Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom E3 2010 Preview

QUICK TAKE: Flying under the radar at E3 2010 was Game Republic's upcoming title that combines Ico-like graphics, stealth, puzzles, and an adorably goofy creature that looks like a Studio Ghibli reject. The diverse gameplay on display was fun and the visuals were a joy. If it all comes together, this could be one of 2010's sleeper hits.

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Amidst the gore of Splatterhouse and the cuteness of Pac-Man at Namco's E3 2010 booth was Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom. Developed by Game Republic, the game has an Ico-ish vibe due to it graphics and use of muted colors, but that's pretty much where the similarities end. Although the gameplay features a duo just like Ico does, this isn't a young boy dragging around a helpless girl that speaks in symbols. The protagonist, Tepeu, is an agile thief that wields a weapon that resembles a King Hearts keyblade. The secondary character, Majin, is large rock monster with ridiculous strength and fiery breath. The pair meets up in the beginning of the game and quickly realizes that they need each other to survive.

The two characters are very different in terms of personality and gameplay. Tepeu is a thief by trade. He's very fast and great at sneaking around, but he hits about as hard as Shacknews' Brian Leahy. He reminds me of a less powerful version of the Prince in Prince of Persia. Tepeu is also...well, he's pretty much a dick.

Majin is super strong and slow as molasses (Have you ever been to a molasses race? They're so boring.). He's great for pushing down walls and crushing enemies, but his large size makes it tough for him to reach several areas of the game. On paper, a creature that's part rock and part Chia Pet doesn't sound cute, but Majin is full of personality. He's always smiling and has come nice idle animations -- scratching his butt, picking his nose, etc. He's kind of like Shrek combined with Shale from Dragon Age. The end result looks like a rejected character design for My Neighbor Totoro.

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As for the gameplay, players directly control Tepeu and give basic commands to Majin. There are combat portions, stealth areas, and lots of puzzles to solve. Most of the game is about working in tandem, using the each characters' unique abilities to advance to a new area or defeat a certain enemy. The level I played had the pair beating up enemies before they were stuck at a barricade. Tepeu climbed to a higher area and found a bomb that Majin could ignite with his fire breath, taking care of the obstacle. After beating up more baddies, the two were stuck at a door too heavy for Majin to lift. Tepeu snuck around the door, stealthily took out some foes, performed some deft jumping, and found a magic orb. Majin ate the orb, which increased his strength level. With the door out of the way, the pair beat up some more minions before taking out a boss.

While I only saw a brief portion of the game, I really enjoyed what I played. The game has a great look coupled with diverse gameplay. Plus, looking at Majin just makes me happy. I want one! Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom wasn't on my radar at all prior to E3 2010. After spending some time with it, I can't wait to see if Game Republic can make the entire game as fun as the demo.

Developed by Game Republic and published by Namco Bandi, Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom is scheduled for release on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 this winter.

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