It’s so nice to just get lost in a game every now and again, but the thing is that you never know when a title is going to push those little personal buttons of yours. Indeed, it’s rarely the quality of a title that does it for us, more of a feeling; a passion; an effort on the part of developers to tell a story, or to make us think. Of course, quality helps, but amongst all the Hollywood-sized budgets, every now and again a title strives to make the most of what it’s got, and bugger what else is on the market. We admire that attitude, and it’s titles like Majin And The Forsaken Kingdom that exemplify this breed of games perfectly.
Majin is, essentially, a puzzler with combat elements. To look at it, you’d assume the combat were a more integral part of the game, but it’s only combat in the ICO sense of the word: it’s rarely a first choice option. This is mainly because the puzzling elements are so enjoyable. They’re not complex by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re tricky enough to derive enjoyment from.
One of the key gameplay elements is that you play as a pair, with your character, Tepaeu doing the sneaky stuff, and the Majin doing the heavy lifting. As Tepaeu, you can incapacitate the dark minions that patrol the world, but you can’t kill them permanently. Their life force remains in play until the Majin comes to collect it. Cleverly, it’s the Majin’s main source of life. This gives the enemies a duality that’s rare in games. They work as both dangerous patrol characters when you’re playing as the smaller character, and fodder when you get the larger character involved. Given that they’re only downed for a set amount of time if you’re playing as Tepaeu, they also add a timed element to many of the puzzles.
In many cases, luring enemies into traps and setting up environmental obstacles is the best way to get through the game, and, thankfully, the intelligence of the enemies is pretty poor. They seem unable to climb stairs, for example, which makes understanding their behaviour a lot easier. In most combat situations you can escape relatively easily, and the enemies go back to their patrol routes. Added to this the fact that the Majin will heal you as long as you’re not currently in combat, and you have a combat-based puzzle system that never frustrates.
The world in which Majin is played out is a fantastical one, as you might expect. It’s mainly ruinous structures, lush plains and dark dungeons, and while it’s a little pedestrian in its styling, it’s easy on the eye and coherent enough to draw you into the game. The same could be said of the characters, who – apart from the Majin himself – are a little staid. There’s nothing really unique about the NPCs, who are mostly animals of one variety or another. While they maintain that they’re helping you, they mostly just serve as a tutorial system.
Indeed, that’s probably Majin’s greatest failing. It does help you an awful lot when you don’t really need that much help. It’s not painfully overt, and there are times when you’re glad of a hint in the right direction, but we just can’t help feeling that this could have been omitted to the benefit of the game as a whole.
It does have other, minor failings that will affect how you view it. Firstly, if you play it with a view to genuinely enjoying the combat in the sense of Dante’s Inferno, or God Of War, you’re going to be disappointed. Even at its most complex, it’s still just button mashing for beginners. As we said before, though, this isn’t a fighting game. While we enjoyed the puzzling element immensely, it’s very homely. You’re gradually given tools to solve puzzles, and each one requires the use of a combination of skills. It doesn’t really stray too far out of its comfort zone.
But then that’s probably why we like it so much. It’s a nice story, set in a nice world with nice characters. A bit like Mamma’s home made apple pie: it’ll never really surprise you, but it’s yummy all the same. It has none of the bleakness or tragedy of titles like ICO or Limbo, and to many it will no doubt seem like a child’s game from the outside because of that absence of despair. In essence, it’s a game worth playing when you feel in need of an old-school action/adventure title. It’s peaceful, fantastic, and a joy to play from start to finish.
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