I’m not sure how or when, but somewhere along the line of my borderline-obsessive gaming research, I stumbled across a relatively lesser-known game called Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom. My initial thought was that it could potentially be a pretty decent action-adventure title with a story told many times over but would be enjoyable none-the-less. Now as the game’s release date comes ever closer on November 23, a demo was recently released for those interested and curious to take a gander. Here are my impressions from the game’s demo.
Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom opens on a title screen with a very fairy tale-esque art style with silhouettes of the main character, the thief supposedly called Tepeu, and the mythical creature, the Majin. Upon entering the game, you are treated to an opening cinematic explaining Tepeu’s quest to find the Majin in order to erase the Darkness from his kingdom. Pretty “by-the-book” story conventions if you ask me, but I digress.
The cinematic ends and players find themselves in the tutorial phase of the game. This section was a little off-putting to me because my initial reaction, when I saw the third-person view of the back of my character, was to move around, which for some reason the game doesn’t let you, until the game tells you how to move(which if you’ve ever played a game is by using the joysticks, duh). A small detail, but it was just my first thought. The movement tutorial ends, and the Majin breaks down the wall blocking your path.
Here is where players encounter their first enemies, and the game’s tutorial teaches you about commanding the Majin. By holding down the right trigger, the game brings up a list of commands mapped to the face buttons on the controller. The A button tells the Majin to wait, Y tells it to follow, X tells it to attack (physically) while B tells it to use magic. It’s a nice, cris-crossing button methodology that works pretty well and is easy to remember. When not in combat, the X button changes to an “Act” command which can be, and is used in the demo, for lifting heavy doors and pushing large pieces of wall over a cliff-edge onto the enemies below, good for significant damage, and instant kills.
The game also shifts gears a little bit by incorporating stealth and puzzle-solving elements. In the demo’s case, a scenario that involved a combination of the two. At one part of the demo, the Majin reaches a door that he can’t lift because it is locked by a latch that is controlled by a switch that is out of reach. From my eyes, the latch looked pretty weak and I was a little befuddled that a strong and giant creature such as the Majin couldn’t break a small, woodon-looking latch, but whatever, it served as a breakup in the gameplay. In this portion, the demo introduced the stealth mechanics of the game. Suffice it to say, these portions in no way even come close to comparing with the likes of Metal Gear Solid or Splinter Cell. By holding the left trigger, the thief gets into a crouching position which players can then sneak up on enemies and perform a stealth kill/takedown. This part of the game was marginal at best since, there was no way to stick to the walls, so if you got too close to the edge of a wall at the wrong angle, the enemy would see you and initiate a fight. Not only that, there was only one stealth kill animation, and over time, I could easily see these portions becoming bland. Stealth wasn’t particularly required in these parts, as I found at one point through the stealth section, that I could could just run straight through to the lever that was needed to open the latch.
The combat itself never really stood out to me in my time with the demo. The game gave me a standard swing attack mapped to the X buttion, one combo attack to use with A and X pressed together, and a dodge command mapped to the Y button. That’s not to say that there won’t be more to the combat as you play through the game, there is some sort of leveling system in place for both the thief and the Majin, but as it was, there wasn’t anything special about it. I was only able to unlock increased attack power for the thief and combination attack power with the Majin, so my guess is there is plenty more that the game is not showing players yet.
One major gripe I had was that I couldn’t lock on to enemies, and they weren’t always easy to hit. One thing that I felt the combat mechanics sorely needed was a block button. Many times, my character would be in mid-combo with an enemy and another one would come from behind and knock the thief to the ground. It caused a bit of frustration and death, but I suppose the developers wanted to players to master hit and roll tactics as it kinda fits a thief’s skill set more closely. However, with how the in-game battles generally unfold, the developers would be able to relieve a lot of potential frustration simply by adding one little blocking mechanic.
In closing, it’s safe to say that Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom won’t be winning the 2010 Game of the Year award. However, there are elements to like about the game. The interaction with the Majin helps to create a feeling of bonding with a potentially lovable if not a bit stereotypical big guy. The Majin comes with the typical goofy voice that speaks broken English, but the in-game interaction I think will be where it counts. It was satisfying to have the Majin ready to push over a wall while drawing the far off enemies in for the epic splash damage. The graphics weren’t terribly impressive, but they weren’t awful either. I think this game won’t be anything that most experienced gamers haven’t seen before but it will create a small but devoted fanbase. Those fans are already calling Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom a “sleeper hit”. I’m not sure if that will hold true, but we will have to wait and see for the full release in about two weeks.