In Norse mythology, dying in glorious combat will let a warrior enter Valhalla. In “Jotun: Valhalla Edition,” failing at that means even more fighting, as you try to prove yourself to the gods. But the obstacles and battles ahead are enhanced by great music, good visuals, and some spot-on mythological references.
Story-wise, the goal of “Jotun” is simple: earn your way into Valhalla by fighting the jotun. There are several stages to explore, each with unique environments, obstacles, and puzzles that must be traversed to clear them. While they can be tackled in nearly any order, certain levels will unlock new abilities that may make others easier to complete.
In regards to gameplay, the controls are simple enough; there are regular attacks, power attacks (which are more commonly used to clear certain obstacles, since the time it takes to charge a power attack leaves you open to be hit or for the opponent to just walk out of the way), dodge rolls, and the abilities granted from the blessings of the gods. It takes no time to get used to the controls, although as with all games, it takes time and experience to really master the timing for everything.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the game, however, is the visuals. The designs are all hand-drawn 2D artwork, but everything moves smoothly in both gameplay and animation. The environments and backgrounds are stunning, stretching out into the distance and creating beautiful scenery. At times the game will slowly zoom out, showing the sprawling worlds reaching out into the distance, showing the full scope of the game.
Additionally, the soundtrack is powerful, and adds to each level the proper amount of tension and emotion. Composer Max LL deserves praise for crafting such a fitting soundtrack for the game, as it really adds to the experience. There is some voice acting, including narration and the occasional moment where the player character (Thora) speaks, but none of it is in English; the game boasts “authentic Icelandic voice-overs,” and it adds a more unique, even mythical feeling to it.
Speaking of anything mythical, the game draws pretty much entirely from Norse mythology, and it’s perhaps the most accurate representation of the mythos I’ve ever seen. Each deity and mythical item is true to its source, including the occasional recounting of certain myths or origin stories. As a fan of mythology, the accuracy was very much appreciated; there’s no need to try to make the stories more “hip and modern,” the game relies on the appeal of the old tales and mythos.
But overall, is the game fun? Is it entertaining? Or does it focus so much on the style that the function falls flat? Well, while it may vary from stage to stage, overall the game is enjoyable to play. The music, acting, and mythological accuracy all add to the overall strong gameplay, and it’s just challenging enough to keep players engaged.
And if the boss battles aren’t tough enough for you, there’s the Valhalla Mode, providing amped up boss battles for an extra level of challenging.
If I had one complaint, it would be that the Wii-U version does not utilize the gamepad’s screen much at all. Even though the game could be played on either screen, the gamepad just displays a logo, so there’s no playing it with the TV off, which is a convenience the Wii-U allows. Of course, this only applies to the Wii-U version, and is an incredibly minor thing to mention; most players will not take any issue with this at all.
Overall, I’d give “Jotun: Valhalla Edition” a solid 8/10. It’s fun, well-made on every level, and appeals to the mythology geek in me.