The only way is up. That’s literally the motto of Jusant, the brand new thoughtful adventure game published by Don’t Nod Entertainment. Best known for creating the Life is Strange series, this wordless visual spectacle is worlds away from the former’s dialogue-heavy storytelling.
Not that that’s a bad thing. Jusant does have a narrative, if you care to pay attention. Poke your nose in every nook and cranny and you’ll find notes left behind by a former civilisation, telling stories of lives gone by. To be honest, we didn’t care much for the morsels of narrative: they didn’t add much to our experience, but if you like additional lore and flavour text you’ll find some well-written materials worth reading.
Instead, what kept us stuck to our screens until the credits rolled was the compelling journey of Jusant. This is a game all about climbing, and knowing that all you need to do is keep pressing upwards is great motivation to keep on going.
Jusant wastes no time in introducing you to its core mechanics. Tie your rope with square, then alternate the left and right trigger, each controlling one hand as you find footholds and make your way steadily up rockfaces. It doesn’t take things long to get a little more fantastical: a push of a button sees grand flowers bloom, their stems creating new pathways for you to ascend. Later, you’ll find crawling rock bugs that can transport you a short distance, and fireflies that will give you a boost upwards.
There are some enjoyable puzzles nestled into Jusant. It’s not always obvious which way to go, and so figuring out a route to take you higher through its mysterious world often requires a bit of brain power. You might occasionally feel like you’ve hit a brick wall, but pushing a button will illuminate your next point of call. Sometimes you’ll need to scour your environment carefully to find a gap to squeeze down or a climbable ladder hiding above your head. But when you do find the right way, it’s rewarding to finally be progressing.
It’s nice that you don’t need your screen littered with waypoints and directions. Without ever needing to be told, we instinctively know that our primarily goal in Jusant is to climb. That means, ultimately, the correct way is always upwards – even if we have to occasionally take a small detour downwards to find a viable route. That intuition feels good, and without the core climbing premise we’re not sure that Jusant’s silent, objective-free gameplay would work. Thankfully, it does.
We were done with Jusant in less than four hours. Your own mileage may vary: you could be done quicker if you don’t bother to explore. Alternatively, take your time to find all the collectibles, and you could add another couple of hours to your play time. It’s just about the right amount of time, to be honest. As much as we’ve enjoyed exploring Jusant’s intriguing little world, the act of climbing does become tedious after a while. And even with the steady introduction of new gameplay features – like those flowers and bugs we previously mentioned – the core conceit always remains the same.
If you’ve enjoyed stylish adventures like Rime and Journey in the past, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy Jusant. What it lacks in narrative it makes up for in environmental design: this is a world teeming with imagination and signs of life. Ultimately though, your goal here is to simply keep moving upwards. As repetitive as it can get, there’s still a sweet joy to be found in ever edging closer and closer to the top, and puzzling to find the best route to get there is enjoyable enough to keep us playing.