Jusant is an extremely interesting game. The primary impetus of the adventure is that your player character sets out to climb a ginormous tower. Much of what you’d expect the game to explain – who you are, what you’re doing here, and where is everyone else are all answered through letters, graves, children’s toys, and things of that nature, which represent what life used to be like on the tower. Accompanying you on the journey is a small creature called a ballast, and you’ll need to use a variety of tools and climbing techniques to not only make your way up the tower but to find your reason for being.
Jusant is one of those games that, even on PC, recommends use of a controller, and it’s very easy to see why. Your left and right arms are controlled independently using the left and right sticks while you’re climbing, and you can grab handles, rock surfaces, or even spinning windmill blades by holding LT or RT, depending on which hand you need to use. It feels a little goofy at first, but because Jusant is almost entirely about climbing, it makes sense that the controls for how you climb would be involved to a degree that gives you almost tactile feedback as you fling your arms toward the next foothold.
Many gamers malign the use of stamina meters in games, but Jusant makes great use of its stamina gauge, forcing the player to look at some climbing sections through a lens of puzzles to be solved. As you outstretch your arms and climb, your stamina will steadily diminish. You can regenerate a small amount of stamina by holding still on the wall and resting one of your arms by pressing down a button, but your stamina cap also lowers the longer you’re stuck to a wall to emulate the stress you’re putting the player character through as they climb. Landing your feet on solid ground is how you’ll generally recover your full stamina meter, and there are several moments in Jusant that will really make you think about your next move, or else you’ll fall right off the cliff.
While climbing you can make use of pitons, which are small anchors your rope can attach to that can protect you from a big fall in the event you make a mistake. You can plant several pitons while climbing, and they enable you a way to avoid losing progress before a tricky jump. You can also use pitons for rope swinging, allowing you an anchor to swing against to make really large jumps that always feel satisfying when you pull them off, since you can plant a piton, extend your rope, wall run, or swing back and forth so you can reach a broken ladder or a rock jutting out of the cliff face.
That’s where the puzzle nature of Jusant comes into play: the controls take a moment to get used to but soon become second nature. Once the title has figured that you’ll have a real handle on the controls, it throws a variety of platforming challenges at you in clever ways that may sometimes stump you, if not for just a moment. There are also environmental gimmicks that will give you some new methods to climb as you’re progressing through Jusant, several of which are centered around the small creature that’s accompanying the protagonist.
As you progress, you’ll get the ability to have your little creature help you along as you climb. Its power can make plants grow, leaving long vines that you can use as footholds, or even ride up as they grow along the surface of the cliff faces. Another area may have small, spark-like creatures who will give you some extra air when you jump on them. All of these additional mechanics mesh extremely well with the kit you have from the outset of Jusant, and they make progressing into a new region of the tower interesting because you might encounter some new method of interacting with the general gameplay mechanics.
One of the first things you’ll notice in Jusant is the incredibly colorful atmosphere, replete with powerful lighting effects to give depth to the atmosphere of your climb, all presented in a gorgeous art style. The environments are stylized just enough that the locations through which you ascend seem almost magical in appearance because in one area you may be in a darker location where light is given off by mushrooms and mysterious floating jellyfish, but in another you may be exploring the remnants of a lost civilization, replete with their instruments, artwork, and pottery laying in disarray after baking in the world’s harsh sun. The music is similarly alluring, with powerful strings to illustrate important moments and quick, deliberate uses of piano to create an almost mesmerizing atmosphere.
Part of the journey of Jusant is lingering on the sense of “Why?” Why are there boats hanging around on what are effectively sheer cliff faces, with nothing but desert surrounding the tower for as far as the eye can see? Letters from those of the past speak of water, but for as far as you can see, there is no water anywhere. Who is Bianca, in what way does her journey mirror your own, and why were there people trying to hunt the helpful creatures known as ballasts? These mysteries continue to build, giving you motivation to find out even more as you explore the tower.
The only real negative that can be said about Jusant is that it isn’t a very long game. Around a scant three to four hours, perhaps up to six if you explore and find all the secrets, is all it takes to master the tower. Jusant is interested in submersing you in its world and telling its story, should you be willing to listen. This isn’t a title that is intent on drawing your attention away for a long time, and while it may only take two or three sessions to complete, it is an incredibly interesting experience that can easily be recommended to anyone who is partial to adventure games with unique mechanics.
All in all, I felt Jusant was absolutely worth the hours invested. For some, the cost of $25 for a title that’s roughly the length of Zack Snyder’s Justice League cut might be too much, but it offers a unique experience that doesn’t overstay its welcome as far as I’m concerned. There’s practically no action to be had, so Jusant is more for the adventure game players out there. Should you have the capacity to enjoy a title that does something different, I absolutely and wholeheartedly recommend you give it a chance. For some, Jusant is just beautiful enough of an adventure to reach new heights.