Long ago a thriving kingdom was overrun by darkness on a single night, a storybook-like cutscene explains. A hundred years later, a thief who chats with animals sneaks into the Forsaken Kingdom.
In the very beginning of Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom, Game Republic gives you a sword, but that doesn’t help much when fighting the game’s shadowy creatures. A forest friend recommended to sneak by them during the intro level. The game’s most basic enemies don’t have a good sense of sight or smell. Creep slowly like a certain "Snake" and they won’t bother you. I ignored the animal’s advice, tried to fight, and Tepeu’s sword got jammed inside one of the enemies.
Another animal advised to seek out Majin who was conveniently nearby. The friendly looking beast is chained inside a cage without his powers. Tepeu, using his animal gab skill, manages to communicate with Majin who asks Tepeu to find a piece of fruit. It’s not far, but out of reach for the captured giant. With a little jumping and cavern crawling, I grabbed the fruit and brought it back to the giant. Majin ate it and recovered enough strength to break free. Tepeu also gained a weapon, a spike from Majin’s chain.
Grateful for freeing him, Majin follows Tepeu, but only if you command him to. Game Republic created a popup menu that lets players give Majin commands such as: follow, wait, action, feed (used to recover Majin’s HP), and roar. Pick action and the game lets you select a target for Majin to interact with like a door to open or platform to hold. Combat works the same way and thankfully Majin is smart enough to attack other nearby enemies without a second order.
While Majin is knocking enemies over with powerful punches, Tepeu can sling combos by mashing the attack and critical attack buttons. A button pops up, sort of like a quick time event, during fights to trigger a partner attack. Land one of these to do more damage and fill up the partner meter. When its full you can crush enemies with a finishing attack. Majin can handle most fights on his own until speedy shadows latch on to his back. If that happens it’s up to Tepeu to swat them off before they chip away at Majin’s life bar. While Majin can absorb the sticky darkness to restore Tepeu’s health, he can’t heal himself. That’s what fruit in the game is for. Alternatively, you can avoid fighting all together. Tepeu can sneak behind enemies and with a quick strike he can knock them out with one blow. Levels in Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom are designed with stealth in mind. Usually, there’s some place for Tepeu to hide behind and shadow sentries patrol areas in a repeating pattern. Majin can also push stone walls on to enemies. Position Majin in the right spot and all you need to do is wait for enemies to walk into your trap.
Combat, however, is not the core of Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom. The adventure is getting from one place to the next and eventually to artifacts that can open a sealed door. Most of the time, Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom plays like a puzzle-platformer. Being humongous Majin often gets stuck, which means its up to Tepeu to climb around to pull a lever. Other times you’ll use Majin like a footstool and his strength to catapult Tepeu to higher ground. Even if you search every nook and cranny, some areas are blocked off until Majin earns the proper power. Each dungeon strengthens Majin with an elemental ability to use and similar to the Zelda series that’s the exact ability you need to move on.
Why move on? The story, which centers on Majin. At the start of the game Majin has amnesia; by the end you’ll learn a lot about the giant pal and the kingdom. Unlike Enslaved and other buddy games, the relationship between the characters doesn’t grow as much as you’d expect. It might be because Majin talks like a Sesame Street character or I missed something while ignoring the forest critters (they only offered obvious advice). The storybook style cutscenes that explain the history of the world fit well with the game’s whimsical feel.
Perhaps, that’s a reason why Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom has been compared to Team Ico developed titles. This game isn’t Shadow of the Colossus meets Ico, though. Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom is more like Prince of Persia & Pal minus the game rewinding sands of time.