I had my weekend turned on its head by this stop motion-animated pagan fever dream of a game

Judero (opens in new tab) left an immediate impression on me⁠—its stop motion animation is the first thing that hit me, beautifully recalling the work of Ray Harryhausen or Phil Tippett. As the developers themselves put it, “For us, this art style invokes something nostalgic; in part comical but perhaps a bit creepy too.”

Each character is made with a real life model, combinations of classic G.I. Joe “Kung Fu grip”-style ball jointed figures with hand-carved and painted epoxy clay. The effect is absolutely arresting, calling to mind 2015’s Hylics (opens in new tab), but also classic examples of sprite-ized models (digital or physical) like Doom or Donkey Kong Country.

This aesthetic coup at the base of the game, which seems to be a specialty of co-creator and Dujanah (opens in new tab) developer Jack King-Spooner, is bolstered by eerie writing and world building that calls to mind laconic sword and sandals barbarian fantasy and the epic poetry that inspired it. You play as Judero, a bare-chested wandering warrior-come-holy man armed with a stout walking stick, and find yourself in a small village beset by unnatural forces in the game’s free demo.

The demo story reminds me of the best of the Witcher’s self-contained, twisty little yarns, and I find something almost primeval and unnerving about its small-scale, personal tragedies spawning supernatural horror stories. For example, as you pass through town, you hear of twin brothers who feuded and went sour after the death of their mother. On finding them outside the village, you realize they have become (or maybe always were??) a grotesque two-headed ogre.

I really dig the combat that ensues, seemingly more the domain of co-developer Talha Kaya. Normal fights in Judero’s demo are pretty good, elevated by an intriguing enemy possession mechanic and a focus on puzzle-solving, but I think the fighting would benefit from a defined hit stoppage or enemy stagger on blocking an attack, or even a full-on timed parry. 

As it stands, you kind of either just hold block and hope for the best, or rely on dodging. The two bosses really make things come alive though, with bullet hell projectile dodging really keeping me on my toes. The rhythm reminds me a lot of NieR, or even 2016’s criminally underrated Furi (opens in new tab).

But I’d settle for far worse gameplay just to enjoy Judero’s impeccable vibes. The soundtrack consists of acoustic renditions of British folk music, an anachronistic touch that really hit home when I stepped into a house and a jaunty rendition of “House of the Rising Sun” started playing. Not some odious Hollywood trailer version with desolate vocals and those plinky piano notes, but something more true to its folk roots. I can go on, but I’d rather leave you with an absolutely striking bit of incidental dialogue from the townie, “Surprised Man:”

Judero! Here by this water I saw a vision. The water stilled and became as glass. The salmon swimming in from the sea were clear to my eye. Then manifested a depth peculiar, a depth revealing a land beneath the brackish. A land of silver sands, golden rocks and maze-like blue pathways. Then approached a boat, rowed from the under place by a lovely vision of womanhood. She told me of the Fomorii, a cruel misshapen race of sea gods. That she was their princess and that she was pursued by the Dark Lord Tighearna Dubh who meant to make her his bride. Her name was Muirgen. Born of the sea. Should you ever cross paths with a bonny lass by that name, Judero, dinna let her be wed to that foul Tighearna Dubh. Her heart belongs here, in Breith, wi’ me.

What the hell do I even do with that? I doubt I’ll ever know, but I just want more of it. You can wishlist Judero on Steam and check out its free demo for yourself there or on itch.io.

Source: PC Gamer

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