Young Thor (PSP) review
"Hel, the female ruler of the Norse underworld, has kidnapped the Norns and corrupted the tree of life in an attempt to usher in Ragnarok. All that stands in her way is one pimply, red-haired youth with a hammer. Thor, though still in his infancy, vows to defeat his nefarious cousin, return order to Midgard and to do it all quickly enough that the player can be home in time for supper. At least one of those things will occur. Clocking in at roughly four hours, Young Thor is a really short ..."
Hel, the female ruler of the Norse underworld, has kidnapped the Norns and corrupted the tree of life in an attempt to usher in Ragnarok. All that stands in her way is one pimply, red-haired youth with a hammer. Thor, though still in his infancy, vows to defeat his nefarious cousin, return order to Midgard and to do it all quickly enough that the player can be home in time for supper. At least one of those things will occur. Clocking in at roughly four hours, Young Thor is a really short game. Sadly, thatís the best thing that I can say about it.
I like the concept of a brawler with some RPG elements and I like the setting that Frima Studios has chosen. The action begins on a typical Norse battlefield. Thereís a lot of snow, some log buildings, and all of the decorations have horns. Full of the vigor of youth, Young Thor leaps from the top of a stone pillar, making an impressive entrance upon the snowy plains. This being a side-scrolling adventure, he runs to the right, holding his hammer high in preparation for battle. The precaution is well rewarded, for he has taken barely a dozen steps when he is beset by goblins! With a diminutive roar, Young Thor crushes their skulls under the weight of his mighty hammer! GRAH! Feel the strength of the adolescent Asgardian! Watch as he gains a level from his efforts and becomes stronger still!
Unfortunately, being beset by monsters in Young Thor doesnít have the same dramatic impact of being beset in other games. Enemies seem overly polite about lynching the Thunder God. Most of them will charge forward to make their presence known and then halt to see what Thor does next. Usually, what Thor does next involves killing them, so this hardly seems like an intelligent decision on their part.
The first thing that players will learn about Young Thor is that there isnít a lot of crowd action. Enemies, aside from using the brilliant strategy described above, tend to appear in groups of two or, very rarely, three. Thatís about as large as the gangs and gaggles get.
The next thing players will learn is that Thor has a move in his repertoire (unoriginally dubbed the Ground Pound) wherein he jumps into the air and then slams down into the ground like a thunderbolt. The maneuver hits all the enemies on the screen, stuns them, and does massive damage. Much of the rest of the game will be spent spamming this move.
Thus, Young Thor will make his way across the frozen battlefield with little difficulty and even less brain power. There is a small stretch of treacherous water heíll have to look out for and heíll be encouraged to try out wall-jumping (which is never used again) to scale a watch tower. Otherwise, all that a player has to do is hold the directional button down until the level ends abruptly. From here, the player has a decision to make. He can continue on to Stage 2 of the battlefield, or he can venture into a new territory, The Mystical Forest. With four available territories and four stages per territory, you might be thinking that Young Thor has a fair amount of content. I thought the same thing when I chose to play Stage 2. Imagine my surprise, and then my disappointment, when it turned out to be the exact same level as Stage 1, only with different enemies. Again Young Thor leapt majestically off the top of his perch. Again he landed amidst opponents. Again he used the Ground Pound move and easily won the fight.
Between the sparseness of enemies and the ease with which they are dispatched, players will quickly make their way through each of the gameís four territories. Then, if they want to get to the final boss, theyíll have to do it four more times until all of the stages are cleared. Enemies in more advanced stages might change appearance, but their lack of numbers and their casual approach to combat will remain the same. Young Thor, meanwhile, will have been leveling and collecting items that allow him to do things like recover health and magic any time that heís not receiving damage (AKA all of the time). Because of this, combat never feels very deep and is usually just an all-too brief repast from running from one end to the next of a level youíve seen three times already.
There was a chance here for the developers to show off some real skills in level design. I know that they have them, because The Mystical Forest is incredible. From the title youíd obviously expect a lot of trees, probably big trees, and this you get. But if you stick to the branches for long enough you may also find yourself on a snow-dusted mountain ruled by Trolls. Keep to the ground and you may instead locate the entrance to a remote Goblin village. Depending on the paths you take out of that village, you could blunder into an underground complex of tunnels filled with deadly spiders, or you could find your way back to the woods and the Goblins that infest them. It took me all four trips through that stage to discover its various branching paths and Iím still not positive that I found them all. That's the feeling that Frima Studios should have aimed for with every territory.
Criticism also needs to be leveled at the gameís three boss fights. These are hardly epic battles. I donít understand why, out of all the vast population of giants, serpents, and monsters that permeate the Poetic Edda, Frima Studios chose a messenger squirrel to serve as one of the bosses. Nidhogg the dragon I can understand and Hel is a given but... a squirrel?
Whether they be squirrel or dragon, bosses have set patterns of attack and movement. These include long sequences wherein you canít harm them. Nidhogg is particularly guilty of this transgression. His pattern of attack takes a minute and a half to complete and he can only be injured at the end of it. That wouldnít be so bad if the player were actively involved in the fight, perhaps dodging or even undergoing quick-time events. However, most of that time is wasted on an unavoidable stun attack that doesn't hurt you and on a long period where Nidhogg just flies around overhead looking angry. A minute and a half might not seem long, but if you go into the battle at a low level, you can expect to see the same animation at least seven or eight times before you win the fight. It gets repetitive very quickly.
Of course, thatís not all that different from the rest of the game.
I really wanted to like Young Thor. Frima Studios is known for creating games with a sense of humor and style, like Big Brain Wolf and Zombie Tycoon. The beginnings of those sensibilities are present here but they arenít backed up by a strong enough design. When a game outstays a four-hour welcome, something is wrong.
Community review by zippdementia (July 20, 2010)
Zipp has spent most of his life standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox there. Sometimes he writes reviews and puts them in the mailbox.
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