Young Thor

A thundering good time.

Thor is a manly god. He has a hammer. He crushes stuff with it. He calls down lightning and wields it with his manly, crushing hammer. In Young Thor you play as the childlike version of this masculinity, with a character that has more in common with Link than a Norse deity. Why? Because cel-shaded children with lightning powers are fun to be around.

Designed for the PSP (playable on PSN), the sidescroller is an action-packed platformer hack-n-slash that follows the kidnap and rescue archetype. Baby Thor must rescue the Norns (guardians of the world tree, Yggdrasil) from Hel, evil lady ruler of Helheim – which is about as nice a place as it sounds. Yggdrasil will die without the Norns, which sends the nine worlds straight into Helheim, and we can’t have that on our watch.

Controls are simple, with a weak, strong and special (lightning) attack. With such a focused arsenal, the onus is on the player to construct a creative offense, charging attacks when possible and staying nimble. Enemies distinct, and vary largely by difficulty in taking them down.

Enemy difficulty is unique to each stage, and something you’ll want to keep an eye on before jumping into a level for a distinctly humbling experience. Four levels are displayed in an unlocking board. After you beat the first stage the next stage of that level opens up, as does the first stage of the second level. Difficulty and whether or not the hidden item in the level has been found are indicated at the stage select screen.

Across the four levels and their four stages you battle enemies to level up your strength and discover armor. The stages within a level are actually the same level design with different enemies, and enemy locations. Levels are timed, so doing speed runs on easier levels (and picking up some experience) is a fun way to pass the time, because you will be grinding.

That grinding is necessary before you take on difficult levels, to level up and because the first time through a stage the hidden treasure may not yet be revealed. In addition to regularly ramped up difficulty, Young Thor also exhibits what I classify as “this game cheats” difficulty, where enemies occasionally land hits without rhyme or reason. Would I sound less bitter if I said there are hit detection issues?

There’s no voice acting for little cel-shaded Thor, and the narrative is delivered in storyboard style. The occasional cut-scenes are tastefully spare, and crop up to punctuate the action and add a little drama. Score and sound effects add ample godly ambiance, and the game’s aesthetic is very successful.

Above all, as a portable game Young Thor hits the mark. Levels are portioned out appropriately, with an easy-to-follow story and the option of more depth. If you’re into Germanic flights of fancy, you can read about Norse mythology in the unlockable Dictionary entries throughout the game. This is a high-quality Minis title – a thundering good time.

Review copy provided by publisher.

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