Jusant was among the titles that caught my eye during Microsoft’s Xbox Showcase 2023. Knowing little more than the fact that the game was about climbing, I jumped at the opportunity to preview Jusant before its release later this October.
Don’t Nod describes Jusant as an action puzzle game, which is true—however, I would put an asterisk on action, as the 2 hours or so I had with the preview build left me with the impression that Jusant is more of an exploratory puzzle game with very light action elements thrown in for good measure.
Coming off of games like Insomniac’s Spider-Man and The Legend of Zelda series, at first glance, I assumed Jusant would offer a similar but more robust take on the climbing mechanic found in those popular titles. Thankfully, I was wrong—Jusant, instead, features a unique trigger-based approach that I can only compare to something like the GPU Jungle level found in Astro’s Playroom on the PlayStation 5.
Instead of simply climbing forward or to the side, players have independent control of both arms, which are bound to the Left and Right triggers. Pressing the trigger buttons in tandem will gradually allow the player to climb or shimmy. This two-trigger rhythm gives a sense of depth to the movement found in Jusant while also giving players more precise control during some of the game’s more precarious sections.
“Despite some truly vertigo-inducing vistas, Jusant is largely a relaxing game…”
Despite some truly vertigo-inducing vistas, Jusant is largely a relaxing game, and those worried about falling can rest assured in knowing that the game only allows the player to climb after tethering themselves to Jusant’s many anchor points found all over the game’s massive tower.
Jusant grants the player three additional anchor points, which the player can deploy at any time, acting as emergency resting and jumping-off points during a climb. These are paramount (no pun intended) as they are often required to cross larger gaps or find avenues to move forward when the environment lacks further handholds or obvious progression points.
Climbing in Jusant initially may seem somewhat grounded—in truth, however, the game features some fantastical elements that elevate it above the clouds. A small water creature, which kind of looks like what would happen if Squishmallow made a blue tardigrade stuffie, accompanies the player character during the game. This creature, outside of cutting through the often isolated feel of the game, more importantly, grants the player the ability to nourish Jusant‘s flora, which, during gameplay, expands and acts as impromptu handholds that add an exciting layer to the otherwise standard climbing mechanics.
Plant-based handholds also often wither under direct sunlight, requiring precise timing for the player to utilize them before they disappear. More often than not, however, plants generally grow and allow the player to latch on for a quick trip to the next anchor point and leg on their Journey.
“…Jusant already feels like a well-polished gem that should be on your radar…”
Another interesting fold to the otherwise bog-standard crack in the wall, porous surface, or natural foothold is Jusant‘s use of insects featuring rock-like plating, allowing the player to grab on to what is essentially a moving handhold, something the game uses to create fun timing-based puzzles that break up the standard climbing sequences.
Outside just climbing, the game world features many a nook and cranny to explore, with the game’s setting taking place in what appears to be a massive abandoned settlement residing in a mountainous tower that blends the natural world with pockets of n man-made structures, homes and temples, giving Jusant a distinctive look reminiscent of something like Journey and the works of Jean Giraud.
Although non-essential, exploring Jusant’s world leads to flavour text and other collectables, which give insight into the setting, adding to the forlong sense of what was once a lived-in place, rife for the player to rediscover as they climb.
If there is one thing I hope Don’t Nod implements when Jusant releases, it is Dualsense support for the PC version of the game, something I feel would be essential in a game that largely relies on its tactility and reliance on environmental storytelling.
Even still, with over a month until release, Jusant already feels like a well-polished gem that should be on your radar if you like slower games or are simply looking for a world to get lost in that only requires a little effort or time to appreciate fully.