by Chris Priestman
reviewed on PS3
Two Parts Whole
The combat element is handled quite delicately in the game as you have to rely on your partnership with the Majin to succeed. This is because the dark troops you come across can only be fully destroyed by the Majin when he absorbs their dark spirit - Tepeu alone is only able to incapacitate them. Difficulties arise, as you are often forced to separate with the Majin and use stealth to sneak around the patrols and find a way to grant your partner access to some new area. Once reunited with your beastly companion, it is time to unleash some tag-team mayhem on those dark soldiers.
The game includes a small RPG element as you have to obtain new elemental powers for the Majin to survive the new enemies that are introduced in every new area. What really challenges you in the end is having several enemies of different types to fight off at the same time. The combat excels with the attack commands you can give to the Majin. Sometimes you will also be required to hit enemies off the Majin’s back so he can resume fighting. So fighting is more of a command-based experience that also requires you to dodge incoming attacks and help out your partner in trouble. Your direct attack as Tepeu is of the hack‘n’slash variety but this is rather bland: he only has one weapon and three moves for the whole game. Sometimes there are opportunities to take out a whole squad of enemies by using Tepeu as bait whilst the Majin stands poised behind a boulder or wall. When given the signal, the Majin triggers the trap and you have yourself a mini massacre.
There are also many collectibles throughout the game that enhance your abilities. Different kinds of fruit strengthen the Majin and improve his stamina and powers, whereas finding chests that contain orbs and clothes improve some of Tepeu’s attributes. There are also a number of memory shards to be found that unlock extra sets of clothes. If you collect all of these items during your 10-12 hour journey you also unlock the ‘true’ ending so the game does hold a little replay value, even if it is not a lot.
You Scratch My Back...
Undoubtedly one of the more original features in the game is the health system. To heal the Majin you will have to find small blue fruit and feed this to him. As much as the Majin relies on you to give him health, you rely on him to do the same for you. As Tepeu takes damage from the dark soldiers, he will start to turn into one of them as a dark presence rises up in his body. Much like John Coffey in The Green Mile, the gentle beast can absorb the darkness and consume it like a sweet confectionery. If you do get fully absorbed by darkness, you have a few seconds where the Majin can still revive you, but once the Majin is down it is game over. Not to worry, though, as there are regular save points along the way and checkpoints appear even more frequently.
The friendship between the two heroes is also a definite positive aspect. One thing that will surely bring a smile to your face is the excitement of the Majin when you are bringing him some food to eat, as he will dance around and clap his hands. The Majin is a very likeable character but there are admittedly a few times when you think you have entered a kids' TV show. The Majin is exceptionally dumb sounding and the more goofy moments in the relationship are when they share a celebratory dance together or constantly tell each other how well they did. Rather than heart warming, it is awkward and leaves you cringing far too often.
Despite the best efforts of Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom it only manages to feel mediocre. In fairness, there is nothing technically wrong with the game and it will be brilliant for younger kids to play, as it is still quite a charming experience. The problem is that it just feels like a mash up of things we have seen and done before (I have a detailed list) and there is nothing in the game that struck me as innovative. My main disappointment was the dungeon-like locations that restrict the game’s depth, inevitably making it feel like an elaborate puzzle game rather than an adventure. The bosses were far too reminiscent of battles in Shadow of the Colossus as well, and although they were executed quite well, they only felt like cheap mimicries.
The problem then is not so much a technical one as much as it is an aesthetic one. And despite Namco Bandai insisting that it was in development before Team Ico’s next game, it still holds many similarities to their previous two games. I question whether the darkness is caused by the evil forces or by the shadow of the other games this one is sitting in.
Sprightly and charming, the partnership works well, combat is quite innovative, constant sense of achievement.
Lacks space and a sense of freedom, can get a little repetitive, not much replay value, very linear and a little too familiar.