Simplistic combat and tedious backtracking don't fully diminish the pleasures of this attractive and festive fable.
- Lots of great environmental puzzles
- Lovely visuals and music
- Fun, interesting boss battles.
- Backtracking gets monotonous
- Shallow action
- Central relationship never deepens.
In Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom, the fate of the world is in the hands of a giant beast with the mind of a 4-year-old child. That beast is Teotl, and he's your constant companion in this charming and somewhat tedious action adventure. Teotl has shrubs growing on his back, cries out "Ouch!" when he falls over, and has difficulty forming full sentences. He's not a likely candidate for the position of "kingdom savior," but his kind ways will put a smile on your face, as will the attractive world he inhabits. The game constructed around this simpleminded guardian isn't as inviting as his broad smile or his sparkling surroundings. Monotonous backtracking and uninspired combat can bring the momentum to a halt, and Teotl's one-note dumb-galoot persona makes it difficult to invest in your relationship with him. But many of the game's environmental puzzles shine, as do the enchanting visuals and twinkling soundtrack. Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom isn't likely to capture your imagination, but its bearable lightness of being makes for a refreshing fairy tale.
Teotl is the legendary guardian, a being who is rumored to possess the skill necessary to rid the kingdom of the darkness--a black ooze gradually engulfing the land, as well as spawning goopy guards and demonic dogs. After a short search, you discover the beast, but he has lost all his power and memories. Your goal: to help him restore both; by doing so, you enable him to destroy the source of the darkness. From here, the lumbering lug tails you for the entirety of the adventure, helping you fend off your foes and using his elemental powers to assist you in solving various puzzles. Your relationship with Teotl is central to the story; the two of you spend a dozen hours with each other, so you'd expect to form somewhat of an attachment. Unfortunately, this is only partially the case. On the one hand, Teotl is a good-hearted buddy, and there is some delight in piecing together his memories, which are told in gorgeous two-dimensional cutscenes. On the other hand, Teotl is not intelligent. He speaks in broad, childish language and spouts such exclamations as "It take away my power!" In time, the oafish language stops being charming and just seems forced. The lack of delicacy and wit makes this a shallow friendship.
You encounter more characters than just Teotl, such as the birds and mice that drop hints throughout the course of your travels. Sadly, most of the voice actors playing them seem to have been pulled from the low-tier talent pool, which further diminishes the tale's impact. The rest of the sound design pulls through nicely, though. Small touches, such as the chimes you hear after successfully solving a puzzle have a pleasant Pavlovian effect, and the soundtrack, while not a standout, uses twittering woodwinds and sonorous cellos to evoke mythical meadows and evil monsters. Those meadows are attractive ones, too, with plenty of glimmering particles to indicate a touch of enchantment. Like the music, the visuals aren't stunning, but the subtle particulars make a big difference. For instance, the sticky darkness that starts to envelop you as you lose health is a great detail, and Teotl's wide-eyed facial expressions betray his childlike wonder.
It's a good thing that Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom's environments are so colorful, given that you spend so much time gazing at the same ones time and time again. The game is structured as a set of central areas connected by corridors. To progress, you must solve environmental puzzles, and to do that, you must restore the guardian's powers. As these powers are added to Teotl's repertoire by way of the large fruits you discover, he can then interact with objects in new ways. Wind is the first elemental power you discover, which comes in handy when you need to set a swinging object in motion. Then comes lightning, which is necessary for powering various levers and lifts. Fire allows Teotl to ignite explosive crates and suck up flaming barriers, while the fourth and final power allows him to turn blotches of sticky darkness into crystal.
Most puzzle-related actions are contextual: you select the object you want your partner to target, and he interacts with it in the appropriate way. Many of the puzzles are quite clever, such as those in which Teotl uses a catapult to fling you to out-of-reach areas or you must place lightning rods in the appropriate positions to establish a flow of electricity. These are sometimes made more challenging by additional obstacles, such as unblinking eyes that zap you with lasers if you wander into their field of vision. None of these conundrums are insurmountable with a little bit of thought, though you might need to survey the area to see which objects your buddy can manipulate. There are helpful visual cues to nudge you in the right direction, too. A lizard on the wall indicates a place where you should command Teotl to crouch so that you may jump from his back, while a wooden wall with crisscrossing red beams indicates a barrier that can be smashed.