Jusant review: An uplifting tale about lifting yourself up

DontNod /

Game: Jusant
Developer: Don’t Nod
Publisher: Don’t Nod
Platform: PlayStation 5 (reviewed on), Xbox Series X|S, PC
Release Date: October 3o, 2023

I didn’t know what to expect when the good folks at DONTNOD came to me with what they claimed was a “meditative climbing experience.” I honestly expected something like an “Only Up” knockoff or something. I have to say, I’m really pleasantly surprised with what Jusant turned out to be.

In the tale of Jusant you’re a mysterious young person with an even more mysterious tiny creature in tow. You are tasked with climbing to the top of a mountain-like structure so massive the top is not visible through the clouds. That’s about all the story you get at the beginning.

From there the game introduces you to its interesting control system. Because as I tend to jump to conclusions, when I saw a bunch of cliffs and knew I had to climb I was suddenly worried this game was going to be the boring Uncharted climbing mechanic. Instead you get a very interesting control system similar to the one featured in Astrobot’s Playroom on the PS5.

Your arms are controlled by the two triggers and the left joystick. Push down on the trigger to grip with that hand and when you let go, your hand reaches in the direction you’re tilting the joystick. It, admittedly, felt a little clunky at first but once I got the hang of it I was climbing up the walls like a Korean water ghost.

In addition to the interesting climbing mechanic you’re also given a rope system and a remarkably well tinkered with physics engine. With the usage of carefully places spikes you can assure that even if you slip (which you eventually will) you’ll catch yourself. To be honest though, I don’t think you can fall to your death. Every time you climb, your character automatically attaches their rope to the wall so if you forget to place other spikes, all that happens is that when you climb back up the rope you’re back at where you started your most recent climb. It works like checkpoint placement.

DontNod /

Over time you can do some clever things with it though. There was one part where I had climbed to the underside of a rock structure, hanging by my hands, unsure of where to go. Then my 10-year-old suggested “PUT A SPIKE THERE,” which I did. My character was then able to hold onto the rope, lower themselves a ways and then use my spike and rope to swing to the next area I needed to be.

And don’t think that the climbing is just climbing rocks. As you climb, you’ll find that Jusant is REALLY good at slowly increasing the difficult and variety of things you encounter and have to work with as well as the difficulty.

Small stone like insects that are strong enough to hold your weight cover some of the walls later on forcing you to plan out how to climb based off the path the frogs are taking as if you’re playing a virtual Frogger. Vines that you can make stretch out and cover wide areas show up. Flower buds that, when activated, create little buds you can climb on that dissolve over time when exposed to sunlight (meaning move fast if you’re in the sun). High velocity winds blowing in different directions. It constantly felt like every time I got tired of the same mechanic, the game did too and would introduce something new to me.

The story works in a similar fashion. If you explore enough on your way up, you start finding places where people clearly lived. Homes, markets, places like this lay abandoned on the side of the structure. You find journals and letters and communications from the people that used to live here.

While it starts off chill and as simple hellos, over time you find out that these communities were heavy fishing communities that started noticing the water level constantly dropping. Over time they had to keep building their settlements lower and lower until the area became unlivable and they all left. But all you know is the people at the very top decided they really wanted to keep the endless flow of water being produced at the top to themselves.

As you work your way up you start recognizing the names of the people in communications and you really start to learn about what it was like in those final years before the tower was abandoned.

In addition to the slow challenge progression and interesting story, the game is visually gorgeous. While it holds a simplistic style that honestly makes me think of Journey every so often, it works really well and helps sell the bone dry abandoned look of the areas where people lived.

My only complaint, and it’s one that stopped my youngest from watching me play, is that the main character’s eyes are BIZARRE. They’re animated as if he has eyeballs but the eyeballs aren’t colored white. So it’s as if his pupils are just resting on two flesh colored pupils. My oldest said it looked like someone closed their eyes while someone else painted a big pupil on the eyelids. It’s off putting but luckily you’re starring at the back of your character’s head most of the game.

DontNod /

All in all though, Jusant is a fantastic trip and a really interesting experience that if you’re a fan of the “walking sim” type game or honestly just want a really cool, almost puzzle like, climbing experience, you cannot go wrong here.

Jusant (PS5) Score: 8.5/10

A beautifully atmospheric game of exploration that tasks you with climbing a structure of which the top cannot be seen from the ground, Jusant gives me the chill but thought provoking climbing experience I didn’t know I needed. It’s a fantastic game for the people who loved something like “Only Up” but died a little on a personal level every time they fell all the way back down. Jusant is a wonderfully unique experience with very well executed mechanics and I can’t recommend this enough.