Young Thor Review

Title: Young Thor
Developer: Frima Studio
Game Type: PlayStation Mini
Download: 53 MB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download, Direct Download
EU Availability: Digital Download, Direct Download

In celebration of the introduction of our site’s new category, we’ve prepared our first review for that section.  The new section is for PlayStation Minis, something that Sony started in the PlayStation Portable era, cramming bite-sized games into small, downloadable files for the PlayStation Portable and later made compatible with the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita.  Some of these games were similar to Mobile games, not unlike some titles in the PlayStation Mobile categories.  Some were not.

PlayStation Minis some believe is a failed experiment from Sony.  It is possible that the Minis eventually led Sony to making PlayStation Mobile.  Some believe this as some of the games in the Mini library were Mobile titles.  A couple examples of this are Angry Birds and Zenonia.  Whether it is or not is a mystery, but the PlayStation Vita has access to these titles and can be enjoyed on it.

There was a game that sparked our interest back then that was released as a PlayStation Mini.  Among titles in this category, there were very few Role-Playing Games, or games with RPG elements in them.  The title in question did both, in a way.  It’s an Action RPG, but it’s also a casual, side-scrolling beat-em-up game.  Straight from Norse Mythology, here is our review of the PlayStation Mini, Young Thor.

Story

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In the Center of the Universe is the World Tree, Yggdrasil.  Yggdrasil is connected to all nine worlds that exist in the universe and is maintained at its base by the Well of Fate.  The well’s water feeds the World Tree and keeps it alive.  There are three Nords at the well that help maintain balance and feed the World Tree.  These three are Verdandi, Urd, and Skuld.  They have maintained this since the beginning of time…until now.

Hel, ruler of Helheim, has kidnapped the three Nords.  Because of this, the World Tree is not being nourished and is beginning to wilt and die, the balance of the universe going with it.  The Gods of Asgard are ill-equipped to go after Hel and rescue the three Nords, as they have been preparing day-in and day-out for Ragnarok, the Norse Apocalypse.  One young God takes hammer-in-hand, and sets out on this task.  This is the story of Young Thor.

The storyline is pretty basic, once you get past the introduction.  Thor sets out to take out Hel’s guardians and rescue the Nords to restore balance to the universe, all while smashing his hammer through anything and everything in his path.  This takes him from Asgard to Midgard to Helheim.  It’s an interesting story.  Not a great one, but an interesting one.

Gameplay

Young Thor is a side-scroller.  It’s also a platformer and a beat-em-up game.  It’s also an Action RPG.  So, what can you really call it?  Well, it’s a platformer with combat and RPG elements.  I believe that is the best way to put it.  Through each stage of the game, you’re traveling through a 2D-angled plane, trying to fight your way to the three Nords you’re trying to rescue so you can keep the universe from falling apart.

The game is broken down into stages, each depicting a different area.  You run along the stage and jump onto platforms to get from one place to another.  As you are traveling, you will encounter many different types of enemies and must defeat them, using your hammer and Lightning Magic.  Sometimes, you will encounter enemies that you can bypass by jumping over them, but other times, there will be fights where Hel will raise a force-field around the area and it won’t lower until you’ve defeated all of the enemies that spawn inside it with you.

There is a bit of customization involved in exploration and fighting.  You can find different Artifacts among the different levels and each of those give you different abilities and upgrades.  For example, the Winged Helmet allows you to perform a double-jump.  Another part of customization is where the RPG elements come in.  As you fight enemies, you gain Experience, represented as a yellow gauge on the screen.  Once the bar is full, you gain a level.  When this happens, your Health, Magic, and stats increase.

Your Magic is drained when you use magic attacks, and your health is drained when an enemy attacks and hits you.  The key to surviving is knowing where everything is and learning enemy patterns.  You can heal yourself, both magic and health, by finding checkpoints throughout each stage.  Apart from those, there is a chance of an enemy dropping colored apples that will restore either your health or Magic.  Especially in the beginning of the game, you should use Magic wisely and keep it for some of the harder fights towards the end of the current stage.

Fighting enemies is done with combination attacks.  There are several different kinds of attacks you can do.  Light Attacks do the least amount of damage and can be combo’d together with a string of hits.  Heavy Attacks and Magic Attacks, though, can only be done one at a time.  Although they are more limited on hits, they have longer ranges than Light Attacks do.  You can also do different attacks depending on whether you’re in the air or not.  You will learn different combos and what is best against certain enemies as the game progresses.

Grinding levels is available in the game and is essential for becoming strong enough to beat the higher difficulty stages and to beat the game.  You can revisit any stage you play through and they can be done to reclaim artifacts you missed or just to grind and level up.  I found that the first boss stage was incredibly useful for leveling up, and I very much suggest you level up.  Even at the maximum level, I ran into some issues when fighting the Final Boss.

There are seventeen different stages to choose from, but that doesn’t mean they’re all different.  Many of the stages, unlocked by beating other stages, are similar to one another.  There are five different environments, including the final boss.  The main four stages and environments are repeated four times a piece, representing similar stages but with harder enemies and different items to obtain.  Many consider the game to really only have five stages, since the other twelve are similar to others already there.

Each stage lasts anywhere between 10 minutes and 15 minutes to complete.  Given this, and the idea of grinding levels to be able to take on the Final Boss, I would say the game got me about five to seven hours of playtime, total.  It’s not an incredibly long game, nor was it meant to be.

Controls

The controls of Young Thor aren’t terribly hard.  Since this was originally made to be run on the PSP, the Right Analog Stick and Touch Screen will not be used.  If you want to use the touch screen, though, there are Settings for PlayStation Minis just like PSP games.  If you hold down the PlayStation Button, you can go in and assign each corner of the touch screen to a button.

You can move Thor to the left, right, and down if midair with either the D-Pad or the Left Analog Stick.  The X Button is used for jumping and double-jumping.  Square is used for Light Attacks, Triangle for Heavy Attacks, and Circle for Magic Attacks.  Start pauses the game, and the L and R buttons are used for dodging to the left and right, respectively.

The controls aren’t really hard to understand or get used to.  That comes with the fact that this is a side-scrolling game and doesn’t have incredibly deep gameplay with it.  It won’t take long to get used to the controls.  Once you get through a stage or two, it will become very easy.

Presentation

Visually, Young Thor has everything in 3D.  Although the gameplay is very 2D-oriented, all of the models, effects, backgrounds, items, and more are rendered in three dimensions.  This makes for a nice look to the game, much like Mega Man: Maverick Hunter X.  However, it is good and bad in similar ways that title was.  Being stretched out on the Vita makes the visuals look a little worse than they did on the PSP.

In Young Thor, not everything had perfect character models and it’s much more apparent when playing on the Vita.  Not only is Thor covered in jagged edges, but so is pretty much everything else.  If you stop the game and look, everything has jagged edges and it looks very grainy.  This doesn’t hamper how smooth the game plays.  Gameplay, itself, runs very smooth and fluid.  It just looks very grainy and distorted with having a game that wasn’t visually perfect before stretched out on the Vita’s screen.

The game is a lot of fun and looks colorful, but the jagged edges really hamper the visual picture the game is trying to paint.

Overall

All in all, Young Thor was a neat little platformer, taking its roots from Norse Mythology that is not focused on enough in gaming.  The visuals have taken a turn for the worse being stretched out on the Vita’s screen and many of the stages are carbon copies of others.  However, if you enjoy beat-em-up games and Role-Playing Games, you should definitely give this game a go.  It’s a fun little game worth the measly $2.49 price tag.

The PlayStation Review Network Rates Young Thor a 6.5/10.

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