Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom
Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom: Good musical score, inventive puzzles, interesting story, budget price
Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom doesn't do a lot that's really original. All the dungeons borrow heavily from the Zelda playbook, the enemies are little more than 'roided-up versions of the shadow creatures from Ico, and even the titular giant himself looks like an abandoned extra from Shadow of the Colossus. But as you peel back the game's layers, it offers up an engaging story that's just light enough on details to keep you interested.
- Powers add a new dimension to the level design, slimmed down presentation puts a refreshing emphasis on the platforming
- Surprise spikes and other cheap traps become more prevalent later in the game, camera isn't up to the task of keeping up with the two-player co-op
Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom may not break any new ground in the action-adventure genre, but the fable behind the gameplay keeps the experience interesting from start to finish.
As the story begins, a once prosperous kingdom lies dormant after 100 years of rule by the Darkness. A lone thief (later named Tepeu) attempts to break into the king's castle in hopes of freeing Teotl the Majin, a legendary creature that was once known as the protector of the land. Of course, 100 years of confinement has left the Majin vastly de-powered, so after a quick introduction, the misfit pair set out to find mystical fruits that retain the giant's magical abilities.
It's a simple set-up, and from that point on, Majin gets very paint-by-the-numbers. Unlocking the sealed door to the castle's main throne room requires Tepeu and Teotl to find and defeat four bosses scattered to the far ends of the kingdom. Each bosses' lair is concealed within a corresponding dungeon, and of course, each dungeon puzzle motif is defined by a elemental power that Teotl will just happen to find when it's convenient. Still, the game's biggest strength lies with the dungeon design -- or more specifically, how you get Tepeu and Teotl from Point A to Point B. Since Teotl is the size of a small truck, Tepeu will often have to use his smaller size and agility to locate switches and various levers needed to clear a path for the big guy. None of the dungeons are overwhelmingly difficult, but the puzzle solving tedium is broken up every now and again by isolated enemy encounters.
What's borderline irritating is the way the game attempts to nudge you along with clues from the various woodland animals that Tepeu can talk to. Not only is the voice acting in these roles absolutely terrible, but the canned dialogue is filled with redundant hints like, "Wow! We just saw a switch over there in the far corner of the room! What do you think would happen to that locked door if you managed to get over there?" My only guess is that this was thrown in there to help younger gamers that might get stuck on occasion, but it's downright jarring every time you hear it. At the very least, those scenes can usually be skipped.
Combat in Majin isn't too deep, but the game does reward you for taking advantage of Tepeu and Teotl's team attacks rather than blindly button mashing. Not only do they do more damage, but your team attacks will also level up the more you use them. That being said, Teotl is always useful in battle, even if he can't handle everything on his own. Long-range enemies and nimble speedsters will usually pick the giant apart unless you lend a helping hand, although most foes are pretty easy to dispatch once you've got a good handle on the basics.
Much of the game's focus is on Tepeu and Teotl's friendship, but the plotline that strings you along to the end is Teotl's origin story. From the start, the giant suffers amnesia, and as he re-learns his latent abilities, a little more of the kingdom's history comes into focus with each new power-up. At the very least, the build-up pays off quite well at the end, with a surprising character reveal that flies in the face of an all-too-common fantasy genre stereotype.
At the end of the tale, Tepeu and Teotl might manage to grow on you a little bit, but the game doesn't do nearly enough in the way of character development. While the plot is interesting enough, you don't really learn enough about Tepeu to get very invested with his role in saving the kingdom. It's obvious at the start that he's descendent of the Chosen One that reappears every century to aid Teotl, but it doesn't make that much of an impact on the overall narrative. That, plus the "dumb muscle" routine of Teotl's incessant baby talk, really kills a lot of depth that Majin otherwise might have had.
Thankfully, Teotl isn't dumb when it comes to the gameplay mechanics. Much like Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, you'll have to navigate various sections while commanding your partner from afar. Not only are Teotl's abilities used to great affect here, but he never gets stuck in corners or awkward animations. Anytime you give him a command, he follows it without confusion or scripting hiccups. In addition, he's also smart enough to defend himself and come to Tepeu's aid when he's in danger. As far as A.I. companions go, the Majin is by far one of the smartest you'll have the pleasure of working with.
Still, Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom has enough uniqueness in its execution that it's not forgettable. At a good 10 to 15 hours, there's plenty of gameplay for the budget price that the game is offered at ($69.95). It's definitely better for younger gamers, but still a solid choice for anyone looking for a good adventure.
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