Developer: Game Republic
Publishers: Namco Bandai Games
Giant slumbering guardians? Evil darkness everywhere? Talking animals?! That’s what you’re in for when you play Majin And The Forsaken Kingdom. From the team that brought you Giant Enemy Crabs and, probably more importantly, the cult PS3 hit Folklore comes a story of a young thief and his quest to discover what happened to an ancient kingdom that has been in ruins for over a century. Waking a giant guardian called a Majin, they team up as they attempt to rid the darkness that has consumed the land, solving puzzles and building up a friendship as they go.
Oh, and the Majin looks a bit like the Gruffalo.
There’s been a lot of chatter online comparing this title to Ico and The Last Guardian but I feel there’s a better comparison to be made, as I felt the game borrowed far too much from Zelda: Twilight Princess for its own good at times. From the general plot being fairly similar, to the enemies being pretty similar, to the fonts and sounds being incredibly familiar (especially when you save) it owes far too much to the Wii bestseller. Still, regardless of everyone’s interpretations of comparisons to existing titles, we need to crack on with the important question; is the game any good?
It’s an elaborate answer, so be seated comfortably.
I won’t lie; my first impressions of this game were below par. The voice-acting is a mixed bag with some delivery being well done whilst the majority of it (mainly the animals) being cringe-worthy, so be warned if that sort of thing annoys you. On top of this the graphics engine is very hit and miss, with some textures pixelating pretty harshly at times whilst other scenes were beautifully done. The weather and particle effects in particular annoyed me as instead of being part of the environment they seemed to be a layer between the action and the TV screen, not moving when you turned the camera. Speaking of the camera, I had to increase the turn speed up as the game felt too sluggish on default. Even the plot seemed a little too simple at the start and didn’t engage me, and all of these points put together had me a little worried about having to play through the entire game.
But as I carried on something changed. Maybe it was the investment of my time but I started to find the world and the character of the Majin charming, warming me to the game’s simple plot. That’s not to say I forgot about the previous annoyances but I was starting to enjoy the experience. I will admit that some may find the game very, very cutesy, so if you’re put off by such things you may find the game hard to stomach (especially the Majin, who can act like an excited child at times.)
For the entirety of the game you will control the young thief called Tepeu, and the gameplay mechanics are for the most part pretty simple, and I couldn’t help but feel the controls were catering to a more casual demographic with constant on-screen reminders informing you of what each button does. The basis of Tepeu’s fighting mechanics lies in the two buttons of attack and dodge, and you can get away with spamming the attack button as the dodge command can interrupt what you’re doing at any time. Intentional or not, it does mean those of you with quick reflexes will be able to avoid getting hit a lot of the time. Tepeu also has the ability to enter a stealth mode, which works by holding down the crouch button and is quick and easy. Sneaking up on enemies is important in the game as there are areas that will sometimes be crawling with bad guys that attacking head-on would be suicidal, so picking them off one by one is ideal. I did have to sigh when being told that the enemies of darkness “had bad eyesight and hearing” as it made it seem like bad game design justified into the plot.
However, upon teaming up with the Guardian / Majin called Teotl, the game really opens up its controls and its plot. Unless told to, the Majin will follow you wherever you go and will fight alongside you. Pressing varying shoulder buttons opens up commands, varying from telling him to wait to specifically attacking a target or interacting with an item. This can sometimes be hampered by the camera angle clipping or enemies getting in front of each other but on the whole it was fairly easy to issue my orders to my giant companion. Taking damage isn’t too much of an issue for Tepeu, as the Majin has the ability to heal him by removing his darkness (which consumes his body as you take hits.) This does raise the question of why there’s a health bar for Tepeu when you can clearly see how he is doing by how much darkness has consumed him. The Majin, however, is reliant on you monitoring his health and can be healed by giving him food from small plants found on your travels.
As you progress through the world defeating your enemies will reward you with gems which act as experience points. If Tepeu kills an enemy alone he will power himself up to become stronger, but if you perform finishing moves with the Majin when an enemy is weak you earn ‘friendship shards’ which not only increase the power of your finishing moves but unlock new abilities, such as the Majin helping you to reach higher ledges or new finishers you can execute which look energetic. In addition you will come across fruits which unlock or power up the Majin’s abilities making him stronger. Such abilities, lightning for example, allow you to unlock new areas of the map or stun your enemies.
There’s also a day/night cycle present which not only reveals additional collectables but changes the enemies that populate the world. The majority of the time you’ll be facing the standard soldiers that are easily taken down, but there are additional enemies that are introduced as you progress that require more than just brute force to defeat, and some of them are just plain annoying initially. Of course, there are boss battles too, which require interacting with the environment to defeat them. Some of the boss battles are pretty easy to beat, but others were just frustrating, with one particular boss stunning me repeatedly, leading to some rather harsh words being uttered my end.
In other words I swore. A lot.
Combat isn’t the only part of the game however, as there are many puzzles to solve if you wish to progress or find all the items in the world. Initially these puzzles are criminally easy with everything highlighted or even no-so-subtle hints dropped to you by the animals nearby. This changes as you progress through the game and you’re left to figure out solutions on your own. While all the puzzles are fairly logical there were some that had me stumped for a little while, making me feel stupid when I did finally solve them for missing such an obvious part or item. It is during these sections that platforming and climbing become an essential part of the gameplay, and bring out one of the more obvious flaws in the controls as it makes the game feel very slow while traversing the different heights. When trying to jump for a higher ledge you will sometimes be left hanging, and to pull yourself up you have to keep the analog stick pushed up, and if you let go or press anything else and you drop. This isn’t clearly stated to the player like other controls so it could lead to some frustration as you play.
There were some points that annoyed me more than the others though. The cutscenes for the boss fights could have been made interactive with quick-time-events at the very least, especially at the end of a fight when you press one button and then it’s over. Cutscenes in general cause the game to fade to black quickly when they start and finish, making them feel segregated from the experience. Additionally there are certain points in the game where there is no obvious waypoint on your map, and if you end up on the wrong side of the world (like I did at one point) it can be annoying having to fight your way through respawning enemies just to backtrack. This was remedied later in the game with transport rooms allowing for some fast travel, but it means you have to do the things the hard way for at least half of your playthrough.
Length-wise, I managed to clock the game at about 13 hours, but the completists among you will probably be able to get another hour or two from the game finding the various power ups and items, such as alternate attires for Tepeu (of which more will probably be coming in the form of DLC.) Ultimately, I feel Majin And The Forgotten Kingdom works at bridging the gap between casual and core games, and would be a recommended buy for kids, those of you looking for a cute and charming storyline or those of you looking to move on from casual games. If you fit into that category, add another point to the score. If however you feel such things would annoy you, feel the lack of polish in the graphics department a deal-breaker or are just undecided I would at least try the available demo before deciding on a purchase.
- Charming storyline
- Plenty of puzzles to test you
- Simple and easy controls catering to casual gamers
- Some may find the cutesy approach a bit much
- Lack of direction or waypoints can cause you to get disorientated
- Obvious graphical flaws throughout the game
The Short Version: If you can overcome the graphical flaws, stomach the cutesy approach and are not looking for an elaborate control scheme then Majin And The Forsaken Kingdom is a game that grows on you as you progress. It’s an ideal title to move casual gamers into more ‘intensive’ titles and while it isn’t a huge game it’s an enjoyable journey to save the kingdom from darkness.