With five titles to their name on Sony's platform for snack-sized digital games, Canadian developer Frima Studio has been one of the staunch supporters of the PlayStation Minis service since launch last year. With the release of the ambitious game Young Thor the studio is pushing the boundaries of the Minis in terms of production quality and sheer value for money.
Save the world, one dead troll at a time
Young Thor is an action-platformer in its purest form. Players get to negotiate dangerous cliffs, escape burning castles and cursed Viking ships, while defeating waves of enemies along the way. Sounds familiar? It is, but Frima Studio has managed to execute with an unwavering hand, while adding plenty of flair, so they're easily forgiven the lack of truly new ideas.
In Young Thor we get to take on the Norse thunder god when he was just a sprouting god-in-the-making. Not fully grown, Thor is still a power to be reckoned with, as he takes on the ruler of the underworld, Hel, trying to foil her plot to destroy the world tree Yggdrasil and then save the world of mankind.
Force of nature
Frima Studio has managed a fine-tuned balance of engaging platform challenges and quick, fun combat. Jumping across tree tops, pounding enemies to dust using Thor's trusty hammer or the powers of lightning is a breeze, mostly. Controls could have benefited from being a bit tighter, most notably against super-fast and unforgiving opponents or jumps requiring precise timing.
Four levels in total lies before you, each with multiplely routes and plenty of nooks and crannies to explore. To expend the total playtime, you're forced to revisit the same levels multiple times – each iteration retooled with new monsters, hidden power-ups and easy dispatched bosses. The idea works to a certain extend, but lter levels tend to quite too much on drawn out arena battles, which whittles a bit of the fun factor away.
Lightning and thunder
For a Minis Young Thor is home to some very impressive art direction. Thor and enemies – although limited in numbers – are detailed and well animated. Intelligent use of a dynamic camera adds a great sense of depth, to a game that essentially plays across a 2D landscape. The scenery impresses with variation and you'll be taken to glomish underground caverns, across icy landscapes to dark, foreboding castles. The action is sprinkled with good looking effects and lighting. Tunes are short but well composed, sadly the effects come across as tinny and few in numbers.
Pushing the envelope
Young Thor is a far cry from the smallish affairs, that PlayStation Minis regularly houses, and Frima Studio has done a brave thing in expanding the boundaries of what can be done on the platform and price range. Inspired and beautiful Young Thor might falter a bit toward the end, but it is still more than worthy of your cash and a place on your memory stick.
Verdict: Get it! (Verdict list: 'Get it!', 'Rent' or 'Never mind')