Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom Review
Written : Friday, January 07, 2011
By: Richard Walker (GT: Redriceman82)
In this world largely dominated by violent shooters, extreme racers and sweary action games, Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom is something of a treat; a brief but enjoyable respite from the type of blockbusting fare that has the greatest monopoly on our time. Majin is an open-world adventure game set in a strange world where darkness has engulfed the populous, transforming them into evil denizens comprised of black unctuous goo. As the game's hero Tepeu, you free a Majin known as Teotl, the exiled guardian of the forsaken kingdom and your adventure begins.
"Princesses have come a long way since Peach."
In essence, Majin is a co-operative single-player game that has you working alongside the titular guardian to rid the kingdom of darkness. What this boils down to is a lot of platform jumping and puzzling with the aid of Teotl, who you're able to order around using commands accessed by holding down the right trigger. There's a variety of different actions that the Majin can perform, such as fighting off foes for you, or crouching to help you reach an otherwise inaccessible high area. Naturally, you both start out fairly weak - Teotl especially having been drained of his power – so part and parcel of your journey is returning him to his former strength before the inevitable final showdown with the King of Darkness.
This means teaming up for some light, button-bashing melee combat, context sensitive co-op finishing moves and plenty of searching for upgrades. Defeating enemies dispenses blue or red upgrade points, with blue gems boosting Tepeu's fighting abilities and stamina while the red are earned for co-op actions and enhance yours and the Majin's friendship level, making your dual attacks stronger. There's a lot of collection to be done in the Forsaken Kingdom, so you'll be opening treasure chests with more blue upgrade points, costume pieces and so on, while looking for various berries for the Majin to devour to bolster his burgeoning strength, stamina and wind, lightning, fire and purification abilities, which you'll obtain at certain junctures in the shape of gigantic berries that Teotl can pluck and devour.
Restoring the Majin quickly becomes an obsession, partly because he's so endearing and partly because the game world is ripe for exploration. Sharing certain characteristics with the work of Team ICO (it'll no doubt be compared to the PS3's forthcoming The Last Guardian) on the PlayStation, Majin's world is a blend of green and fertile lands, babbling rivers, leafy copses and later on, you'll travel to deserts, crystal-encrusted caves and more. The object is to gain entry to the castle from whence you came, and destroy the darkness once and for all, but doing so requires destroying four masks belonging to a quartet of huge bosses. Defeating these bosses isn't really a huge challenge, although there's more to the battles than repeatedly hammering buttons. Normally, there's some sort of item manipulation or interaction with the Majin involved, but the solution is usually well signposted and the enemy's weak spot is the classic glowing red zone that needs to exposed and then targeted.
"Majin's game world is painstakingly beautiful."
Tepeu's fighting abilities are extremely limited though, so you're presented with two options. You can either have the Majin rush in and do your dirty work for you or you can both wade in and unleash hell. The latter option is invariably the preferable of the two, especially when you can combine your collective powers, as Teotl is able to imbue Tepeu's 'Sealing Spike' weapon with any one of his four powers for added strength. When things get a little out of hand, retreating is difficult however, and when the Majin is locked in a fight, getting him to withdraw is near-impossible. Thankfully, you're able to throw fruit to heal the Majin and restore his health, while he in turn can leech away the darkness that attempts to envelop you when you take damage, healing you in the process.
Simplistic combat is never a problem in Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom, as it's understood that it's not supposed to be a hack and slash title. First and foremost, it's a blend of platform jumping and puzzles, with various traps and monsters to deal with along the way. The map that unfolds as you explore is huge, and there's at least a good 8-10 hours of gameplay in there, all of it an absolute joy. Visually, we can imagine the game being a little divisive, as it's bold and colourful, and Tepeu especially, is a doe-eyed Disney-fied character, unlike the Majin, who is like an enormous, friendly bear, with big teeth, glowing yellow eyes and a naïve outlook on a hate-filled world that's shunned him.
"Oh look mommy, it's a pretty clown. Can I stroke it?"
As the story unfolds and memories are played out as short, silhouetted sequences, you grow increasingly attached to the Majin and rather than him protecting you, you feel more and more inclined to keep him safe from harm. You'll probably have him wait before rushing in, to see if you can thin enemy numbers with a few instant stealthy kills first, which Tepeu is able to do by holding the left trigger to crouch and sneak, before hitting a B button prompt and plunging his spike into the enemy's back. Playing Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom is involving and fun for the most part, with the only real issue we could find being some of Tepeu's jump animations, which feel unresponsive and inaccurate at times.
Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom's achievements are a fairly demanding bunch, with perhaps a little too much collection required, as gathering blue and red upgrade jewels to boost both Tepeu and Majin to their highest level will take forever. Finding every treasure chest and power-up berry is a bit more straightforward, but then conversely, tracking down all of the costumes and yellow memory tokens in the game will take some time and dedication. Cheevos attached to boss battles and general game progress are much easier, but they're few and far between. Prepare to put some hours in if you want the full 1000, but then spending time with Majin can't really be considered a chore.
Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom is a striking adventure, marred only by ever so slightly niggling platform jumping and possibly a bit too much backtracking through locations you've already visited. However, when a game world is as inherently pretty as Majin's is, traipsing through it on multiple occasions is seldom a problem. Weather effects and day night cycles keep things interesting, and Majin's inherent charm as well as a healthy smattering of RPG elements, ensure that Game Republic's beautiful yarn is never anything less than a pleasure to play.
The voice work might not be to everyone's tastes, although we found it disarmingly endearing, but Majin's soaring orchestral score on the other hand is utterly majestic, and complements the game brilliantly.
Majin's graphics are solid, colourful and at times, achingly beautiful. There's a lot of lush greenery, swirling desert sand and reflective, sun-dappled rivers to behold, and the world is chock full of imagination and wonder. Weather effects and a night/day cycle are the icing on the cake, although some aspects of the visuals do lack a little polish.
Perfectly good fun to play, Majin's command interface is clear and simple to use, and Teotl's AI is near-perfect. We had no problems when issuing orders to him, and from start to finish, the only issue we encountered was some occasionally unresponsive controls, which never really threatened to break the game. It's a minor quibble really.
Beyond the single-player story, there's not really a whole lot to Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom, but with a narrative that weighs in at a good 10 hours or so (15+ if you decide to collect everything), it seems a bit churlish to complain.
The majority of the game's achievements can be snapped up pretty easily, but some will take a lot of grinding and extra exploration to unlock. As a list it's fine and nothing more, although it might encourage you to spend more time searching every nook and cranny of Majin's expansive world, which is certainly no bad thing.
Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom will unfortunately be overlooked by many, which is a real shame. It's a game that deserves attention and recognition as a sweet-centred fairytale adventure with beautiful locations and great gameplay. All in all, Majin is good, wholesome fun and well worth seeking out.