I’m a sucker for platformers and anything that resembles them. I say resembles because Jusant isn’t a platformer, though it holds some of the key characteristics of that game type. Instead, Don’t Nod’s latest game is an action-puzzle climbing game. In Jusant, you scale an immeasurably tall tower and ascend to new heights alongside your adorable blob of a watery companion, the Ballast.
Over the course of the game, which is relatively short, you master your climbing tools and move up through diverse biomes and architecture that help you piece together the tower’s past through notes found in the world. In a sunbattered world, climate collapse is clear and because of this, you must challenge yourself at your own pace to explore different paths and unravel the secrets of a bygone civilization as you head toward the sky.
Verticality is the backbone of Jusant’s traversal mechanics, which push the player to understand movement in a different way than platforming or traversing on the ground. While you’re mostly climbing up, the cliffsides you move along are filled with dynamic details that make you think about how to move through each section. It’s a thoughtful take on platforming that tethers you to a central idea of movement but presents enough variance to keep every surface interesting. Ultimately, the player can discover innovative ways to move through the dying world and up into the sky.
The game’s controls make the experience tactile, moving the carabiner to find support and succeed in climbing up. After climbing higher and higher, controlling your character becomes second nature. In fact, it’s easy to imagine your hands grasping and holding as you use the triggers, even while playing with a controller on the PC. You also have to learn how to swing and how to jump effectively, judging the gaps you clear and learning your own capability, as well as the game’s straightforward physics. If the dedicated adaptation of real-life climbing mechanics isn’t challenging enough, monitoring your stamina is.
The key to understanding stamina management is learning the difference between complex moves and resting positions, as well as which one still use stamina to maintain and which don’t. If you stop to rest but you’re still holding your body up, you can’t refill your stamina meter. There’s a slight learning curve, but the barrier imposed by the meter doesn’t reset you to the bottom of the tower. Instead, it just puts you back in the spot you were moving from—a saving grace when your only focus is to move up.
In addition to a take on traditional climbing, Jusant also has a bevy of ways to work up the mountain outside just your hands. You can use plants to zip across cliff faces and other interactive elements to make your ascent all the more interesting. Even though they are many, they never overwhelm the experience. Instead, they accentuate it and ensure that you’re always layering in new ways to understand your climb.
Climbing in Justant is many things. It’s traversal and exploration mechanics at once, and it’s also the narrative itself. The ability to tell a story with a silent protagonist solely through environmental design and a core mechanic is stellarly achieved. Don’t Nod captures the art of subtlety, and somehow, that softness is bold at the same time. Jusant is beauty and adventure that lets you sink into a meditative ascent.
I don’t have many words for Jusant, but that’s because this gorgeously animated and scored game just needs to be played to be experienced. Its subtlety and ability to move the player naturally without much pomp or circumstance is what makes Jusant stand out in a crowded gaming month and year. With level design that uses highly stylized environments that still feel grounded and tactile in beautifully developed verticality.
Jusant doesn’t rely on dialogue at all, but the gorgeous original soundtrack, composed by Guillaume Ferran (which I highly recommend you pick up on Steam) is as compelling as the vast and beautiful environments that Don’t Nod has created. Marketed as “meditative vibes,” the sometimes difficult climbs that build tension can be cut once accomplished by a soothing score.
Jusant is a testament to letting environments speak for themselves instead of relying on dialogue. Don’t Nod trusts its ability as developers to create a game that relies on experience, not words and it trusts its players to understand narrative subtleties. Jusant may be simple, but its layered vision of a world is timeless.
Jusant is available on Steam, Xbox Series X|S (including Xbox Game Pass), and PlayStation 5.
Justant is a testament to letting environments speak for themselves instead of relying on dialogue. Don’t Nod trusts its ability as developers to create a game that relies on experience, not words and it trusts its players to understand narrative subtleties. Jusant may be simple, but its layered vision of a world is timeless.