Jotun: Valhalla Edition (Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, PC)

JOTUN_BOXThora is a big, burly, tough as nails female Viking warrior.  Unfortunately for her, her boat sank and instead of going to Valhalla, she ends up in Norse purgatory and must fight her way through collecting runes and battling huge bosses to impress the gods.  Jotun: Valhalla Edition is a downloadable top-down viewed action game featuring hand-drawn graphics and animation.  It’s available for nearly all current game consoles and PC, but reviewed on Wii U here.

You play as Thora and move her around in top-down fashion, similar to a classic Zelda title.  You can dash, perform light and heavy swings of your axe, and use magic spells.  Usually you’ll explore a small area, finding new magic spells, pools to replenish your spirit, golden apples to extend your life, and maybe even a rune or two.  Once you have enough, you’ll unlock a door to a huge boss, which you must defeat.  You can tell the focal point of this game is the boss battles, as the hand-drawn characters and animations really shine here.  The Norse mythology settings are also pretty cool.  This Valhalla Edition also has a special mode for expert players, too.

Unfortunately, the game has a few problems.  Thora moves very slow, especially in relation to her enemies.  Her quick, light axe swing is more like other game characters’ heavy, slow attacks.  And I hope you have a few seconds to spare for HER slow heavy attack!  Even her dash move is sluggish and hard to avoid enemies’ attacks with.  It’s like she ate too much Viking Chow before the adventure.  The other problem I had with this game was the lack of any good, well-written instructions.  The game doesn’t tell you much as you play, which I’m fine with.  But aside from telling you the controls on the options screen, the in-game manual has nothing helpful in it.  So I have really no idea what the spirit meter does or what some of the magic spells are for, as an example.  This is one of the beefs I have with everything going digital-only, as I’ve found many developers don’t even bother with instructions for their titles anymore.  This isn’t necessary a bad game, I just wish it played faster and had better instructions.


Kid Factor:

Jotun, Valhalla Edition is rated T for Teen with an ESRB descriptor of Violence.  You can swing your axe at enemies, and when they are defeated they just fall down and don’t get up.  Bosses may have some detailed death writhes and animations, but there is no blood.  I’d be OK with older preteen kids playing this.  Reading skill is helpful for some of the text, and younger gamers may have trouble because of the high level of difficulty.

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