Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom First Look PreviewBy Stephen Johnson - Posted Apr 15, 2010
Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom is a third-person, action/puzzle game from Namco Bandai and Game Republic with a fantasy setting loosely influenced by Eastern myth. It focuses on puzzle and platform gameplay, but also features robust combat and stealth elements. The open-world setting adds exploration elements to the game as well. That's the bare bones description of Majin, but the game's hook is the unique relationship between the player's character and the Majin, a giant mythical beast based on the Japanese version of a Genie. Together, you and your huge Majin will travel through the game's open-world, encountering increasingly challenging enemies and puzzles, and devouring monster power-ups that will allow your creature to gain new abilities and powers as well as increase his strength.
Plotwise, you play as an impetuous youth named Tepeu who decides to a visit a kingdom of darkness and shadows, a kingdom which no one has returned from in 100 years. Within the dark land, Tepeu meets a giant, friendly Majin named Teotl, brings him some food (the source of his power) and frees him from imprisonment. The two begin a friendship, and the game turns into a classic boy and his dog story -- if the dog was a 15 foot high mystical giant with the mind of a five year old and the strength of 1970s Lou Ferrigno on PCP. That's him in the screenshot below.
Like most AI companions in video games, the Majin is stupid, but it's okay, because, unlike most AI companions, he's supposed to be childlike and easily led. You order the big lummox around and he does your bidding without thinking or questioning, all in exchange for some food and the souls of slain enemies. Tepeu is a weak thief who relies on Teotl for power and massive damage, and Teotl relies on Tepeu because otherwise he'd have no idea what to do and would probably forget to breathe. It's a pretty co-dependent relationship, but it's actually touching. A lot of this game will hinge on the emotional connection between its main characters.
As the game progresses we learn more about the characters through stylized flashback cut-scenes. I left the demo with the impression that in learning more about the the Majin, he'd be revealed to be more than just a child-minded brute. I hope so; Teotl is charming and funny, but after many hours, I could see how his "Me Eat Foods! Smash!" syntax could become tiresome.
One of the sample levels I saw begins with a bunch of guards and a tough-looking mini-boss creature guarding an exit. If you were sadistic, you could send Teotl in among them, but wading into a group of enemies in a frontal assault results in almost certain death, both for you and your gigantic pal, so players must figure out a more cunning solution. In this case, it's to order Teotl to wait behind a towering stone wall, then Tepeu creeps behind the patrols of enemies, creates a distraction that lures the enemies underneath the slab. The thief gives the giant the order, and he pushes the chunk of rock onto his enemies, murdering them to death. At this point the Majin feasts on their souls. He might be a loveable half-wit, but Teotl eats his enemies souls.
A later puzzle involves a trebuchet, and Tepeu climbing into it so Teotl can launch him at high platforms. The game is heavy on the puzzles, and there's no on-screen instructions as to how to complete them -- you'll have to figure it out, smart guy. There is no multiplayer co-op either. It wouldn't make sense: The game is designed to be a solitary experience in AI co-op.
If the game's main focus, a relationship between a human and a mythical creature in a fantasy/fairy-tale setting, sounds a little like upcoming, higher-visibility game The Last Guardian, (or Ico), keep in mind: Paired opposites with a common goal is a classic relationship in myth, fiction and 1980s cop movies, so don't worry about it.
It's impossible to judge the outcome of a game based on a couple levels, but I did see enough to say that this game is off to a great start. The character design and feel of the game is charming, and the variety of puzzles and combat strategies are pleasing. The main characters are both likeable, and the cut-scene flashbacks to the characters' pasts hint at a deeper, more compelling mythology and story.
This is definitely a game to watch out for. Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom will be available on PS3 and 360 this summer.