Haven't heard of Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom? Neither had we until recently, but from our first look at Majin, this platformy adventure game piqued our interest with its endearing personality and Team Ico vibe (although it's actually being developed by Game Republic). Although we only got a look at the first hour of gameplay, we came away with five reasons to keep a closer eye on this one.
Majin begins with a nameless thief protagonist all alone in a labyrinth of overgrown ruins – a quiet, abandoned, ancient-looking atmosphere that is definitely reminiscent of Ico's environments. Our hero soon pairs up with Majin, a benevolent beast who has been trapped in the ruins for 100 years, and the two team up to find a path out of their prison. Like Ico, you can only directly control the protagonist, while Majin assumes a partner role, allowing you to direct him with basic commands such as telling him to wait in a specific spot or directing him at an object with which he can interact. And like the characters Ico and Yorda, the hero and Majin need each other to progress to their goal.
…except that your partner is actually helpful
While Ico's Yorda tended to be pretty helpless at times, Majin does most of the heavy lifting for his comparatively diminutive companion. When dispatching enemies, any given situation usually allows for two approaches. You could just go in slashing wildly with the hero's relatively weak melee combat skills and face a tough (but not impossible), head-on fight. Or you could find a solution within the environment that makes the battle much easier.
For example, you could use the main character to lure a bunch of oily-looking shadow monsters to a specific area, while Majin waits on the other side of the wall, ready to knock it over on your command to crush all the enemies in one fell swoop. While either option is possible, the game definitely nudges you to problem solve rather than use brute force (like Scrooge McDuck always said, “work smarter, not harder”).
Majin is tough but also adorable
While the plot of Majin tends to mirror Ico in many ways, its mood is definitely more lighthearted, due mainly to its titular loveable beast. A gentle giant, Majin has a childlike quality that makes him immediately sympathetic and endearing.
His toddler-like broken grammar and sweet, eager-to-please demeanor lighten up more serious expository scenes. He looks cute too – his big square teeth and plants pants make him look less than threatening despite his sharp horns and hulking size.
Less combat, more enviromental puzzles
Finding solutions within the environment makes up the bulk of Majin’s gameplay, whether you’re heavily outnumbered against a bunch of evil guardsmen or you’re trying to access a new area of the map. Puzzles play off of each character’s strengths and weaknesses – the thief hero is nimble and quick but not a strong or capable fighter, while the beast Majin is super strong but slow and lumbering.
Often, the two will have to separate to complete a goal, leaving the thief vulnerable to enemies, so during these portions stealth is often critical. Aside from being quiet and small, the hero can also use tools like throwing rocks or setting off explosive barrels to divert a guard's attention so he can slip by unseen. We're told that enemies get smarter and more varied as the game progresses, so the hero must develop more complex strategies as he delves deeper into his quest.
We saw several puzzles that involved the hero luring guards to a specific area with Majin poised and waiting to trigger a trap to take them all out. Not all puzzles contain enemies though, and many instead involve manipulating the environment to get past an obstacle. At one point we saw the duo work together to use small boulders and a trebuchet to knock down the wall around a door that proved impassibly locked. We're told that each obstacle is designed to feel intuitive, and absolutely no help or hints will be given at any time.
There's freedom to explore
You begin dropped in the middle of a bunch of ruins with only a small accessible area, but as you unlock more areas branching paths open up to you. There are no levels as such, and the game progresses organically and seamlessly, so often you can tackle new areas in any order you wish. Exploration is supposed to feel open and free, as if you're exploring a real kingdom rather than a linear maze.
So far, what we've seen of Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom has left us wanting to sink into the game ourselves to explore more of its steeped-in-history world and uncover the mysteries surrounding the main duo. Our only concern so far is that Majin's summer release date is looming awfully close for a game we're only now getting a first look at. Combined with that, Game Republic's focus is also divided between Majin and its other major upcoming release, movie tie-in Clash of the Titans. We hope Majin gets the attention it deserves, and we'll eagerly wait to find out more in the coming months.
Apr 15, 2010