I’ve been a long-time fan of Shadow of the Colossus and ICO. It’s a game that seemed so far ahead of its time back on the PlayStation 2. I’ve recently tried to share this with my oldest son, who although quite polite about it all didn’t really get why it was such an exciting game.
I let this slip to a couple of writer friends the other day, and they suggest that I might get on better introducing him to a new game called Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom. You see, as I found out, Majin is developed by Game Republic, a small studio founded by Yoshiko Okamoto who recruited talent from Team Ico – makers of ICO, Shadow of the Colossus and the upcoming The Last Guardian.
I liked how they described the similarities between the games. It seemed that Majin knows where it came from, but at the same time takes the gameplay in a new direction. As my friend put it in his review:
This quiet and soulful style is remarkable and a far cry from the bombastic nature of other action RPGs. Yes, it might look and feel like an ICO tribute at times but any comparison is intended as flattery rather than derision. It pulls in another direction entirely with its mechanics. You watch out for Majin as much as Yorda but at the same time using him like as oversized killing machine. It’s a partnership that, by the end of the game, is as potent as the Majin’s brute strength.
Just as Majin and Tepeu grow in trust and strength, so did my affection for this game. I never imagined I’d find an experience like this outside of Team ICO and at times it approached the same quality – a gentle masterpiece with charm that pulls as much on your heartstrings as your brainpower.
I’m looking forward to seeing how Team ICO take things forward in The Last Guardian, but as I know that’s quite a long way off I’m also excited about Majin. Not least to see what my son makes of it compared to his usual games.
We often play through single player games together, both watching the screen helping out with the puzzles. There aren’t that many games where this can work – some will be too slow for the person watching (usually me) whilst others are too difficult and get frustrating.
I’m a little skeptical but I’m interested to see how well Majin balances this puzzle aspect of its gameplay. I’m hoping that having a big powerful ally for the fights will be balanced by more brain stretching moments that rely on ingenuity as much as brute strength. It’s something my other friend in the conversation then wrote about:
Whether Majin is heaving open huge doors, crushing foes or letting you use him as a portable ladder, his strength and his size, together with smart controls, make these interactions the reason to keep playing.
You can order him into battle and sit back to watch him prevail or fall, but despite his size you’re always better off giving him a helping hand. I couldn’t help but wade in and even though your combat abilities are rather limited, with a ten foot minder, it’s still an enjoyable way to break up the exploration.
Cooperative combat gives you red orbs that power up the Majin, whereas working independently gives you blue orbs that improve Tepeu. Working on both colours is necessary if you’re to survive the tougher challenges in later areas, but the choice is yours to make.
I’m still looking forward to The Last Guardian, but I think Majin may well tide me over until that is finally released.
Wired: Partnership gameplay.
Tired: Sometimes fiddly controls.