Jusant Is a Beautiful, Poignant Climb
I can always appreciate a good, slow, contemplative puzzle game. However, I can’t say I’ve ever played a game that is part meditative, and part exhilarating in the same way as Jusant.
Justant is a third person adventure game. In it, you play as a person determined to climb a tower of rock that extends into the sky. You’re not really given too much of a reason why you’re climbing this rock face besides “because it’s there.” At least at first. Jusant tells its story through clues you discover in a civilization that lived in the tower, but left after the rain stopped and all the water started to go away. You aren’t ever told why you need to climb besides there’s no other way than up.
Along with you on the ride to the top is a cute little blue water creature called a Ballast.This little guy does more than just look adorable–you can use it to highlight secrets or points of interest in the environment to discover. You can even use your Ballast to interact with the environment. For example, it can revive plants, creating handholds that allow you to climb to areas you couldn’t access before.
While most games just have players press a button to grab a ledge and then press up to climb, Jusant has mechanics that are a little more involved than that. Each trigger on the controller acts as each hand–you pull the trigger, and that hand grabs the nearest handhold, and vice versa. This isn’t always the most precise system, as your character’s hands don’t always go where you expect, but that happened only a few times. There are scenarios which require you to consider which hand to use, or require you to swap hands–but once I got used to the controls, it felt like second nature, even when the handholds got more complicated.
Stamina is also a consideration, as you can't just climb forever. However, running out of stamina isn’t a death sentence, because you’re always clipped into a safety device–whether it’s a piton you place yourself, or a designated safe zone in the rock.
I never played another game that handles climbing quite like Jusant does. Climbing in video games is often at the threat of death. Not in Jusant. Instead, failure is met with the opportunity to try again–not a grisly death scene to ruin your good vibes. During your climb, you can place a set number of pitons that act as sort of checkpoints. If you fall, you can just reel yourself back up to your last safe location and try again.
Because there’s no threat of dying, climbing in Jusant doesn’t feel as nerve wracking as in other games–even as you’re climbing to incredible heights. I’m afraid of heights, but knowing that I can’t fall to my death doesn’t invoke that fear at all, so I can focus on the climb.
And climbing in Jusant is damn fun. It was a joy to explore off of the beaten path just so I can find my way back up to where I was–it’s that satisfying.
While fun, climbing stays pretty simple: There isn’t much variation in the way you can use your character to climb–and there are no skill points to spend to level up or anything like that. However, there are a few things in the environment that change how climbing works, like the flowers that you can revive with your friendly Ballast–and more.
Jusant is fantastic from beginning to end, but it does have some issues. My biggest complaint about Jusant revolves around its end. I don’t want to spoil too much, and while I thought the very end was absolutely beautiful, the conclusion with the mountain itself is a bit anti-climb-actic. Okay, sorry, I really wanted to throw that in there.
But there are other little things about Jusant that stop it from being a perfect game. While I appreciate the semi-novel climbing mechanics, they ultimately felt unnecessary. Handholds were mostly always available, and I eventually found myself mindlessly spamming Left Trigger / Right Trigger until I got to where I wanted to go. There were just a few times that I had to carefully consider where to put my hands. On top of that, sometimes the hands would bug out and do all sorts of crazy things visually.
2023 is shaping up to be one of the best years in gaming in a really long time. It’s inevitable that some great games are going to be lost in all of the noise, but I hope Jusant climbs to the top to get the recognition it deserves. It’s a slow burn punctuated by exciting climbing sequences, and definitely one of the standout games of this already standout year.
A Steam key was provided to us for this review