There are usually a few games every year which can be considered "under the radar". These games perhaps don't have that well known development team behind them or perhaps that technical cutting edge which makes people drool. But even so, they still ooze their own form of charm and appeal and anyone who manages to find them amongst the droves of other titles will probably feel rather chuffed with themselves. And if there was ever a game that typified this, it's Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom.
Taking place in a mystical kingdom which features crystalline forests and sparkly deserts, you take the role of an unknown protagonist who in the past has only been referred to as "human". Your goal is simple - to free the world from the darkness which has been spreading across the lands.
It's perhaps not the most original plot, but its execution is what makes it worth paying attention to. Shortly after you start, you'll rescue the Guardian, who goes by many names including "Majin" or "Teotl", and it is with the Guardian that you will form a bond, learning about his situation and about how the kingdom feel under darkness.
The story doesn't feel as though its as flushed out as it could have been, but there is enough substance there and it fits in nicely with the characters and world that has been created. In other words, there is an extra layer of depth surrounding the main protagonist if you want to embrace and understand it, but you can enjoy the experience just as easily without it.
Partnership is a key component of the gameplay, as aside from the introductory sequence, you will almost always have the Majin by your side to help you. Because of this, the character you control is rather weak in certain situations and without wanting to sound cliche, learning to use both the Majin's strengths, and yours, will be the key to success.
You can perform basic attacks against the darkened foes, but while you will be doing damage, it's rather limited. You'll need to let the Majin perform strong attacks in order to stun enemies, allowing you to go in for the kill. Once downed, performing a small chain will allow you to perform a combination attack, which deals considerable damage. These can also be chained together if performed in succession, leading to an ultimate attack that can wipe out multiple foes at the same time.
The combat itself isn't that deep, but the variety of the enemies makes it more exciting. You'll often need to use the Majin's special abilities - which are learnt through the course of the game - on groups of enemies to stop over-crowding. You can stack up to three moves, and to replish the pool you'll need to perform melee attacks yourself, so you can't just let the Majin do all the work. Sometimes there are problems with the AI here though, as if left to his own devices, the Majin will attack with moves which the enemies can block, so you'll have to redo your rather risky work to get back his ability to perform the correct move.
The Majin isn't just useful for his combat applications though, he's very important for the platforming and puzzle solving element of the game. The abilities he learns throughout often have applications and the good thing about the game is that it's always relevant. Often in games, you'll learn numerous abilities, then puzzles will combine all these abilities to make some super puzzles. Majin doesn't really do this, instead it focuses on the ability you've most recently learned and makes the puzzles satisfying enough accordingly. This also applies to the boss fights, which again only use the most recently learned ability. They aren't all that challenging, but the challenge is enough that you'll feel accomplished upon achieving progression.
As you progress through the game and do some of the optional back-tracking, you'll likely see puzzle elements that you can interact with, given your new abilities. These will generally lead to finding new equipment for Tepeu, chests to give Tepeu experience or food which can level up the Majin's powers. There are tons of these around and on the map it displays how many of these secrets you've managed to find in each section.
There will be times when the Majin can't help you solve puzzles, like if you need to activate a switch so the Majin can open a door. In these sections there is more of an emphasis on platforming and sometimes the game feels a little bit flat - the controls don't feel very tight and on some of the finer jumps, it can become a bit frustrating. These passages of play aren't that frequent though, so it doesn't become much of an issue.
The presentation in Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom probably isn't going to dazzle many people, but the art style sufficiently portrays a vibrant and colourful world. It's just a vibrant and colourful world with some rather poor detail here and there. The music is also a bit up and down as sometimes it really compliments the game, but at key moments it disappears, causing some cutscenes to lose all conviction. Some of the voice acting can also be quite annoying, not because of the actors, but because of the frequency that lines are repeated.
Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom is a game of decent length and if you want to collect all of the hidden items and attain the maximum level, you'll be able to sink a lot more time into it. However, one thing that's rather disappointing is that there's no new game plus, extra difficulty levels or anything like that. Once the game ends, it ends.
Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom is a pleasure to play through. At no point does it feel taxing, it just seems to flow naturally from start to finish. And that's a real testament to its execution in both story and gameplay. It does feel as though some elements could have been expanded upon though as the story, while appealing, feels like it could have benefited from some more depth. Some of the gameplay elements also feel a bit unpolished, much like the presentation. However, if you've got a craving for a more artistic action adventure title, you can't really go wrong with Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom.