Jusant, an upcoming puzzle/climbing adventure from Don’t Nod, might just turn out to be the coziest game of 2023.
Earlier this year, Only Up, an indie platformer, took the gaming world by storm and briefly became a streaming sensation. The frustratingly difficult title shone a spotlight on the climbing game genre.
This fall, gamers will be treated to another climber – Don’t Nod’s Jusant. It’s shaping up to be a much more balanced and well-polished offering than Only Up, with a well-defined, low-poly art style that only adds to the experience.
We were provided with a PC demo version of Jusant by Don’t Nod for the purposes of this preview.
The game begins with a slow-burn cutscene that doesn’t really reveal much about the story or setting but perfectly sets the overall tone and style of the game.
Jusant is a rather slow, methodical climbing game that will frequently have you stop and think about where to place your pitons and how to scale the next wall.
Jusant’s gameplay is surprisingly complex for a title with a simple premise of “just get to the top of that mountain.”
While there are quite a few control schemes to get a grip on, they became second nature to me after just a few attempts.
As you progress through the initial stages of the game, it slowly feeds you with more details about its different mechanics without getting in the way of the gameplay or too much hand-holding.
You’ll spend the majority of your time in Jusant on numerous walls, mountainsides, and other vertical surfaces, trying to get to the very top. Seeing as climbing is the primary focus of the game, it had to be executed well in order to keep players engaged.
Thankfully, Don’t Nod managed to do just that. Every wall and climbing sequence in Jusant is a puzzle of its own.
At some moments, I was forced to let go of the rocks and swing on my rope to reach the next climbable section. Others required careful flicking of the left and right triggers of my controller to properly place the protagonist’s hands on the rocks so that I could continue climbing.
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I found the controls to be counterintuitive and frustrating at first. However, once the game threw a few challenging walls at me, everything suddenly clicked.
Manipulating the triggers to grab onto things no longer felt awkward, and I was pleasantly surprised by just how much faster I could move once I got the hang of the controls.
There are also sections that require precise rope-swinging and platforming, which nicely switch up the pace from time to time. This is where careful piton placement comes into play – if you latch onto the wrong spot, you won’t make the jump.
After getting used to the controls, Jusant’s loop of climbing, swinging, and jumping caught me in a hypnotizing flow state, which made stopping to admire the views all the more satisfying and rewarding.
There is no overt plot to guide you forward in Jusant. That doesn’t mean that the game and its environments are devoid of any backstory, though. Curious, detail-oriented players will find plenty of items and letters that shine a bit of light on the mountain and its past inhabitants.
Jusant’s hand-crafted locations also contain a fair bit of environmental storytelling. The number of details I caught onto whenever I stopped into one of the many rooms carved into the mountainside seriously impressed me.
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All of these elements set Jusant apart from the other climbing games. It’s not a race to the top.
The game is almost a meditative experience, where the combination of methodical climbing, uncovering interesting letters, and gorgeous views really encourage you to take it at your own pace.
Graphics and performance
Jusant looks gorgeous, with a very well-defined low-poly art style and a whole lot of detail packed into each layer of the mountain. The weather and surfaces change as you climb higher up the mountain, so the environments are everything but monotonous.
I played the demo version on PC, and although I encountered a few performance issues, these were typical for an early version of a game and Don’t Nod will almost certainly iron them out by the time Jusant hits the stores.
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Once, I fell through the floor, unable to break out of the inside of the mountain. Another time, I was unable to climb up a ladder, the only way to progress through a section. Thankfully, checkpoints are very frequent, and reloading resolved the issue in both cases.
All throughout the demo, the game played at a steady 60 FPS, and the only framerate dip I experienced happened during the opening cutscene. Considering how detail-packed the game is, I found the steady performance quite impressive.
See you at the top!
After getting a taste of what it’s like to climb Jusant’s mountain/tower, I can’t wait to see what the full game will surprise me with once it comes out in the fall. It’s an excellent mix of rock climbing, platforming, and puzzles, with a unique atmosphere that will surely keep you occupied for many cozy evenings.
Jusant is schedule to come out in Fall 2023 on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S.