The legendary majin was known to have protected the kingdom before it was engulfed in darkness, and a hundred years later, the magical creature is the key to saving the realm once more. It has been pointed out that the game bears many resemblances to Sony's The Last Guardian, but the team behind Maijin and the Forsaken Kingdom was working on the game before the Team Ico announcement. It has been a while since we've seen the game, and we recently received a preview build so that we could explore the kingdom on our own time.
You play as a nameless thief, whom the majin fondly calls Tepeu, once you've freed the beast from captivity. You seem to be the only human who has been able to sneak into the kingdom, and with your monstrous friend in tow, you're able to solve puzzles and talk to animals in an attempt to figure out what is going on in this world. As the nimble thief, you can't do much in the beginning until you've rescued the majin, who follows you faithfully like a lost puppy. It seems that these skeletal creatures in the realm have stolen the demon god's power and have sealed it in bulbous pieces of fruit that are scattered across the land. After fetching one of these juicy nuggets for the majin, your new friend is able to summon enough strength to free himself from his chain. The large pin that kept the majin in place is now imbued with his power, so for the time being, it functions almost as well as a sword.
The first part of the game was similar to the initial demo we received back in April. The tutorial section leading up to your meeting with the hulking beast will give you a chance to become familiar with the controls. We aren't sure if the final build will continue to display the buttons, but in our current build, you never have to worry about forgetting what the right trigger does, because it is always onscreen. Using the left trigger you can crouch to get through tight spaces, and the right trigger is reserved for all your majin commands. Like a big, goofy puppy, he will follow you, wait, or attack on command. The majin doesn't come across as the brightest star in the sky, but he does come in handy in a fight and will heal you automatically if you're hurt. The enemies that lurk in the kingdom are covered in a tar-like substance and will cling to you when you take damage.
You'll level as you kill enemies and pick up bright blue life shards, which give you more health and stamina as time goes on. The more fruit you pick up for your hungry friend, the stronger he'll get. Red shards are seen when you perform combo attacks with your buddy (a button will appear for you to press at the right moment to pull off some smooth moves), and the more you collect, the higher your friendship level becomes. Save points are pillars that are located at the entrance to each new area and can be activated when you and the majin are close. Here you can equip new pieces of armor that you've collected, which come with their own set of unique abilities.
The game is a mix of platforming, action, and puzzle solving, and there are several ways to approach certain areas. You don't have to go through the regions in any particular order; the world is open for you to explore, and you can always pull up a map to see where you are. Some puzzles don't seem to have a solution, though, if you haven't completed a puzzle necessary for you to continue. You can find ways to avoid enemies if you want to keep combat to a minimum, or sneak up from behind and impale them with a single strike. If you'd rather let the majin handle it all, you can always order him to attack for you. There are many items you'll stumble across that will help you on your journey, such as a catapult that is conveniently located in the center of a clearing. Using this ancient contraption, you and the majin can lob stones at breakable walls to find cleverly hidden levers that lock heavy wooden doors, preventing you from moving to the next area. Eventually you'll be able to throw stones at enemies to distract them so you can waltz on by. Explosive barrels are also fun to toss, to help blast away boulders that have somehow formed on winding stone staircases.
It's hard not to love the big teddy that is the majin, and pulling off combo moves together can be fun. Once you make your way out of the decaying castle, you'll be greeted by many areas that are blooming with flowers and majestic waterfalls that will make you step back and swing the camera around for a better view. During our play-through we didn't get to unveil too much of the story, but from what we know, we'd like to find out what happened to the majin and how he came to lose all his memories and powers. Maijin and the Forsaken Kingdom will be available on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on November 23.