When you think of a Canadian video game developer, you immediately think of Ubisoft or EA Sports Vancouver. Well, Quebec City based developer Frima Studio wants to add itself to the discussion. The award-winning studio has just released a new game for the PS Mini collection based on Norse mythology called Young Thor.
The best way of describing Young Thor’s gameplay would be to say it’s a sidescrolling action-platformer in a similar style to that of God of War but done to be rated E 10+. The game’s look is reminiscent of a platform game and does incorporate some jumping and exploration elements predominant in the genre. Most of the game, however, is about fighting.
A lot of the gameplay elements are reminiscent of the God of War series. You have a quick attack, strong attack, magic, rolling dodges, and double jumps. The problem is that you can’t string together a Kratos-length combo and your weapon (Thor’s hammer, obviously) is very short range. That means you have to play this game very differently GoW.
The levels and enemies are a bit on the repetitive side. There are four different areas with four zones each. There are two different level designs per area with one design used once and the other used three times. For the repeating level designs, there are different enemies and the difficulty is ramped up so all 16 levels play differently. Fortunately, the three bosses and six enemy types all play differently from each other and require different strategies to defeat. As opposed to GoW where you can get away with hammering attack until your foe is vanquished, you won’t make it very far doing that in Young Thor. That variety in attack styles was pleasantly unexpected when I first picked up and played the game.
The occasional glitch does pop up in the gameplay. The framerate tends to slow to a crawl when multiple skeleton warrior enemies are on screen. There are collision detection issues where you can end up in the same space on screen as an enemy. That wouldn’t be an issue but you can quickly get your ass kicked without dishing anything out in return. You find these most often in the challenge bubbles (like the above picture) where you have to defeat multiple enemies to advance. But for a game being sold for $5, I don’t think we can expect perfection. Hell, the $60 or $70 games can suffer from the same issues.
These graphics were designed primarily for play on a PSP. On a sub-40″ TV or a 720p HD set, it would probably look better than it does on my 1080i HD TV. I’m not bragging about TV, I’m just saying that size matters when it comes to pixels. There is some pixelation (think of what a PS1 game looks like on your PS3 but not nearly as bad) on the health meter and dialogue boxes but it’s not bad enough for you to notice unless you’re looking for it. The actual gameplay itself looks good.
The art style reminds me of the Hercules game on the PS1 except this one is in 3D. Strangely enough, it’s when you get to see some of this 3D work displayed that things fall apart. Panning shots from beside Thor to the behind 3/4 view cause the system to bog down. I don’t know if that’s caused by hardware differences between the PS3 and PSP but you’d think that a PS3 could handle that. As noted above, there is some chugging issues with three or four enemies on screen at the same time and two skeleton warriors in those challenge bubbles.
Being primarily designed for the PSP, sound wasn’t the greatest priority on this list. That’s compared to my usual PS3 fare, though, which have to have sound designed for 5.1 digital surround after all. The sound effects and music aren’t terribly noticeable which is exactly what you want in a game. Ugly sounds are going to stick out like a sore thumb. Well designed and selected sounds will blend in with the scenery. As most of the sound flows with the game, I’d say that they did a good job of it. The only sore thumb on this one is Thor’s jumping sounds. He sounds like a goblin when you pull off a double jump. Seeing as the double-jump is a critical part of this game’s platforming sections, it’s a bit confusing at first to hear an enemy but not see it.
This is my first time reviewing a PS Mini game so I really didn’t know what to expect. What we have here is something that reminds me of a PS1 game that would sell for $60. The differences between that PS1 game and this PS Mini is that this one has better graphics and a lower price point. For $5, you get at least two hours of game play (likely closer to three). If you’re looking for a fun, quick and cheap game to pick up for the kids, this would be a good place to start. The gameplay is straight forward enough that there is a minimal learning curve but the difficulty ramps up enough near the end that even experienced gamers wouldn’t discard this after five minutes. Let me put it to you this way, if this was on your iPad, it would probably blow everything out of the water.
Overall: ★★★½ (of 5 stars)
Young Thor is available for purchase through the PlayStation Store for $4.99. This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3 but can also played on the PSP. Impressions of the game is likely to differ depending on which platform is played.