by Carston Anderson
reviewed on PC
Jotun is an action game that is heavily based on the Scandinavian culture and religion of 700-odd AD’s. For Viking warrior Thora, Jotun’s protagonist, the future is pretty much all laid out before her. Thora has had the misfortune of dying an inglorious death which is a pretty big sin for a Viking warrior and as such must prove to the Gods that she is worthy of entering Valhalla. Until then, she is trapped in Norse purgatory and has to fight her way to those big pearly gates with nothing but her wits, some occasional divine support and the cliché massive two handed axe that every little Viking girl gets on her twelfth birthday.
I can't say that I have played many games where every single frame was hand drawn. Of the few that I have, Jotun ranks amongst the best in terms of pure aesthetic appeal and the team that worked on it certainly knows how to hold a pen - I certainly do enjoy looking at it. Jotun doesn’t try to advertise itself as something it isn’t. It’s a 2-D boss battler game filled with environmental puzzles, although I feel like puzzles is a bit of a stretch. For me the game consisted of wandering around until I found what I was looking for with a bit of combat sprinkled in to keep the player engaged. Not that I minded this very much because it gave me something to look at while I played.
I was surprised when combat turned out to be more difficult than I thought it would be. I can remember one moment while playing through one level where I was swarmed by a three dozen enemies that did little damage alone, but collectively could very easily kill poor Thora. It took me multiple tries to get past it and the only reason I was able to was because I explored a little more of that hand drawn map and found a shrine to some deity with an unpronounceable name that gave me a combat buff. The boss fights are very well put together and a tier above the regular combat provided in the game, with you being just a tiny speck in comparison to your opponent who is an incredibly large and powerful opponent.
In combat you will be punished for trying to rush. You have a two handed battle axe, you aren’t going to be doing flips and cartwheels with it, you’re going to be gracelessly smacking things in the head as hard as you can but that no matter how hard you hit, the enemy is going to hit harder and faster so it’s not a good idea to stand there and try to mash right trigger while standing still.
Jotun rewards the diligent explorer but doesn’t give you anything to help guide you through that exploration. It took me a little while to realize that the water elevators where just that, for instance. Also, when you enter a level, there is no map whatsoever so take a good look at the one provided to you in the main starting area. On the plus side you don't have to worry about falling to your death because the game won't let you throw yourself off the ledge, and this ties back into the combat and boss fights. You're a Viking warrior, remember? Death by falling or taking an arrow to the neck from Jon the peasant over there is most definitely not a glorious way to go.
Pretty, but a little empty upstairs
I find there’s much more to say about the environment our protagonist finds herself in than the actual protagonist herself. Thora is a female Viking with red hair and antlers on her helmet that runs around killing things to prove that she deserves to enter Valhalla but apart from that there isn’t much else.
Overall, Jotun is a very visual game with a very memorable art style that offers a well rounded combat system in a setting that does its best to stay true to its real-life inspirations but finds itself lacking in the plot department which is a genuine shame because it's clear that Thunder Lotus Games put a lot of time and passion into this kick-starter funded project.
Did I mention that every single frame was hand drawn? Seriously, not even Pixar does that anymore.
Beautiful art style, tough boss battles
It gets a little samey a little too fast