The Minis lineup has grown steadily over the past few months and has seen a fair share of quality bite-sized titles, but Young Thor is perhaps the most fully-fledged game of the group. For a mere $4.99, you get an engrossing action title with dynamite production values. No other game better embodies what a Mini could and should be than this gem that I hope many gamers will experience for themselves.
Thor, son of Odin, embarks on a quest to save the three Norns from the evil goddess Hel, who seeks to throw the world into chaos. The story is adapted from Norse mythology, incorporating surprisingly detailed references to the mythos throughout the adventure. Gamers unfamiliar with the folklore do not need to worry about most of it going over their heads; Young Thor features a dictionary that adequately covers all the bases. Admittedly there are only a few story sequences, one in the beginning, one in the end, and a few exchanges of dialogue between Thor and his supporting cast.
3D environments provide the backdrop for the 2D beat-em-up/platforming action. Stages are traversed from left to right, but you are free and even encouraged to roam the level any way you wish. Combative enemies overrun each level awaiting Thor and his mighty hammer, Mjolnir. The controls are simple. The Dpad controls movements, X jumps, the shoulder buttons are for evasion, square and circle are for light and heavy attack respectively, and circle unleashes a powerful lighting attack. The gameplay incorporates Action Role Playing elements by showing the amount of damage inflicted with each strike and XP for gaining all the way from 1 to 99.
The combat system is easy to wrap your head around yet deep and satisfying enough that you are not likely to tire of it during the game. Thor is capable of multiple combos including a spin attack effective in dealing with more that one enemy at a time. The seven varieties of enemies all mount a fair challenge in their own way, ranging from bladed spiders, wailing banshees, and even axe-wielding giants. Some monsters have weak spots that are more prone to critical hits from Thor. Numerous times during a level, you will be trapped in orbs that you cannot escape until you deal with a horde of insidious foes.
The platforming side of things is just as enjoyable. Thor jumps and double jumps gracefully with the perfect amount of mid-air control. He can even wall jump to scale heights. The long sprawling levels serve as an adequate backdrop for decent hopping action. The collection of levels in Young Thor is rather unique. Technically, there are only four distinct levels that encompass Thor’s journey through Midgard, Bifrost, and Asgard. However, there are four variations to each level that include a different composition of enemies, increased difficulty, and different items to find. Including boss battles, there are 17 levels to master. That is a lot for less than $5 but I still wish a few more distinct levels had made it in.
Leveling up is fun and important in order to face the ever-escalating challenge of the levels. You may find yourself playing through already completed levels repeatedly in order to grow more powerful. The game poses a fair challenge so it is in your best interest to seek out the eight artifacts hidden throughout the levels. Each artifact carries their own special effect to assist Thor, in ways that include gradually restoring his health or increasing the chance of slain enemies leaving behind powerups. To top it all off, Young Thor has 50 achievements to collect that will keep you playing after you beat the game.
The presentation in Young Thor really fools you into thinking this more than a mere Mini. The visuals are colorful, crisp, and detailed. You cannot fault the music and audio for what they do either. The voice acting (though not much of it) is admirable as well. Beautiful hand-drawn artwork presents the story, giving off an inspired comic book-like vibe. Despite the commendable use of its source material, the story just is not that deep or even important to follow, which is my one major gripe.
Young Thor is the most ambitious, built from the ground up, Minis experience to date. It is just right pick up and play fun that should be you should have stored in your PSP (or PS3) just in case. It is dually satisfying as a platformer and action beat-em-up, with a low price point to boot. With more content, this would even make for a potentially good retail release. Thankfully, I feel Frima Studio has a new franchise on their hands and suspect we will see more of Young Thor soon. In the meantime, do not forget to check this game out.