When it comes to Norse mythology I can’t think of a better source material rife for use in an action-adventure video game — Jotun: Valhalla Edition on the Nintendo Switch might just be the exemplary title in showcasing Norse mythos outside of God of War.
Originally released in 2015 for the PC and then later ported to various systems such as the Wii U, Jotun: Valhalla Edition has now come to the Nintendo Switch, with the Valhalla Edition in the title referring to a brand-new boss rush mode for the game.
I must confess, I never heard of Jotun prior to my review but after looking it up online, I quickly became drawn to the games stellar visual identity. Booting the game up for the first time, I had my reservations as Jotun seemed to be a game that utilized a cartoon-like aesthetic which doesn’t always translate well to gameplay, thankfully I can safely say that Jotun on the Nintendo Switch looks and plays beautifully.
If I had to describe Jotun’s visuals without actually showing off the game itself, I would say the game is a mix of the classic FMV fueled Dragon’s Lair interlaced with the moody isometric and slightly more muted colour palette found in games like Diablo III. Jotun’s visuals especially standout in regards to the character work present in the game. Fluid animation with all the plasticity associated with cartoons are present during gameplay, making encounters with enemies and certain environmental hazards feel all the more exciting.
I recommend playing Jotun in portable mode whenever possible as the visuals of the game just seem to pop and appear much sharper when playing in handheld or tabletop mode. When playing in TV mode, I did notice a single instance in which visual noise or what looked like video compression artifacts marred the otherwise pleasing visuals, opting me to stick with the handheld mode.
Enemies themselves are rather scarce in Jotun, with only a handful of types spread across the 4 main areas of the game, not including the opening Barrow Mound level. combat itself is simple with one button assigned for attack and another for a stronger attack with a small windup window.
Enemies also don’t do much when it comes to self-preservation, with most encounters bested with a few quick button presses. The real fight begins with Jotun’s boss encounters — bosses in Jotun take the form of giants that dwarf the arena in which they take place. I found myself dying several times during these special encounters, luckily Jotun gives Thora, the player character an assortment of abilities that can be earned through progressing through the game.
Some standout abilities with Jotun include a powerful electrically charged bash attack, the ability to replenish HP or health and surprisingly the dash or speed power, something that I found myself using frequently as the base walking speed at times felt a tad too slow.
Although Jotun only features 4 areas and a smaller starting zone, each location is split up into two separate acts that culminate in a boss fight after Thora has successfully collected the required runes needed to open the door to the encounter. The two diverging paths present within each of the zones also feel rather expansive, with branching paths and hidden entrances that sometimes lead to collectible golden apples which permanently increase the player’s health bar.
Jotun’s score aptly coalesces with the epic visuals but what really stands out in terms of sound design is the narration, which is all spoken in an Icelandic tongue, further lending to the stellar ambiance of the title.
Jotun doesn’t reinvent the wheel nor does it last very long, but everything the game does, it does exceptionally well, this is something that is immediately apparent even from just playing for a few minutes. Characters feel full of personality, environments feel cold and hostile and Thora, the player character just simply put, feels like a total badass.
To be thorough and somewhat nitpicky, some minor gripes I had with Jotun on the Nintendo Switch include the aforementioned slow walking speed, which even with the upgrades felt a little too leisurely for my liking.
The slow walking when coupled with how large and dense some of the maps can get, there were times where I found it easier to just quit out to the main hub and reenter the zone, instead of having to trek my way back through the often, labyrinthine like areas.
Fans of action adventure games that missed Jotun on other platforms or are in the market for a fun, portable and inexpensive switch game should definitely check out Jotun: Valhalla Edition.