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Take on hand-drawn Norse giants in Jotun's boss-battle action game

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Jotun is both the name of the game and the series of massive enemies you're tasked with killing in this action adventure romp through Norse mythology.

Players take on the role of Thora, a Viking warrior who died an inglorious death and must prove herself to the gods to enter Valhalla.

"She's a bad-ass Viking warrior who has a huge two-handed ax and is super strong," said Will Dube, the game's designer and founder of developer Thunder Lotus Games. "She faces monsters that are hundreds of times her size.

"It is a boss fight game primarily. There are five bosses in the game with exploration levels in between; hostile environments you have to get through."

The Jotun, a sort of giant drawn from Norse mythology, roam the purgatory in which Thora finds herself after death. She must wander the land looking for runes which she can then use to summon and fight the Juton.

I had a chance to check out one such battle, taking on the game's winter Jotun, a massive, blue-skinned giant, with gleaming white eyes, a shock of white hair and beard, and a fur pelt. The stocky giant towered over Thora. His big toe was about the size of the warrior.

While the gameplay is very basic — there are two types of attacks and a sort of rolling dodge — the premise of having to figure out exactly how to take out each Jotun was engaging. Much more compelling, though, is the game's hand-drawn 2D art, which brings a level of life to the game's animation and design that pulls you through the experience.

jotun

This particular Jotun delivered massive melee attacks. Once I weakened him to three-quarters of his health, he started blowing damaging arctic winds toward me. That frozen breath also spotted the snowy landscape with a sort of ice stalagmite. Hitting them sent chunks of ice into the creature, damaging him. Once he is knocked down to half his health, the Jotun summons a storm that freezes over the landscape, making it harder to move quickly and causing Thora to slide. Finally, if you can knock him down to a quarter of his health, he goes into an enraged mode and starts triple charging Thora. He also summons a huge blizzard that causes near-whiteout conditions and makes it hard to see where the Jotun is.

I never made it past the halfway mark.

"Each Jotun will have their unique themes, their unique mechanics, unique attacks, unique setting," Dube said. "We're always going for that huge sense of scale; David versus Goliath; You-against-the-mountain kind of thing.

"This Jotun uses melee attacks; there are others that use ranged attacks. There are different archetypes as well."

Fortunately, the game also allows Thora to find shrines to the gods, which will imbue her with special powers.

"So you'll find Thor's hammer, Odin's spear, things like that," Dube said. "You won't get different weapons, but you will get these god-like abilities. They are permanent upgrades for your character."

The game will be structured around a central hub. Players will go off in different directions collecting runes and can approach the Jotun in what ever order they want. But Dube said there will be a suggested order for taking on the giants.

jotun

The game raised $64,000 for a $50,000 Kickstarter last summer and is expected to hit Windows, Mac and Linux through Steam this September for about $20. Dube said they are in talks with platform holders about bringing the game over to consoles as well. That would be likely in 2016 if that happens, he said.

The idea for the game, he said, came about last January when he decided to quit his work on mobile games and try to come up with a PC title to develop with the help of Kickstarter.

"When we were going through different ideas for what the games should be, I stumbled upon Norse mythology," he said. "I've always loved really old, centuries-old stories like The Divine Comedy and Beowulf and things like that.

"The more you read about Norse mythology, the more interesting it gets. There are crazy, crazy stories like cows with poisonous rivers coming out of their udders, Thor dressing up as a bridesmaid to smash giants' skulls in. The more we delved into it, the more we knew we had to make a game in that setting."