The game “usant” does not eliminate the typical video game scenery, but rather changes its focus. Rather than providing a breathtaking view, it centers your attention on the steep mountain above and below, and your objective is to guide a calm, gender-neutral character across its rocky terrain and dangerous gaps. This climbing game is not about the vast potential of its environment (like in Starfield and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild), but instead focuses on the challenge of navigating in the present moment, one dusty handhold and secure belay at a time.
The unique aspect of Jusant lies in its clever control system. Instead of the typical single-button climbing seen in other action games, Jusant utilizes a more skillful approach. Your character is equipped with carabiners, a long rope, and a strong tolerance for heights that induce vertigo. Each hand is controlled by one of the shoulder buttons; by holding and releasing them in unison, you can achieve a seamless flow while scaling cliffs at a rapid pace. Other times, a slower, more deliberate approach is necessary as you plan your next move while grasping onto a ledge with both hands (often the most efficient path is also the longest). Overall, Jusant creates a satisfying balance of tension and release, with periods of intense climbing interspersed with safer moments of exploration on solid ground.
Jusant, released in 2012, draws inspiration from popular games like Journey and renowned game designer Fumito Ueda. It tells a poignant story without the use of words, taking place in the remains of a once-thriving civilization. As you explore, you encounter abandoned boats, toys, textile workshops, and kitchens. By listening to magical shells, you can hear the history of the place, highlighting the tragedy of its downfall. The cluttered spaces are created with a strong sense of closeness, often hidden within the nooks and crannies of the terrain, sheltered from the harsh elements. The only flaw in the world-building is the inclusion of letters that explain the events leading to the exodus, as if the developers at studio Don’t Nod forgot the principle of “show, don’t tell”, not fully trusting players to interpret visual cues on their own.
However, for Jusant’s protagonist, there is no danger of death or existential crisis unlike the previous inhabitants of this high dwelling. Even when you make a mistake and slip down the cliff, your rope will catch you and prevent any harm. It is tempting to envision a version of the game where the character’s rag-doll demise is embraced, but this would fundamentally change the essence of Jusant. The relationship between the character and the mountain would become hostile rather than symbiotic. Throughout the game, various creatures such as bioluminescent fungi and crab-like creatures assist you, serving as a reminder that our success as humans often relies on the help of others.
Jusant is a story with environmental themes, and like similar titles, you take on the role of a restorer. The game effectively teaches us that this role demands both ambition and creativity through its world-building, storytelling, and impressive climbing mechanics. This is best exemplified by the leaps your character must make between handholds, leaving them suspended in midair for a tense moment. This small act embodies the adventurous spirit that ultimately allows for the successful restoration of Jusant’s mountain.
Jusant is currently available for purchase at a starting price of £22.49.