I’ve already reviewed Jotun: Valhalla Edition in the past and was a fan of Thunder Lotus Games’ stunning Norse adventure, but I couldn’t resist blasting through it again on the Nintendo Switch. Why not, too? Whilst I had a tough time taking down the beasts that stood in Thora’s way the first time around, it was the sort of tough that came with an undeniable satisfaction – getting to do it all again in the palms of my hand just made the deal sweeter.
Thankfully, the Nintendo Switch port of the game is a high quality one that really showcases everything that made the game so good to begin with: the epic action-packed battles and the stunningly vibrant visuals.
Jotun: Valhalla Edition casts you as Thora, a Shield Maiden who met her demise whilst venturing the seas with her Viking brethren. This wasn’t considered an honourable death by the Norse Gods though, thus her entry into Valhalla was denied. Armed with just her mighty axe, Thora must slay gigantic elemental creatures known as the ‘Jotun’ in order to prove her worth and finally rest alongside the Gods in Valhalla.
It’s a fairly straightforward narrative, though the game does expand upon it by providing a back-story for Thora that’s narrated throughout the adventure. There’s full voice acting for this narration too, though it’s in the Viking tongue of Icelandic so you’ll be depending on the subtitles if you want to learn more about Thora’s tragic yet adventurous tale. The foreign language adds a real sense of authenticity to the game, though in honesty I wouldn’t have minded it being in English either.
The most standout feature of Jotun: Valhalla Edition is its visual design, which could easily be described as Disney-esque thanks to its beautiful, colourful hand-drawn style. It looks fantastic and developers Thunder Lotus Games deserve a lot of credit for the great job they’ve done.
Character and enemy animations are slick in-game, with attacks and manoeuvres looking superb thanks to the game’s cartoon style. There’s an old-school touch to some of the game’s animations too, with certain attacks almost looking like some frames had been cut out – this isn’t a bad thing by any means, with the effect actually looking pretty neat in-game and feeling almost nostalgic to the old style of cartoons that clearly inspired the adventure.
The same visual quality can be seen in the game’s environments, which are absolutely oozing with style and colour. There’s a real sense of wonder and depth to your surroundings – Thora is often dwarfed by everything around her, which is especially impressive given the game’s visual style and fixed camera angle. Whether you’re walking through the Dwarven Mines, venturing across a cliff and staring down on an impressive forest, or even sliding down the roots of the mythical tree Ygradassil, you’ll be in awe of the visual spectacle Jotun: Valhalla Edition provides.
I played the game in the Nintendo Switch’s portable mode and it still managed to look superb. Whilst I’ll admit that there’s something about the game’s visuals that are better appreciated on a bigger screen (especially given the sheer size of everything around you), exploring the stunning world still felt great when done on a smaller scale.
Much like Shadow of the Colossus and indie gem Titan Souls, Jotun: Valhalla Edition challenges you to take down a series of bosses in epic encounters. Unlike those two games though, there are often smaller enemies that you’ll have to take down along the way too. Sure, it’s not always the case, though locations like the Dwarven Mines proved to me that there are certainly more than seven Dwarves to be aware of – the screen would fill with what felt like hundreds of minion Dwarves, all out for Thora’s blood. The presence of smaller enemies added to the adventure, even if they did cause me plenty of deaths.
I’ve always been a big fan of games that focus on boss battles, so Jotun: Valhalla Edition naturally appealed to me from the get go. The encounters themselves are pretty impressive, with each boss carefully crafted with a sense of grandeur that is only matched by their intriguing design. There wasn’t a single boss encounter that didn’t wow me, though I did find some a lot easier than others. Take the giant (and ugly) tree boss and her poisonous roots for example – I managed to beat her with ease thanks to my axe’s charged attack. The giant Dwarf (quite ironic) and his never-ending army of underlings on the other hand caused me a lot of problems. I’m sure it’ll change between players, though the game certainly provides plenty of challenge. It’s a good kind of challenge though, with Jotun: Valhalla Edition taking an almost Dark Souls-like approach (if you’ll excuse the cliché) by forcing you to learn enemy’s attack patterns and… well… ‘get good’.
Thankfully, Thora does receive some assistance along the way with the Norse Gods providing her with varying abilities that’ll help with taking down the Jotun. The goddess Frigg provides you with the ability to heal, Freya’s speed allows Thora to move at a faster pace, Thor’s hammer makes your attacks pack more punch, Loki’s decoy creates a fake Thora that will attract enemy attacks and explode, Odin’s spear provides Thora with a powerful ranged attack, whilst Heimdall’s shield makes Thora immune for a short period of time. You won’t have all of these abilities unlocked from the get go, but it won’t take you long to find them in-game.
There’s quite a journey between each boss of the game, with plenty of exploration and simple puzzles to solve along the way. There’s nothing too perplexing (in fact, it’s mostly a case of hitting levers) but it at least adds a sense of variety to the exploration and makes you work a little. It’s can be quite gratifying, especially given that some of the environments can take a while to trek between. However, whilst you can appreciate the impressive visuals along the way, sometimes just getting from point A to B could be a bit of a drag. There’s a lot of unvaried backtracking too – something which is never fun in any kind of game.
It has its flaws from a gameplay perspective, but at least Jotun: Valhalla Edition plays well on the Nintendo Switch – I never suffered from any frame-drops or shoddy controls. Controlling Thora feels as intuitive as ever when playing in portable mode and I never felt like I couldn’t pull off the same slick manoeuvres I had on previous versions of the game. The same applies to the game’s docked mode, where everything still feels great when using the Pro controller.
The Switch edition of Jotun: Valhalla Edition comes with the Boss Rush mode that was included in the game’s previous console release, which consists of taking on more challenging versions of each boss one after the other. It’s a neat little mode, though in honesty I’d rather just play through the whole game again – especially since a lot of the charm comes with the journey between each battle (if you don’t include the backtracking). It’s still worth noting that the game isn’t too long though, with only five Jotun to take down in total.
Developer: Thunder Lotus Games
Publisher: Thunder Lotus Games
Release Date: Out Now
Format(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Wii U, PC, Mac, Linux