Majin is a fantasy adventure game where you have to rely on an AI-controlled ally throughout the entire game. Now, I know I lost most of you with that but give the game a chance and it might just surprise you as much as it did me. Yes, you have to count on a computer-driven character, the massive troll-like Majin, but rarely will you have trouble with the AI.
When games like Resident Evil 5 with a large development team and an equally massive budget have major AI issues and a far smaller game with a team and budget to match does better, that's a pretty incredible feat. The main reason for the lack of issues with what is actually a very simple AI is developer Game Republic hid its simplicity with a very simple control scheme. You order Majin around and when he's not following one of your orders (attack, stop, follow, crouch, etc.), he follows and mimics your moves.
It's a clever solution and one other developers with similar technical limitations could learn from. But enough about the technical mumbo jumbo, let's get to the meat of the game: its gameplay.
Sadly, the gameplay is just as simplistic, and this time not in a good way. The combat in particular is clunky, unresponsive and some bizarre decisions confounded me during my playthrough. For example in most games, when you're holding onto a ledge, if you press A you'll lift yourself up. In Majin, this is not the case and if you're like me you will fall many times before your mind wraps itself around the fact that, for some strange reason, it was thought a good idea to have pressing A have your character let go of the ledge.
Back to the combat. It can be divided into two areas, the first being your character's individual prowess and the combination attacks you can unleash when fighting alongside the Majin. The former is uncomplicated (quick and strong attacks, dodges, etc.) and has no real depth. The latter is where the depth comes in since you can combine your attacks with the Majin to get Friendship Orbs that in turn make these attacks more powerful.
Once you unleash a certain amount of combos, you unlock a devastating finishing move that's pretty neat. There's also a thin layer of RPG spread atop the game since you can collect orbs that make you and your Majin more powerful, and you can also find armor and weapons that are better than the ones you begin with. There's an underlying theme of simplicity here in the combat and character customization that makes this a very kid-friendly game.
The visuals, while not necessary stunning, do their job well enough to convey the game's attractive art style. It is unfortunate Game Republic wasn't able to get higher resolution textures in there (they're very pixelated and lose much of the detail many of us are used to now) because the art style is actually very unique. The enemies are especially cool with their inky, alien look, and there are a few interesting set pieces you'll come across in the game.
This shouldn't really come as much of a surprise to anyone familiar with budget titles, but the voice acting in this game is horrendous. The Majin's dumbed down grammar-slaying dialogue got on my nerves quick and the inability to skip cinematics made this issue even more torturous. In contrast to the awful dialogue, the score is fantastic and mirrors the game's quirky charm very well.
Majin and the Forbidden Kingdom has its fair share of strengths and weakness, but its strong points easily overpower many of its flaws. If you're on the prowl for a budget title that appeals to kids and really anyone else, look no further.