Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom preview: a lovable beast

Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom is the kind of game you want to love. It has a winning premise, made all the more charming by the immediately likable Majin -- a towering beast that forges a strange friendship with a thief, Tepeu. The two characters balance each other surprisingly well, with Tepeu's cunning and speed matched by the Majin's adorable dimwittedness and hulking force. Namco Bandai calls it "partnership gaming," and it's seemingly the latest trend in games -- if Enslaved and The Last Guardian are any indication. Coupled with some beautiful art, and some interesting gameplay mechanics, Majin should be a winner.

But perhaps developer Game Republic isn't up to the task. While Majin is unlikely to be the train wreck that was their last project, Clash of the Titans, it's likely to find a similar fate as its (arguably) greatest hit so far -- Folklore. Like Majin, Folklore also had a rather original and intriguing concept. Yet, in spite of great art and some fun gameplay, it didn't have the polish expected of a genuine blockbuster title. Like its predecessor, Majin stumbles around greatness, but doesn't always hit the mark.

I loved the various implementations of "partnership gaming" in my preview demo. You control Tepeu, but never the beast. Tepeu is a rather capable bloke, able to reach places the beast (obviously) can't. He's quite skilled with his staff, but the enemies they face have a power that renders Tepeu powerless: seeming immortality. Outside of a few stealth attacks, only the beast has the force to finish off the inky creatures, meaning Tepeu will have to use his wit to lure enemies into traps, and gain the upper hand on his foes.%Gallery-86981%
We've already seen some of the game's puzzle mechanics in action, and it's always refreshing when you and your AI-controlled partner successfully work in tandem. For example, by commanding the Majin to stand near a breakable wall, you can then lure enemies to chase after you. Take them to underneath the wall, and at your command, the beast will crash through, smashing anything that happens to be below. These moments of cooperative play make the Majin experience feel magical.

Fighting alongside the Majin is a lot of fun. While the beast is generally able to take care of himself, there are times enemies will manage to circle around him and attack his vulnerable back. You'll want to fight them off, whilst being careful to avoid enemy and accidental Majin attacks. (Friendly fire is on, so beware!) When enemies get weak, you'll be able to team up with your partner to perform flashy and devastating finishing attacks.


These moments of greatness shine through multiple points of my hands-on demo. However, there's still a general lack of polish that drags down the overall experience. While the art looks terrific, the graphics still look muddled, with lackluster textures and uninspired level design. The controls leave a bit to be desired, especially during the game's stealth segments. Moving through the environment feels stiff, especially in contrast to the organic controls of a game like Uncharted.

While Majin suffers from some technical shortcomings, it's still a game I'm looking forward to. It's hard not to fall in love with the beast, and I'm already drawn into the journey the game's two characters will share. I don't know if Game Republic is capable of making a great game, but Majin already has all the trappings to be, at the very least, a very good one.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.