If you think Jusant is a strange name for a video game, your French is probably as bad as yours truly. Apparently it translates to ‘ebb’, the opposite of high tide. After finishing Jusant you understand this a lot better. This four to five hour climbing game revolves around a shortage of water.
The story is simple, but also moving and intriguing. Jusant opens with climbing a very high but narrow rock surrounded by a very dry desert. You do that with a cute companion. The higher you go, the more you learn about what happened on the rock. Basically you climb your way up through the remains and layers of a lost society.
You don’t meet anyone and your character doesn’t talk, but it is clear that people once lived on the rock. Villages, fields and monuments show that this gigantic rock was once a beacon of culture and activity. You will slowly discover why that has changed. One thing is clear from an early stage: the lack of high tide and the shortage of drinking water have caused major problems.
The story is probably about how important water is for survival, but the deeper layer also deals with how water influences the ranking of a society. Who gets first access to water when water is scarce? The higher you climb, the clearer that ranking becomes. You could almost speak of a caste system. Unfortunately, this is partly evident from letters and notes that you find.
I think Jusant’s message would have been more powerful without textual explanation. It takes you out of the game a bit. Jusant could definitely have coped with just letting the environment tell the story. That environmental storytelling is already present everywhere in the game. On the other hand, the text is functional. The story that you collect in letters has mild depth, especially towards the end of the game.
Yet that ending is especially strong thanks to your companion and two beautiful levels. After the credits rolled, a tear rolled down my cheek. The ending is an effect that you can see coming from a mile away, but it still managed to touch me with its simple but effective message. Then the realization sinks in of how wonderful this trip was. And it is not only beautiful thanks to the story. Juant is also a lot of fun to play.
The gameplay is particularly strong because it does a lot with little. It forces you to think about the path you are going to take and what resources you need for that. Every climbing wall is like a small platform puzzle.
There aren’t that many variables when climbing. You can’t die, you can only fall deep. That’s why you can belay yourself, although you have to take your endurance and the length of your rope into account. Both are limited. You do the climbing itself by grabbing edges and boulders. Each trigger on your controller represents a hand. By releasing the right trigger, you release your right hand in the game – a bit like in the VR game The Climb.
The ‘climbing walls’ gradually introduce new mechanics, including sun, wind and even walking rocks. How you use it is up to you. There are several routes per wall, but those routes often do not differ by more than a few meters. This tricked-out freedom has been applied very cleverly. You feel resourceful when you’ve made your way up, even though the path is as linear as anything.
Juant lasts four hours and that is perfect. The climbing is continuously fun, but had Jusant been twice as long, the game would probably have needed twice as many mechanics. The game always introduces the right amount of depth while climbing to keep you interested. This also applies to the environment. The game starts in a dry desert, but the higher you go, the more apparent the importance of water becomes.
Juant is not necessarily beautiful. The game even has a pretty generic art style. At the same time, Just has character, especially in later levels. The game then plays with decoration and view in a way that gives weight to the world. Sometimes after a long climb you look down and see how far you have come. You may go quite linearly from point A to B in this game, but the way you do it will stay with you.
The Journey is more important than the destination, you could say, but the comparison with that game doesn’t hold up for long. Especially because Just contains a lot of text and tells its simple story so much more complexly than Journey. But the core of the game is also different. Climbing this mountain does not rely on flow. Sometimes the brakes have to be applied. Sometimes you just have to look around and see what options you have at your disposal to move up.
Occasionally the controls don’t help because your rope gets tangled in a plant, and sometimes the camera gets upset if you climb a wall too enthusiastically. Fortunately, such mistakes are rare. It’s amazing how consistent and unambiguous Just is. Story and gameplay always come together beautifully. One could have done without the other, but together they are at their very best.
Juant is now available on Xbox Series X/S, Xbox Game Pass, PlayStation 5 and PC.
Jusant remains continuously fun thanks to varied climbing puzzles and an impressive game world. Based on that world, Just also tells a moving story with an emotional ending. This is one of those games that you probably want to skip at the tail end of an incredibly busy gaming year, but Gamer.nl recommends otherwise.
Climbing remains fun all the time
Variety in environment and puzzles
Story sometimes relies a little too much on text
Minor technical defects