Jusant, developed by Don't Nod Entertainment, the makers of the highly-regarded episodic adventure games Life is Strange and Tell Me Why, is rather different animal; an action platformer in which you assume the role of a survivor trekking your way through a drought-stricken landscape. You have a companion in the form of a baby water creature called a "ballast," your goal to reunite it with the rest of its kind. This requires that you scale a seemingly endless tower of stone...
All of Jusant's climbing mechanics will be shown to you by on-screen prompts throughout the game. These involve climbing by pushing the left stick in the desired direction while alternating between the Left and Right triggers (while always keeping one pressed to maintain a hold.) You can also use anchors to attach your climbing rope to the wall with carabiners to limit fall distance should you lose grip or miss a handhold. Once your rope is fastened there is also a wall-run mechanic to allow you to reach distant handholds or ledges. You can also use grapple points to swing from, and the 'LB' and 'RB' shoulder buttons make you climb or lower yourself on the rope. The baby ballast isn't just a passenger and has some very handy abilities, one of which assists your climbing by triggering flora or fauna in different ways. Sometimes you'll need to make the ballast trigger a hand hold while jumping or swinging, which can be tricky!
Reaching the top of this tower will require some problem solving skills as you choose which path to take, and which skills to use/combine, all while keeping an eye on your stamina bar, which depletes with every exertion and action. You can recharge your stamina bar partially while climbing by resting, but certain environmental hazards also deplete your stamina more quickly. What hazards might those be? Well, being out in direct midday sun swiftly depletes your stamina and climbing the windswept cliffs near the top of the tower also drains your energy faster.
There are other hazards at play which can affect your climb. One of the plants used to help you ascend (that are activated by the call of your baby ballast) wilt and crumble away in the heat of the midday sun, so using these plants will require you to traverse them quickly or place a wall anchor in anticipation of said wilting. If you fail one of these crumbling sections you can reactivate the plant by using the ballast call again. The ballast call, and its ability to reveal secret locations only becomes available to use after you find and blow the first of five horns, which you must locate and blow on your ascent of the tower.
The ballast's secret vision ability seems to show you 2 of the game's collectables; a blue ring points to seashells (which allow you to hear sounds of the past in the location you found the shell, and a green ring points to a temple with a sound totem for you to activate. There are other collectables you will find on your climb, but at the time of writing this review the ballast's vision did not highlight those. If you miss any collectables on your climb, completing the game unlocks a Chapter Select mode, so you can revisit and collect anything you missed.
Playing Jusant was surprisingly immersive; mostly a "chill", relaxing experience while also having stress-inducing and head-scratching moments as you struggle to make a wall run and leap to a distant ledge, or wonder how you're going to climb higher... or maybe you need to drop down to discover a path to progress...? Jusant's atmosphere is reminiscent of PlayStation classics Ico, Shadow of the Colossus and the Last Guardian. With that being said, it has a few issues. In my 8-hour playthrough (Split up into 2 x 4-hour sessions) the game crashed twice. It's also surprisingly easy to get stuck on uneven terrain, which could be as seemingly insignificant as rubble on the ground. You can usually wiggle your way out of it by moving the directional stick around until you get unstuck, but this is still annoying. Hopefully these irritants are addressed and fixed because they are the only faults I could find in the game. The one other complaint I'd have is that I wanted more! At a price of only £22.49 (or free with Game Pass) Jusant comes highly recommended.