Since 1985, Japanese animation studio, Studio Ghibli, has produced some of the best animated films ever. Alongside Pixar, they are lauded as the pioneers in the animation genre. For the same reason as Pixar, it's down to their refreshing style, fantastical characters yet still grounded with human emotions. But why am I mentioning Studio Ghibli and what relevance does it have with Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom? Well, very little directly but, in terms of the elements that make up Majin, the game feels like it could have come straight from Studio Ghibli; it isn't perfect, but the world is absolutely wonderful.
The Darkness has enveloped a forgotten kingdom and it is the role of the thief, Tepeu, who stumbles upon this kingdom to destroy this Darkness,but he isn't without help; he discovers a mythical beast, a Majin by the name of Teotl, who is more than willing to help after Tepeu frees him from his captivity. From here, the pair explore this kingdom in order to destroy The Darkness.
The game has very much a focus on this co-operative element where you are able to sneak about but occasionally requiring Teotl to destroy a door or lift you to a certain height to progress. The controls are relatively simple in this regard and commanding Teotl never feels like a chore. Much of Teotl's skills are put into environmental puzzles which, whilst not being too challenging to become an annoyance, give you a sort of connection with Teotl. His actions are, at times, pretty adorable even when breaking down a door. The puzzles are not that repetitive either. Kudos to the designers for actually bothering to come up with new, interesting puzzles as opposed to having the same ones reused later in the game. It actually becomes disappointing when one of your favourite puzzle types is only used twice throughout the game, which is testament to how fun some puzzles can be.
Co-op also comes into play in the combat. Tepeu, being a simple man, doesn't really have any effect on the enemies but he is never left doing nothing. Teotl, being mystical and pretty big, has the capability to smash the ever loving darkness out of the enemies. Teotl does most of the grunt work but, as Tepeu, you can set up traps and protect Teotl from sustaining a lot of damage. You're also able to command Teotl to use certain magic attacks in order to wipe out an even greater number. By performing a combination attack, the pair can earn Friendship shards, which improves the bond between the two and leads to some greater attacks.
But it isn't just all out brawling; there are some stealthy elements where Tepeu has to sneak about, taking out enemies on the way. It's a very simple "wait for the enemy to walk by" sort of affair but you can also sneak up behind one to take them out from behind. However, if Teotl isn't nearby to take away the Dark soul, the Darkness will eventually come back to life a few minutes later, but that's usually enough to make a get away. You can also set up traps for enemies, which never ever gets old. You can position Teotl to push down a wall or a boulder to crush enemies beneath, though you need to lead the enemies to the trap and can watch as they get crushed to death.
The lay of the land feels very much like a Legend of Zelda game in that there is a lot of backtracking involved. There does, however, feel like there is a little bit too much of it, although this could simply be due to the fact that there is no proper way to fast travel around the map other than with transport rooms which are few and far between. Backtracking is essential because, as you collect XP and Memory shards, both Tepeu and Teotl earn new skills and some of these skills become essential for puzzle solving. Areas previous inaccessible will now be easy to pass through to either progress through the game or just to find extras. It wouldn't appear it up-front, but Majin and the Forsake Kingdom is a very Metroidvania-esque game, with chests dotted all over the place with a wide range of goodies inside.
The world itself is gorgeous to explore. It feels like Zelda but set in the lush greenery of Enslaved. The Darkness themselves are wonderful too, constantly dripping with a black, tar like substance and glooping about. It becomes more interesting when Tepeu becomes enveloped in the stuff as he is attacked, with black gloop sticking to his feet as he runs for instance. Animation can be a bit annoying, with certain attacks have such an extraordinarily long recovery time, making it difficult to fight back effectively.
In many ways, Majin and the Foresaken Kingdom feels very much like Enslaved to me. It's a fantastic, gorgeous game that is pretty flawed but is still a joy to play. Yet, not many people will discover it; it's not groundbreaking, it's not game changing, it's just fun. Remember when video games were like this? If you're missing some Zelda action and fancy a nice, neat game with a good co-operative element to it, Majin is for you.
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