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Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom PS3 Review

24/02/2011 Thinking Microcosm Gamer Review
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Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom PS3

Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom




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Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom is a flawed but enchanting journey through a ruined, fantasy kingdom. Despite suffering from a weak story and atrocious voice acting, it retained just enough charm to draw me into its miniature world.

Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom tells a predictable fairy tale. The kingdom has been overtaken by darkness for hundreds of years, and our unlikely hero teams up with the legendary creature known as the Majin to fight the darkness and restore the land.

I enjoy fairy tales and believe many worthwhile stories can be told with simple frameworks and archetypes; but here it felt hollow. It took me a while to find any deeper meaning beyond the generic plot.

This meant I approached Majin primarily as a playground rather than a story. I focused my attention on the world itself, with its overgrown ruins and shiny, fairy-light colours. It also didn't hurt that my playmate was a friendly, hulking monster that could help squish enemies and boost me onto high platforms.

I appreciate game microcosms even when they are just an engaging representation of a physical space that mirrors the real world. The first time I crawled through Tomb Raider's dusty passages and swam its underground pools I was enchanted by the sense of discovery. Triggering the mystical sound effect for reaching a secret area felt like winning -- not for the sake of any lost relic, but because I'd navigated the hidden pathways and mastered the space. It was like climbing the highest tree or finding hidden rock crevices as a kid.

It was like climbing the highest tree or finding hidden rock crevices as a kid.

I miss that sensation, both in reality and elsewhere. I had far more opportunities to search out physical spaces as a country kid than I now do as an urban adult. Majin doesn't quite have Tomb Raider's vibe of hidden secrets provided by long-forgotten relics, but I was excited about its satisfying environmental puzzles. I defeated its landscapes rather than just passing through them. It made me realise how rare it is that games give me that feeling.

Navigating Majin's environments and seeking out hard-to-reach items is satisfying without becoming frustrating, thanks to appropriately-sized areas and clever spatial puzzle design. Majin creates a satisfying balance between freedom and restriction, which makes me feel like I'm choosing to explore rather than being railroaded along a narrow path.

Beyond the environments though I struggled to understand where Majin's characters were coming from. The main protagonist is a good-natured thief with the ability to talk to animals. He seems to want to protect the world, but his motivations aren't explored too far. Overall, he's caring but pretty superficial and uninspired.

Animal guides provide blindingly obvious advice in cringe-worthy wannabe Disney-cute voices, making me wish I could tell the Majin to squash them. And apparently communicating with birds and rats is fine, but talking to lizards is right out. This disappointed me far more than you might expect.

I've never really bought into the theory that a bland protagonist makes it easier to insert yourself into the story. For me at least, not fleshing out a major character risks highlighting their artificiality, which in turn makes it harder to accept their place in the game world.

Majin eventually won me over by creating a genuine sense of destiny for my character.

Majin skirts uncomfortably close to this, but eventually won me over by creating a genuine sense of destiny for my character - even if he wasn't all that interesting an individual.

The protagonist was rejected by his family and raised by animals that refer to him simply as 'human'. It takes the Majin to give him a real identity to latch onto -- and quite literally giving him a name. Even then, it's borrowed from another hero who previously shared the same gift of communicating with creatures.

Taking on a borrowed identity isn't a tragedy here, but an important journey of gradually growing into a role you are destined for in the community. I struggled to relate to this, but came to appreciate it in the context of family. The Majin gives our hero an identity, and the two look after each other. And so I consider the pair family, just as the original Tepeu and Majin were in the past.

Despite my focus on world and exploration, the co-operation between Tepeu and the Majin undoubtedly forms the game's core. The Majin is stereotypically strong and kindhearted (if not terribly smart), but manages to be surprisingly likeable.

It's like controlling a huge, deadly teddy bear.

It's like controlling a huge, deadly teddy bear. Tepeu brings more intelligence, agility and stealth to the partnership. Thankfully, controlling the Majin is very intuitive and actually feels like co-operation rather than micro-management.

I didn't find the combat very interesting, but it does highlight the pair's co-operation well. Tepeu is vulnerable on his own, but can team up with the Majin for more powerful co-operative attacks, as well as directing the Majin to use his brawn more strategically.

A little more care and originality could have turned Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom into something really special. As is, it's still a worthwhile partnership set in a pretty world with clever use of space. If you enjoy environmental puzzles I'd definitely suggest giving it a try. Now, I think I'll go and find a tree to climb.

Written by Amber Gilmore

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Amber Gilmore writes the Microcosm Gamer column.

"Games provide me with a diverse range of miniature worlds to explore. I'm fascinated by the myriad of ways these microcosms recreate elements of reality. Even the most fantastical or abstract games stem from real world concepts when studied under the scope. Far from being mindless escapism, playing games prompts me to reflect on the concepts presented and how they inform my outlook."

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