Jotun - Review

Author: Marco Mottura
Date: 2020-07-30 16:26:21
As the dear old Kratos has taught us lovingly over the years, few things are healthier and more satisfying than a nice picnic for a mythological setting seasoned with more or less ferocious massacres of millennial and semi-divine creatures: you want for the tickling taste of forbidden, either for the sense of redemption in making David triumph against Goliath, or for the epochal epic feat of the enterprise, but sowing chaos and destruction in otherworlds always has its damned cause. The boys of Thunder Lotus, a software house of just eight elements based in Montreal, who in September 2014 brought their first work - Jotun - on Kickstarter, must have started from the same identical premise, collecting at the end of the fundraising campaign $ 64,000 Canadians (compared to the 50,000 initially requested).

And here we are, launched in fast forward mode exactly two years after that crucial date: in twenty-four months William Dubé and his companions have commendably gone from good intentions to facts, and their creature has not only become reality (with the released in September 2015 in PC / Mac / Linux format), but is also preparing to invade, in these days, the console market with Jotun: Valhalla Edition, that is to say an enlarged and correct version of their debut title, sold in digital format for € 14.99. But what exactly is Jotun? The answer is quite simple: the genre is undoubtedly that of action-adventure games, with quite unmistakable influences ranging from Zelda to Shadow of the Colossus and an appreciable emphasis on fighting, although there are some peculiarities that can distinguish Jotun from the rest, somehow giving it its own character.

The first, evident from a rather superficial glance, concerns the technical realization of this small - but by no means ambitious - Norse-themed production: Jotun is a proudly hand-drawn video game, with an aesthetic that incorporates the classic canons traditional animation. In short, the movements of the characters are rather emphatic, the deliberately contrasted color application (there is a very marked difference between the backdrops, brushed in a rather evocative and convincing way, and the strictly flat background of the protagonists) and in general the reference to a particular "old school" sensitivity. A reminder that a certain type of public will not be rightly indifferent, even if, let's face it, we are not from the parties either of the amazing Cuphead, let alone from those of The Banner Saga (the artistic similarities with the Stoic title are in fact quite a few , even if here the class of the glimpses of the Eyvind Earle is completely missing, and indeed here and there you can feel forcing and naive perspectives that make your nose turn up a bit).

The second peculiar characteristic of Jotun concerns its own structure: the adventure of Thora - a warrior who has been refused entry into Valhalla due to a death not honorable enough, and who as such is committed to redeeming herself in the eyes of of embarking on a feat that has nothing to envy to that of the mythological Hercules - it is in fact composed of five rather demanding boss fights, interspersed from time to time by two levels with a purely exploratory imprint, straddling elementary puzzles from settle and landscapes to explore far and wide. A clear rift that on the one hand emphasizes and enhances the duels with the titanic opponents (without any doubt the most convincing aspect of the game), but on the other it creates some problems in terms of rhythm and involvement. There is in fact little to do: however useful to reinvigorate the character with new skills and enhancements - unlockable respectively through the discovery of special consecrated altars and trees with golden apples - the exploration-focused schemes will allow themselves to be passed through without significant jolts (when not even with a hint of boredom), ending up looking like mere fillers that are also quite inconclusive and empty between one clash and the next.

Already, precisely, the clashes with the Jotun: pleasantly "video game" battles, which in spite of a never memorable character design fascinate thanks to the gargantuan scale of the enemies, effectively accentuated by the shot from above, with the character that often it makes small small compared to the towering bulk of the semi-gods. Even in this light, however, there are unfortunately not negligible missteps: not only is the combat system absolutely basic, with in fact very few solutions both in attack and defense and in general a depth reduced to the bone, but they also encounter controls that are never really as responsive as you would like (probably related to the very low speed of action and the deliberately emphatic animations I mentioned a few lines above) and imperfect collisions, deriving from a rough management of hitboxes.

The end result is such an experience that even by virtue of its short duration it is easy to play - especially if you are looking for a good challenge rate and if you do not mind repeating the same boss fight several times, without fear of a few games over but rather trying to perfect yourself with bipenne ax - but that ultimately will not fail to leave a certain bitterness in the mouth: beyond the intriguing frame and the appeal linked to some details (from the highly evocative dubbing in Icelandic to the laudable column in fact) Jotun seems to lack solid supporting bases, capable of truly elevating the work before Thunder Lotus in the eyes of the gods.

I reviewed Jotun: Valhalla Edition thanks to a PS4 code made available by the developer. I completed Thora's journey in four abundant hours, dedicating myself exclusively to the main adventure and barely scratching the surface of the Boss Rush mode (which is the main novelty introduced to celebrate the debut of the game on consoles): in no uncertain terms the brutal soaring of the difficulty and the inconceivable quantity of blows to inflict on the colossal enemies before seeing them collapse on the ground have quenched in the bud anyway my weak enthusiasm, resetting without if and without but my thirst for high score.