Climbing is the most boring mechanic in gaming. And Jusant is a game about climbing. From that description, I thought the game to be one of two things. Either the perfect way to fall asleep, or the most innovative traversal experience since Octodad…And I was pleasantly surprised by what I found.
Jusant starts at the bottom, and gives you a rope to carry yourself to the top of a mountain. It is almost disrespectful to describe this behemoth as a mountain because of how misleading the term can sound. You will discover small towns nestled to the cliff faces and windmills peppered along the mountain. And within the mountain itself, you will trek through woodsy environments and greeted by soft and squishy plant life.
The Dreamscape of a Desert
A subtly rising soundtrack accompanies your climb. Dreamy synthesizers, strings and piano alongside other atmospheric instrumentation emboldens your ascension. The style and progression of music is reminiscent of another game with a mountain, Journey with its sweeping orchestral sound. The upward road is riddled with letters, secrets and crevices, adding more to the world of Jusant, which you quickly learn is not doing so well.
The lore of the world is explored through journey entries and environmental storytelling in a fairly effective manner. The writing is pleasant if somewhat forced, but more importantly, paints a vivid image of the people that once lived in this place. There is no spoken dialogue, and no narration dumps. If you ignore all the journal entries, you may wonder if there is a story at all.
But that is ok, because Jusant’s main draw is not reading, it is physics and controls.
Rope Physics and Freedom
Once you learn how to put one hand in front of the other, you are very quickly shown how much freedom you have in approaching each section. The game utilizes a robust physics system with ten percent tripping over yourself, and ninety percent genius. It feels very dynamic and satisfying to traverse through this space.
This is most elegantly shown with the rope system. True to real life rock climbing, you have a safety rappel and carabiner. You also, are immune to falling damage. With these two powers, you can throw yourself at anything and everything.
The game allows you to place rope anchors (up to 3 at a time) almost anywhere, allowing you to tether yourself to a wall, and pendulum swing yourself around. The rope itself is physics based, allowing it to get tied around objects and terrain, to either your benefit or detriment. Either way, it keeps the climbing game interesting, and allows you to set your own checkpoints using this system.
Opportunity and Controls
If there is one thing I was slightly disappointed by, was the missed opportunity to use the DualSense controller features. I played Jusant on PS5 hoping the controller’s adaptive triggers would be utilized in someway similar to Astro’s Playroom. I was somewhat despondent to discover it lacking. However, if it was utilized, my fingers would have had blisters, like a real mountain climber.
To climb you have to alternate between the left and right triggers, which as first feels a bit odd, but quickly becomes very natural. The game also subtly gives some forgiveness in these controls, allowing you to very swiftly climb walls without worrying about slipping off the long climb.
Jusant is filled with atmospheric bliss and deserves to be a part of my relaxation routine. DON’T NOD has succeeded in transforming traversal into something soothing and satisfying. The art style, music and gameplay weave together to the ultimate zen experience that only gets more satisfying the more you play. This is the type of game I will boot up at 11 PM when I want to relax, and then look at the time to realize it is 2 AM. Bravo DON’T NOD, you got me.
A Lovely Mountain Walk
Jusant is a freeing experience, with a linear progression. It incorporates clever level design with engaging mechanics that keeps gameplay enjoyable for the entire playthrough. And even after the credits, I wanted to dive right back in and explore every nook and cranny I know I missed. Jusant is the perfect game for when you simply want to lose yourself in a task, or rest after a long day’s work.