intriguing narrative and cracking set of mechanics for good measure. Really though, this one is all about going up, by any means possible…
Coming from the DON’T NOD team, Jusant is an action-climber at heart; a game that will constantly tease you with moving up in the world. Playing as a mysterious character in a mysterious world, with an equally mysterious companion – don’t worry, we’re spoiling absolutely nothing in terms of narrative – it all comes together in very nearly the most complete of ways. In fact, aside from a few visual issues that only pop up from time to time, this is about as serene and mechanically perfect as you could imagine.
Wandering into a world, your mute self is left with a decision. How do you best go up the tower in front of you? It’s a simple question, but throughout your time with Jusant it’s one that will be at the fore of your mind. Grabbing handholds in a cliff face, teasing the left and right triggers in combination with the left stick sees your adventure begin, anchored in via a combination of carabiner and limited pitons. It’s the placement of these which is key to your success, and ensures that any slip from the rockface is one that will make hardly a dent on your journey up.
Gripping tight, that climbing is superb. You’ll find yourself getting into a real flow with Jusant, moving from left to right, alternating, looking for hand holds in amongst the crevices and rocks, stopping occasionally for stamina levels to increase. Slipping onto a ladder, rappelling up and down your rope, swinging across chasms – it is all done with utter brilliance; the mechanics of Jusant holding up with ease along the way. Clambering over obstacles and shimmying across ledges and through tight gaps allow further progress.
In fact, it’s only really here where occasionally Jusant lets go. Visual clipping in tight areas is found as the camera tries to focus, whilst every now and then you may well find yourself floating in mid-air, as platforming precision fails. Ultimately, these are hardly of significance and can be overcome in a heartbeat; we’ve found a skip and jump, or pull on the rope to fix most oddities.
But don’t think you’ll just be climbing over sheer rock faces and overhangs in Jusant. At times you’ll need to make the most of a little backpackable buddy – Ballast – as he fast comes into his own. His squeals and squeaks signify that something of interest is nearby; whether that be a collectible letter from the past or a nod to previous climbers and inhabitants. There are also rock cairns to finish off, hidden altars to acknowledge and more. The world of Jusant may well be confined to a small ish area, but DON’T NOD have crammed it full of secrets.
Ballast can also integrate with the environment around you, aiding in your climbing. Able to awaken vines, these grow into place as his powers are honed. Fireflies help lift you to new areas, whilst little rock-dwelling mites can be used as a conveyor belt of sorts; at least for a time. This all means that Jusant is a game that is capable of continually providing wonder, as you work your way through your journey as an adventurer.
For us, it’s the very earliest moments in which things really excel. Getting to grips – literally – with the climbing mechanics never frustrates and as the external walls of this land are overcome, narratives and more come to the fore. Perhaps it slows a little midway through the five hour or so running time, but that’s only for a bioluminescent section that becomes a bit more maze-centric than we would like. From there, heading back out and into wind-swept upper reaches once again sees the climbing joys unfold.
Jusant is a visually vibrant game too. There are moments of real wow as you take in vistas, contemplating your starting point as the journey unfolds. And whilst it’s never totally obvious where your path is taking you, a quick hold and rest will let you scout surroundings, trying to work out the best laid plan. Don’t think this is linear either – we’d suspect there are dozens of routes and pathways for you to get to grips with, depending on the skills you wish to use.
Character movement is also of high quality. Well detailed with a glorious sheen, whether it be you as the climber, or Ballast as the help, there’s never a drop in visual clarity. In fact, we think this might get better looking the more it is played, with some of the environments, ending gameplay sections and cutscenes allowing for dropped mouths.
Equally as splendid is the audio. Whilst mute as a climber, listening in to aural clues from Ballast and the world around you will be key to everything you do here. It’s the finer details that really help immerse, accompanied by a soundscore that is occasionally out of this world. You know how music can be used to help immerse players even more? Yeah, Jusant does that with aplomb.
This is one you may wish to replay as well. Upon game completion, chapter breakdowns show the secrets and collectibles you have missed, allowing for you to jump back in for further exploration time. Maybe that is non-essential, but Jusant is certainly a game we can see many heading back to as they go searching for full completion.
So, Jusant then – a near masterpiece that should be played by anyone and everyone. If you’re after a narrative, it nails it. If you’re looking for a serene game to kick back with for an evening or two, equally so. And if you just want to go up, there’s not a better game to do it with than with Jusant.
This one very nearly climbs to perfection.