Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom is a brilliant premise held back by poor execution. An open-world adventure between a boy and his giant, it's a well designed game with thoughtful puzzles and a wonderful team mechanic. Unfortunately, groan-worthy writing, acting and clumsy controls drag the overall experience down.
- Clever puzzles and level design
- Companion system works well
- Lots of different ways to approach situations
- Dreadful dialogue and voice-acting
- Sloppy controls
- Shoddy production values
- Cliched story
Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom Review:
It sounds wondrous on paper: An emotional story of a boy befriending an otherworldly being to save a dying kingdom. An open-world adventure emphasizing puzzle-solving, exploration, and platforming, wrapped up in brightly colored storybook setting. Unfortunately, Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom's execution fails to bring its compelling premise to life.
The Mossy Giant
The game is built around the relationship between a thief named Tepeu and the guardian spirit that he frees called the Majin, a gentle giant resembling a mossy muppet. Together, they embark on a quest to restore the kingdom from "the darkness" which has turned its inhabitants into black, gooey monstrosities.
This results in a semi-linear affair in the vain of Metroid where you gain various new abilities to unlock previously impenetrable areas. There's lots of exploring to do, collectibles to find, puzzles to solve, and monsters to fight. You play as Tepeu, who is versatile but weak, whereas the Majin is strong but helpless. He needs guidance and you need protection, so the two of you must work together if you're to get anywhere.
The team dynamic gives a lot of flexibility in how to handle enemy encounters. Level design is well crafted frequently giving the option to take a stealthy approach (where you can one-hit kill enemies from behind) by infiltrating a section alone, or take the action heavy messy approach by charging in full steam ahead with the Majin. You're going to have to embrace both tactics throughout the course of the adventure, and planning the best way to take out a room full of enemies is always engaging.
Environmental puzzles are often clever, taking full advantage of both character's abilities. Tepeu can fit through tight spaces, climb ladders, and move small obstacles. Meanwhile the Majin can open doors, topple bridges, allow you to hop on his back to reach higher ground, and eventually utilize elemental powers like wind and electricity to manipulate the environment. Since he's not the most agile of creatures, you'll frequently have to suss out a way for him to get across the more delicate scenery.
This could easily be a nightmare if the Majin wasn't so easy to command. Thankfully, pathfinding is never an issue and he'll often go where you want without even having to ask. He'll fight on his own and is seldom ever a hindrance. In this respect, Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom represents companion-based gameplay at its finest.
Forsaken Kingdom, indeed.
Unfortunately, the game's best design ideas and intentions are bogged down by some flaws, which nearly unravel all the goodwill it's worked so hard to achieve.
Notably, the writing and voice acting are terrible, making it hard to care about the relationship between its two central characters. Tepeu sounds too cocky and generic so it never comes across like he needs the Majin. The Majin's deep, Tony the Tiger-like voice seems fitting, but he speaks in excruciating baby talk, spouting lines like "Yay! That great!" every time you open a door together. The best “boy befriends monster” tales like The Iron Giant and ET succeed because they're primarily told visually with the titular creatures only occasionally muttering short phrases like "Superman" or "phone home." The Majin, however, won't shut up, and hearing him constantly speak is more annoying than endearing.
As bad as the leads are, they're no match for the gut-wrenching voice-acting of the NPCs. This is especially egregious because they're all animals (yes, Tepeu can talk to animals), so it would have been sensible for them to make animal noises with subtitles, rather than give a parrot a valley girl accent.
At least they're not bogging down what would otherwise be a fantastic tale, as the plot is a cliche-ridden mess. If saving a kingdom wasn't enough, there's a completely unnecessary subplot about the Majin trying to rescue a damsel in distress as well. Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom certainly isn't going to win any awards for originality.
Elsewhere, the controls lack polish undermining much of the design. Attack and dodge maneuvers are sluggish, so combat gets old fast. Platforming is marred by a lack of an autograb, making it all too easy to slip off a ledge. The game world is quite large and it's not always clear where to go -- something that I actually appreciate in this era of hand-holding -- but you can only run short distances before running out of breath and getting locked into a panting animation rendering you immobile. In a game where you have to cover so much ground it's frankly baffling why they imposed such artificial restraints. It's not like they have to worry about being realistic in a game where your best friend is a mythical creature and you dance together every time you level up.
Given that this is a budget release it shouldn't be surprising that its graphics are subpar. Flat textures with roots crudely drawn over blocky platforms look decidedly last-gen and lighting is spotty. It gives the game a garish look that never quite reaches the enchanting heights for which it strives. That being said, there are some lovely vistas and the diverse settings, particularly a late game exodus to a lost ship and the ruins of a quaint rural village, are great.
'Majin what could have been...
With greater care to its script, acting, and mechanics, Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom could have been fantastic. Sadly, that's not the case. Where the central relationship between boy and creature should charm, it grates. The unwieldy controls and shabby animation rob the puzzle solving and exploration of their luster, and the game world is a mixed bag.
It's not entirely without its merits as underneath there's some deceptively well thought out game design with creative scenarios. It proves that companion-based gameplay needn't limit itself to scripted setpieces and linear corridors (as was the case with Ico, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and Enslaved). The Majin neatly balances the perfect amount of aid and responsibility, giving a good sense of malleability to the proceedings. Still, I can't give Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom a free pass for what it tries to do and must instead look at it for what it actually is: a competent game, but a failed masterpiece.