Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom – The PS3 Attitude Review
From a stylistic and technical point of view, Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom is unlike most modern games. The pacing is often slow and thoughtful, and it lacks the intensity that we are used to seeing from other blockbuster games released this generation. It also has a quaint dedication to puzzle solving and platforming. Whether this is good or bad news will depend on what you are actually looking for in the game.
Co-op gameplay is central to Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom’s design. You control Tepeu, a mysterious kid who can speak to animals, and an AI-controlled guardian called Teotl (or the Majin) supports him. They could not be less alike: Tepeu is slim, athletic and human, while Teotl is a large and very strong ogre, who appears to have a shrubbery growing from his back. The difference in size is quite significant too: Teotl is massive next to Tepeu.
Their differences make them compatible. If a job requires climbing or squeezing through narrow gaps, or if stealth is the best policy, Tepeu is the man for the job – if the doctor ordered brute strength and an ability to breathe fire, Teotl is the ogre for you.
While Teotl can move around independently, you have to instruct him to do specific jobs. This is easy to do: hold R2 to open the control menu, and from there, you will see a selection of instructions. These can be straightforward requests to follow or holdback, or you can ask him to crouch, thus creating a platform from which Tepeu can leap to hard to reach areas. The system is very intuitive.
You can also ask Teotl to interact with objects. Here is an example from early in the game: we had to get to a higher platform so we asked Teotl to lower a nearby catapult, which we climbed into, and then asked him to release it, sending us flying through the sky. This is how many of the puzzles work, although as you progress through the game, and once Teotl learns more powers, the combinations can get more complicated.
You see, Teotl is weak in the beginning of the game, from being in prison for 100 years, until Tepeu came to his rescue on the first level. To restore his powers, Tepeu must guide him across the kingdom in a search for magical fruit. Of course, the greater goal is to save their kingdom from an evil darkness, and destroy the four Generals of Darkness responsible for the kingdom’s current dark state.
It is a large kingdom, one that will require many hours to explore, and it is an attractive setting as well, not as vivid and memorable as say Hyrule (Zelda) is, but it is a world you will be happy to explore. Each area offers something different, before ushering you into a boss battle. These boss battles are enjoyable, and in-tune with the rest of the game. They are not straight-up fights – you have to interact with the environment and exploit weaknesses.
Whether you can get to the fight, or win the fight, will depend on which powers Teotl has regained. They are all of an elemental kind (wind, fire and lightning), and they are only learned at different stages of the game, meaning the puzzles you encounter are ever changing. You will exhaust one power before unlocking the next.
Wind is the first move Teotl learns, a versatile move used in a variety of ways. One example: sometimes dangling objects will obstruct Tepeu’s jumping path, and on these occasions, you can ask Teotl to blow a gust of wind that will make the objects swing – creating a clearing for Tepeu to jump through. These powers are also effective in fighting situations.
Despite combat being simple and mostly lacking in variation, it does have a good sense of physicality, especially when Tepeu and Teotl work together. Teotl will use his mighty attacks on enemies, leaving them stunned and vulnerable to Tepeu’s finishing move, which has him jump into the air before driving his weapon down onto the soldier of darkness. Tepeu’s stealth kills are also worth a mention; they are brutal. He sneaks up behind an enemy and rams his weapon through their lower back, and lifts them above his head. The combination finishers are even weightier. These have Teotl flip Tepeu into the air before they follow up by striking the enemy together.
The fighting is at its best when it incorporates puzzle elements. Early in the game, you are often encouraged to drop walls on the enemies or to lure them into traps. Sadly, this tactical element becomes less noticeable as you progress, and straight-up fighting becomes more common. Had this continued it would have more than made up for the combat’s lack of variation. Still, seeing Tepeu and Teotl fight together in tandem is a great sight.
The developer, Game Republic, clearly spent a lot of time trying to build a rapport between Tepeu and Teotl. After some events, the two will dance and celebrate, demonstrating their growing bond. You will also notice that the Majin is always giving feedback, always making comments, reminding you that he is there and reacting to your instructions.
That is not always for the best, however. One of the areas that Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom is weakest in is voice acting. It quickly begins to grate; it is as if small children are the target audience. In addition, the Majin acts like an overgrown child – basically, in an incredibly dim-witted manner.
The way he speaks is like a cross between Yoda and Sloth from The Goonies. Making him mute would have been a big improvement. Moreover, his tendency to trip over his own feet from time to time left us completely unimpressed and not charmed, as we are sure the designers were expecting us to be.
Nevertheless, despite some of his irritating character traits, we did grow fond of Teotl by the end. We felt like we had been on a journey with him. There are several touching moments throughout the story where we felt a strong sense of closeness developing between Tepeu and his guardian. There are scenes when they are under a blossom tree sharing stories, and moments like these are fantastic.
Teotl’s AI also impressed us. He usually obeyed when we gave him instructions, and very rarely did we find him getting trapped in locations – or doing any of the other things that you normally see from AI characters. The only complaint we have is that he can be slow; therefore, he will fall behind the action from time to time.
There can be an over-reliance on co-op. Sure, it is a co-op game, but it sometimes feels like you are instructing the Majin to open doors for the sake of it, and while many of the puzzles are fantastic, too many are far too obvious.
In addition, we would have been happier had Game Republic not designed the controls in a way that automatically selected the right ability for Teotl to use when highlighting an object – it removes part of the fun you get from solving the problem; it seems bizarre considering the strong focus the game has on problem solving.
Alas, the platforming has issues as well. Tepeu can grab ledges but he rarely will, so you will often find yourself falling in situations where a Nathan Drake or Lara Croft would have coped with ease. It is not a game breaking issue it is just frustrating.
It is symptomatic of the game as a whole. For all that it does right, there are things that it does not do so well. Do not get us wrong, you can tell it has someone of the pedigree of Yoshiki Okaoto (of Street Fighter II and Resident Evil fame) at the helm – it is smarter than most games, and it feels different from just about everything else out there. It is just missing that spark, which would have taken the game into the must have category.
Nevertheless, we are still happy to endorse the game, especially if you are looking for something a bit different. If you are tired of frantic shooters like Black Ops, then Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom will offer something more thoughtful, more emotional as well. It harks back to a simpler gaming age, one less refined, but one enjoyable all the same.
Its puzzle designs are smart, its world is large, its art design is interesting, and its fairytale story of good vs. darkness is actually quite enjoyable, even if it is a bit hackneyed. Its Disney-adventure-style soundtrack really adds to the atmosphere as well. And even through he will drive you round the bend, the Majin is an interesting character to design the game around.
It is just a shame that Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom was to arrive at a time when Black Ops, Assassin’s Creed 2: Brotherhood and Gran Turismo 5 either were storming the charts or were about to. Not many games can compete against the likes of that. However, the adventures of Tepeu and Teotl could develop quite a cult following. Here’s hoping; it would be a shame for it to be ignored.
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