There’s a good chance Jusant will be lost in the shuffle, what with some huge titles dropping around the same time. Regardless of these blockbusters falling down the mountain like boulders from great height, DON’T NOD‘s latest manages to hold on tight and refuse to give in. While the premise is straightforward, it is the experience it provides; one of catharsis and one of hope. It helps that the general gameplay is simple enough to get your head around, and with a gorgeous soundtrack and a tone akin to Journey, this one shouldn’t be ignored.
I was fortunate enough to preview Jusant recently, and it was apparent how chilled it was. You don’t die or fall to a grisly death, you simply learn from your mistakes and keep going. It’s about ascension through repetition. Familiarise yourself with the tools on offer, harness nature, and climb, climb, climb. You’re alone with your thoughts, and there’s no dialogue to cloud your head, only the occasional letter to read that fleshes out the story of the society that once lived on the mountain.
The scale of the mountain is vast, filled with various biomes covered in different kinds of flora. Sun-drenched cliff sides, vast caverns, windy and grassy rock faces, and more. Each one throws a new challenge at you and this is where the puzzle mechanics feature in Jusant. You’ve got you carabiner to anchor you, and your pitons to place to make sure you don’t return too far back if you fall. To climb, you move your left and right hands with the two trigger buttons and once you get used to it the movement is fluid. Having to keep anchoring and releasing becomes a touch annoying as it happens quite a lot in certain areas, and some of the camera angles can make it awkward to see where you are.
You can launch your rope at hanging hooks to allow you to swing across huge open spaces, move platforms to get you higher, climb up moving rock creatures, and with your cute little buddy, the plants can help you as well. Ballast is a blue critter that sits on your shoulder and can help you find your next objective, but he will also react to the environment to make it work in your favour. It can extend thick blue vines, grow numerous petals for you to climb on, and use tiny flecks of light to carry you up higher. There’s always a way to harness the nature you encounter, and it’s beautiful to watch.
Although no word is ever uttered, reading through the various letters gives clarity to the civilisation that craves for the water to return. In these notes, you’ll learn about how people lost hope in the future and regained it through coming together. Love conquers all, and that message is present as you get further up the mountain. It’s sweet and honest, sometimes powerful and sometimes sad, yet the fundamental human condition is laid bare through DON’T NOD‘s sharp script. It’s worth exploring every area in Jusant because these letters are hidden everywhere.
Along with these letters come secret paintings that are illuminated by Ballast to find, shells that can be listened to for some ASMR joy that highlight a specific moment in the lost society’s time, as well as cairn rocks for you to uncover. These little extras give you that little bit extra to focus on, and while you don’t have to go looking, it’s well worth taking the time to see everything Jusant has to offer because of how well designed the mountain is. It’s a gorgeous game made better with the peaceful soundtrack that always hits, especially one particular track that utilises an organ spectacularly.
Jusant is a straightforward game with some gorgeous climbing mechanics that make it easy to get into. The environmental puzzles are simple, but it’s not a game that wants you to fail. It wants you to take in the spectacle of nature and its correlation with love and survival, or friendship and the power it possesses. There’re plenty of other games that might take your attention at this point in the year, but Jusant shouldn’t be one you miss. DON’T NOD continually evolve how they tell stories, and this is another example of why they are so good at what they do.
Gorgeous visuals and score
Gameplay is simple yet addictive
Chilled out experience
Writing is beautiful
Not too challenging
Some awkward camera angles
Anchoring can become frustrating