They may be French, and Canadian, but that hasn’t stopped Quebec City’s from tackling Norse mythology in a new side-scrolling platformer for both PS3s and PSPs under the “Minis” label. The basic premise of the game is that that the World Tree Yggdrasil, that maintains the order of the universe, is now in jeopardy. Three goddesses known as the Norns usually tend to the tree, ensuring that it gets water from the Well of Fate, but they have been kidnapped by Hel, the queen of Hellheim, and it is up to a surprisingly young Thor to set things right.
The art direction and audio for the game do a good job of maintaining a bright, clean, colourful presentation while never taxing the obviously larger limitations of needing to run on a PSP. There’s a cartoony, almost Disney-esque whimsy to the visuals that keeps things light, albeit sparse. The music complements the proceedings with an orchestral feel in keeping with the mythic atmosphere.
Mechanically, Young Thor is a competent, enjoyable game that manages to keep things interesting in small amounts, but was clearly not designed for extended play. Young Thor himself does the usual platformer’s duty of running from left to right, fighting enemies along the way, and this is augmented some RPG-lite elements such as his ability to level up, and find new objects along the way that can boost his effectiveness in combat and magic. The controls are responsive, and Young Thor does exactly what you want him to, when you want him to. He also has the option of mixing up his attacks with simple combos and the use of magic, though most players, if they are concerned with efficiency, will quickly lean on the “ground pound” jump + down + attack combo to clear the way in most situations. The difficulty curve of the game is also pretty forgiving, with generous checkpoints that automatically heal players when they cross them, and small levels that can be done in a matter of minutes, making the game perfect for commuters who aren’t looking for a major time investment in their portable gaming.
On the downside, the entirety of the game itself only five levels. This is extended by including new objects to find in repeating sections of the first four levels with tougher enemies and higher demands on the player. It is only after going through the first four levels multiple times, levelling up and finding new items, that the final level opens up, which adds a sense of JRPG-like grinding to a game that didn’t need it. It would have been better if Frima had simply created more levels, rather than finding ways to extend the lifespan of existing assets, but for $5.00, it’s hard to fault the developers for a game that’s got a budget feel when that’s exactly what it is. It could also benefit from a little more variety in the enemies, necessitating a switch up of tactics, as most players will like stick with the ground pound move they get the timing down, it uses up little magic and is effective at both crowd control and keeping the player mobile.
In the end, Young Thor is a good buy for people looking for a quick diversion on their PSP. It reeks of fast, non-committal arcade fun, with a basic story that doesn’t really get address throughout most of the game, and an emphasis on classic “Run right and jump while killing stuff” gameplay that most of us were practically weaned on growing up with games. Recommended for people looking for a decent time-killer while commuting.