Review: Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom
By Nick Henderson on January 3rd, 2011 (14 comments)
2010 was a year that will long be remembered as one of the best years in gaming. Filled to the brim with quality sequels and inspired debuts, a game like Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom will quickly be forgotten. Sporting the look and feel of a cult-platformer and released quietly in November at the budget price of $40, it's no wonder that nobody knows what Majin even is. While the game certainly has a lot working against it, it stands tall as a quality palette cleanser in an industry saturated with shooters and should not be overlooked.
Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom (Xbox 360, PS3)
Developer: Game Republic
Release: November 26, 2010
Following in the footsteps of the cult classic, Ico, or the more recent title, Enslaved, Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom pairs an unlikely hero with an AI partner and gives players control over both. Players control a young boy named Tepeu as he searches for a method of saving a kingdom from a growing darkness that has quite literally infected the land. His solution ultimately comes in the form of a lumbering creature known as the Majin. After freeing him from his captivity, the two set off to rid the kingdom of the darkness by working together to solve puzzles and regain the Majin's former strength. Like almost every aspect of this game, the concept is simple yet effective. The characters that make up the small cast are likable but ultimately lack any real depth. This actually works in the games favor by giving it the charm of a fairy tale or kids book. In the end, I found the games simplicity to be its strongest quality.
Structured a lot like a Zelda game, Majin progresses through exploration, puzzle solving, and toppling major bosses. In a rather unexpected turn of events, the game slowly evolved into a Metroidvania, allowing for access to new areas as all of Majin's abilities were slowly unlocked. Unfortunately, these side paths rarely amount to more than mere chests with some extra experience points or another piece of clothing that does little to improve the character. The RPG and Metroidvania elements are shallow and few in number but the trappings are still there.
Designing a game in which the player is required to control more than one character can be a real challenge. If controlling one character while commanding another isn't fluid and natural, frustration runs high. As I stated before, Majin's simplicity ultimately becomes its strongest attribute, especially in regards to it's command controls. The only hinderance to be found is the sensitive camera which proves to be a real chore during hectic fights or complex puzzles. Thanks to a simple control scheme in which commands are issued using one of the four face buttons/shoulder buttons, using help from the Majin is a breeze. The Majin can be commanded to attack, wait, crouch, or interact with various objects and the lock on is so easy to use and adjust that puzzles usually go off without a hitch. It's not the most challenging game as a result but the smooth pacing at which the game progresses thanks to these mechanics is definitely satisfying.
Where Majin shines thanks to it's clever puzzles and streamlined controls, it suffers thanks to it's noticeably dated graphic engine and horrendous voice acting. The games visuals, while not necessarily ugly, certainly lack the polish and crisp detail that we have come to expect this generation. Textures are distorted, character animations are often stiff and unnatural, and the game exhibits one of the most jarring day-night transitions I have ever seen. To make matters worse, the supporting cast which is comprised of random animals (birds, rats, etc) all seem to be voiced by the same awful voice actor. To make matters worse, it seems as though the necessary audio filters weren't applied to make the dialogue sound like it fit within the game world. Voices come across completely dry and unemotional as though they were being spoken into a mic in a recording studio. Not all is lost however, the game sports it's own unique style and it certainly won't be remembered as the worst looking game ever but be prepared to make some adjustments if you just finished playing one of 2010's many AAA titles.
In the end, Majin is tragic case of a good game without the marketing or publisher support to effectively back it. Most people don't know this game exists and even fewer will give it a chance after simply seeing the box on a store shelf. For those of you who enjoy a good puzzle-platformer, Majin is among the best to hit this year. It is a game that strikes just the right balance between accessibility and challenge without losing it's appeal to either the casual or hardcore gamer. For better or worse, Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom stands out from the crowd in a year full of AAA titles and with a price tag as low as $20-30, you can't go wrong.
(80-89%: Great - Only very minor issues get in the way.)
I have been around since the very early days of 4Player but you may know me as “the short one” or the guy who is really into Dexter and that sweet new DmC reboot. I am a gaming enthusiast at my core and I love sharing my opinions on the subject with anyone who will listen. I am a cautious optimist and will try any game at least once. When it comes to gaming, I prefer to leave no stone unturned.
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