Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom

Namco Bandai has a thing for unlikely duos and post-apocalyptic futures lately. Following Enslaved’s post-nuke pals Monkey and Trip comes The Forsaken Kingdom’s crumbling domain and its tandem heroes: the squirrelly, bug-eyed thief Tepeu and his gigantic, lumbering monster, Teotl.

It’s a (mostly) symbiotic relationship. Your scrawny human protagonist can sneak behind the game’s goopy shadow enemies unnoticed, he can leap across wrecked castle walls and chat – Wild Thornberrys style – with the world’s animal cast. The muppet-faced Majin, on the other hand, is slightly less tactful in his approach. He waddles into battle, shifts large chunks of the withered environment without sweat and isn’t so hot on stealth.

It’s this comical imbalance that leads to The Forsaken Kingdom’s smart gameplay. Each section of the wasteland, crawling with bad guys and littered with platforms, is like a carefully crafted puzzle, with a handful of ways to approach the scenario.

Do you charge in headfirst and challenge the entire army to fisticuffs, or do you take the more considered approach: commanding your hulking partner to wait in the wings while you disarm crossbow-packing snipers and set up traps for the eventual battle? Your helpful Majin pal can dislodge colossal rocks and pull levels at your command, for example, so you can knowingly set up enemies to be splattered or shut behind a sealed gate.

Sometimes, if you play carefully enough, you can bypass entire fights – sneaking behind enemy lines, dispatching a few nuisance guards and hightailing it back out with the treasure. Which, in most cases, is a heavy, plump fruit to level up your monster mate.

So whereas the basic hand-to-hand combat isn’t too hot – a couple different moves, a simple combo system and some dodgy AI on both sides of the fight – acting tactically is much more fun. Each arena is meticulously constructed for strategic play, and figuring out the best plan of attack is always rewarding. It also stops the game getting stale and repetitive, more a series of smart puzzles, than an unending series of listless tussles.

But for all its clever ideas a slightly unpolished nature spoils the otherwise enjoyable game. Platforming is floaty and inconsistent, for example, resulting in much frustration as a fumbled jump ruins your perfect plan. A fast travel system would be nice to cut out the hefty back tracking, and the constant cutscenes will quickly get on your nerves.

Plus, the voice acting is truly dreadful. The charming pair, for starters, could be the most captivating new duo this side of Ratchet and Clank, but your docile Majin partner sounds like the hellish lovechild of Barney the Dinosaur and Jar Jar Binks. You can only hear the dopey call of “Me Huungry” so many times before wanting to ram your magic-encrusted blade up his Forsaken Kingdom.

It’s a slightly lower-tier crudeness to the presentation – especially following Namco’s exemplary Enslaved – that taints the entire package. The world is lush and extravagant, but feels decidedly like a level in a video game. The characters are well animated and drawn, but the graphics are sharp and tatty. And the storybook narrative is cute, but cliched and derivative.







One response to “Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom”

  1. Simon avatar

    Sounds like a nice little game. I think I’m on board.

Leave a Reply