Preview | Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom
Format: PS3/Xbox 360 | Genre: Action Adventure | Publisher: Namco Bandai | Developer: Game Republic | ETA: £44.99
Sinan Kubba leaps into the world of MAJIN AND THE FORSAKEN KINGDOM.
YOU SHOULD never judge a book by its cover, and you certainly shouldn’t judge a game by its cover either. Remember how crappy The Orange Box looked on shelves? But the less literal point stands. Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom may sport visuals with texturing and detailing that feels a few years out of touch. It may come from the developer who thrust Genji: Days of the Blade upon an unwitting public, but beneath the superficial lies a game with a fair dash of potential.
What publisher Namco Bandai calls ‘partnership gaming’ is definitely in vogue right now. On the back of critical darling Ico we’ve seen games like Uncharted 2, Prince of Persia, Enslaved, and the upcoming The Last Guardian present mechanics which revolve around a close symbiotic relationship between the player and his or her faithful AI companion. Majin clearly falls most in line with the last on that list given how its companion is a great, big, furry, but ultimately lovable beastie-type.
You play as Tepeu, an athletic Persian-looking but American-sounding thief who’s a Disney-fied mix of the Prince of Persia and Jak from Jak and Daxter. Tepeu is on a quest to ransack the ruins of the Forsaken Kingdom and bring back the beast Majin to help save his village from darkness – as you do. Tepeu quickly finds and befriends Majin, a monster who looks a bit like an artificially enlarged Super Meat Boy with a Muppets-like squidgy nose stuck on – and he talks like a Muppet too. Oh, and for some reason he’s half covered in grass and plants – mythical beasts, eh?
The symbiosis between Majin and Tepeu plays out in two main forms, one of which is the combat. Unless Tepeu is able to sneak up on individual enemies and jab his weapon – a huge steel pin – through unsuspecting enemies, our human hero is all but useless against the shadowy fiends roaming around the ruins. Well, I say shadowy but they look more like they’re covered in oil to me, as if they were the long lost victims of a bungling corporation’s monkey business in the ocean.
Oily enemies to one side, thankfully Majin is able to compensate for Tepeu’s shortcomings. The lumbering beast is an utter force in combat, thumping and thwacking enemies into touch with ease. On top of that, the two heroes can work together in special combination attacks. For example, Majin can springboard a twirling Tepeu into the air from where the ponytailed thief can slam his weapon down and through a near-death enemy. While you control Tepeu, you can also prompt Majin in combat- any Majin prompt involves pressing the right trigger and an additional button. Majin is able to unleash some special attacks, like his flame one which pretty much does what it says on the tin.
However, Majin is fallible. For example, sometimes an enemy will launch itself onto his back and start jabbing at where the beast cannot reach. Tepeu must then launch into the air and swat the pestering bugger off – symbiosis in action. While the combat did seem quite limited in the game’s early stages – outside of prompts and special combination attacks all the player is really doing involves one-button combat – there’s scope for evolution in how the heroes fight together. Also, it’s quite endearing how the two friends celebrate each successful counter with little pep-rally woops and cheers – although that could get old quick.
Maybe the more interesting facet of the heroes’ inter-relationship is the puzzle solving. Tepeu and Majin face a number of obstacles to overcome in their journey through the Forsaken Kingdom. Early examples are quite simplistic, centring on locked doors for Tepeu to circumvent with the help of a lift-up from Majin, and fragile walls for the beast to simply knock over and onto unsuspecting oily baddies. But there are hints of more intriguing co-operative based puzzles later on, like one involving a catapult which Majin uses to launch Tepeu onto high up platforms, and another involving a shepherding Majin leading a flock of enemies through a gate only to be blown up by Tepeu – nice.
Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom will hit PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 shelves on November 23. It’s not going to be the biggest hit this Q4 by any stretch, but regardless of the developer’s track record and the questionable presentation, there’s plenty of hope for Majin being an enjoyable, endearing enough game to distract you from more pretentious titles this Christmas.