Format: 360, PS3 (version tested)
Release: Out now
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Game Republic
Majin And The Forsaken Kingdom wants to take you back in time, to a charming era when man made friends with mythical beasts and when – rather less charmingly – games were riddled with awkward platforming, awful So-Cal voicework, and inane cutscenes that broke up the action every 30 seconds or so. Game Republic’s latest makes a faintly shabby first impression, then, but its rough-edged wonkiness also serves as a tart reminder that the flaws in videogames are often front-loaded, while the pleasures can take a good few hours to take hold.
And despite its sketchy implementation, Majin is easy to love. Generous rather than polished and smart rather than pretty, this tale of mismatched friends may never quite blossom into the Ico-alike it wants to be, but it’s still an endearing and thoughtful adventure. With a lumbering giant in tow, you set out to free the kingdom from the grip of generic darkness through an equally familiar mixture of puzzle solving, platform leaping and combat. Locked doors must be bypassed, bosses beaten, and your child-like monster’s suite of special attacks must be reawakened to open up new areas.
In between set-pieces, the game can feel like a prolonged escort mission but, while a desperate paucity of audio clips makes Majin likely to have you reaching for the mute button, he’s easy to control, responding well to commands, and he helps spruce up the combat with punchy co-op finishers and a welcome splash of tactics. Elsewhere, the jungles and catacombs are enlivened with increasingly devious spatial challenges and the developer’s trademark flashes of brilliant fairylight colours, and although the game is eager to settle into a familiar pattern, it offers enough variation to pull you through to the end.
The game doesn’t stand out as an action-platformer, puzzler or stealth game, but Majin still brings its various elements together with a scrappy charm. The Muppety appeal of your lantern-jawed sidekick grows throughout the game despite the pitiful script, and while progress generally comes down to getting through the next locked door, the game is often imaginative when it comes to the keys it gives you. More importantly, there’s a genuine sense of storybook adventure to proceedings, which a limited budget and uninspired enemies can’t quite erode. While it’s not a top-tier outing by any means, Majin remains a solid piece of work from a team that is perhaps getting used to working with limited resources.