by Quinn Levandoski
previewed on X360
A Treacherous Tale
There is something about Japanese developer Game Republic’s upcoming adventure puzzler, Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom that has immediately grabbed my attention. It is not the story. It is not the graphics. It is not even the gameplay. What is it then? Well, it is something that I can only partially describe through the term “character.”
At first glance, Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom may seem pretty generic. The story, in its most basic form, follows a nimble thief named Tepeu as he ventures into a - surprise - forsaken kingdom. Why is this kingdom forsaken you ask? Well as is often the case, the forces of darkness have been up to some shady business. Ages earlier, these dark forces engulfed this particular region of the land and left a curse akin to the Bermuda Triangle, in which nobody who enters ever seems to return. Consequently, the area was eventually forgotten.
You Complete Me
Considering what he is up against, Tepeu is fortunately not embarking on this journey alone. Coming along for the ride will be Teotl, a hulking majin (roughly translated to “demon god” from the Japanese). Despite his large and monstrous appearance, the majin has the heart of a child and will act as the muscular yin, whilst Tepeu’s agility and intelligence provides the yang.
Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom is built around puzzles that seem to be inspired from games such as The Prince of Persia and The Legend of Zelda series. Surpassing the realms of simply copy and paste, Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom offers a unique approach to a number of well-loved formulas. One thing that irks me about games is when they do not give players enough credit to figure out puzzles by themselves. It came as a relief then, to hear that Game Republic promises a significant challenge in this area once players have crossed the tutorial border. Not to push you completely into the deep end, players will be assisted in the form of small hints from the games talking animal populous (note to developers: every game should have talking animals).
The key to these puzzles will be the interaction between Teotl and Tepeu. While the player will never assume direct control over Teotl, they will have a few basic command options such as “follow,” “stay,” and “interact.” Properly utilizing these commands will be the only way to succeed. Some examples of how this interaction will be integrated is commanding majin to load a catapult with large rocks, or breaking down walls and other barriers so Tepeu can pass through.
Brains and Brawn
While puzzles will be the main focus, the game is varied up with a number of combat situations. Even though it does not appear to be as deep or intricate as the puzzle mechanics, the combat should certainly hold its own. The enemies occupying the forsaken kingdom are shadowy figures that appear to me, a cross between Venom Symbiote from the Marvel comics and the Taken from Alan Wake. One particularly nasty creature appeared to be a giant mutant come shadow rat monster. Creepy, whatever it was.
Due to his inferiority, Tepeu is more suited to sneaking around and subduing enemies one by one rather than running in and causing a ruckus. In fact, Tepeu cannot single-handedly defeat enemies at all. When enemies are downed, they release a black orb of power. Unable to do anything with these orbs, Tepeu must allow the majin to absorb it for the enemy to be truly defeated. When it comes to boss fights, Teotl must deal with the larger enemy, whilst Tepeu fends off its smaller alibi’s. This is where the majin comes into its own; using brute force in combination with a number of powers that will change and grow stronger throughout the game.
Friends In High Places
You may recall I mentioned that it was the game’s overall character that initially drew me in. As I am sure has become apparent by now, this game is driven by the relationship between the crafty thief and the gentle giant. Although not entirely original, so far it seems like the game is heading towards nailing this dynamic. I will admit, I am a sucker for a gentle giant (I am looking at you The Iron Giant), but you would be hard pressed to find someone who could resist Teotl’s charms. The majin strikes me as a mix of Shrek, Grover from Sesame Street, a gorilla, and a Chia Pet. As big as he is, Teotl truly is a child at heart.
When Tepeu first stumbles across the majin, he is rambling in his sleep about a full belly. After being awoken, Teotl explains to the thief that he needs to eat a fruit that holds the essence of his power. Being pinned to the ground, Teotl is unable to get this himself, and so requests the aid of Tepeu. It is this constant theme of needing to help each other that will act to create a strong bond within the game’s narrative. Only one thing worries me. Why is it every time there is a big, friendly monster it is inevitable that they will meet an untimely end? I urge Game Republic to please refrain from following this trend, as I doubt my little heart can take it.
So, if the team behind Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom can bring everything together, and there is no indication to believe this will not be the case, you can look forward to an epic adventure on your Xbox 360 or PS3 in November 2010.