Barcelona is a city of cpalm trees and distressed concrete; a city where hardcore religious mania has delivered on some top-quality joke architecture.
Half the place looks like Sarajevo filling in for LA on five minutes' notice, the other half suggests that Gaudi did his best work by inhaling a few bags of plaster of Paris and then sneezing on some whale bones.
It is, in other words, comfortably nestled amongst the great cities of the world. While Namco Bandai doesn't make a huge number of games here, you can understand why the publisher has chosen Barcelona as the venue to show off its new line-up.
And some of the games being demoed offer a similarly intriguing blend of styles. Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom is a particularly good example. Beyond the silhouettes and flickering lights of this Japanese fantasy's gentle scene setting, the action itself takes place in a bloom-ridden bucolic world of tumbledown castles and lush yellow grass.
The enemies, in contrast, are nasty little splodges of inky darkness, angry and angular. The heroes are Tupue, a spindly thief with a pineapple haircut, and the towering Majin, brutally powerful yet worryingly childlike: a rock-hewn monster who thuds through the dirt with the gaping lantern-jaw of Grover from Sesame Street, tiny amber eyes, and root vegetables sprouting out of his back.
Majin is built from combat and puzzles - though cynics might also observe it's built from Team Ico games and Zelda. It's probably best to put cynicism aside here, however: Game Republic's hardly the first developer to turn to Link for help, and members of Majin's development team previously worked on titles like Ico and Shadow of the Colossus.
Namco assures us that Majin's been in development long before Last Guardian was announced and, besides, there's something of Darksiders' approach to creative pinching here anyway. You sense the team is borrowing ideas because it cherishes them, rather than because it can't come up with any of its own, and you sense it loves the genre it's trying to become a part of.
Most importantly, Majin has plenty of its own character in the first place. Game Republic's previous title, Folklore, is far from perfect, but it's also very hard not to love. The game makes its presence felt with the beautiful and oddly Christmassy blasts of light that mark out the exhilarating combat, and the team seems to have more than enough ideas when it comes to creating unique puzzles based on this duo of mismatched heroes.
The story of Majin is pretty placeholder, however. In a land filling up with a mysterious darkness, an agile thief throws in with a lumbering, oddly vulnerable Majin to save the day. Friendships blossom, moves get unlocked, pressure switches are weighted down.
One of the things that gives this set-up an unusual force of impact, however, is that, despite his size, Majin is an innocent. His dialogue lines appear to have been written by whoever is currently the custodian of the Drunk Hulk Twitter account, but his Muppety features clash in interesting ways with his meaty arms and legs. While he's happy to take care of himself in battles, he needs the thief to guide him through the more complex levels one obstacle at a time.
The AI seems up to the job, for the most part. While permanently cast in the role of the thief you'll have no direct control of the Majin. You can issue a handful of commands - asking him to wait, follow, attack, or interact with objects. He invariably responds correctly and with a winningly gawky enthusiasm.
As it's that kind of game, you can expect the Majin's powers to expand throughout the course of the adventure: moves can be upgraded and new abilities will suddenly appear. There's plenty of scope for puzzles even with basic tools like the Majin's ability to use his breath to blow platforms around, or his knack of using his back as a stepping stone for the thief. By the time you're getting to the point where he can electrify certain items, the game will hopefully be pleasantly engaged in melting the spatial reasoning part of your brain.
And while it doesn't promise to be particularly intricate, the combat adds another element to keep in mind at all times. As the thief, you're built for a stealthy approach - sneaking up behind baddies and finishing them off before you've been spotted. But with the Majin taking on the game's bigger opponents you can still help out at crucial moments, leaping from one ledge to the next, picking off the smaller foes and weighing in on the larger guys before retreating to a safe distance for the finishers.
Game Republic's designers are clearly hoping that a genuine relationship emerges through the action as well as the story, and it's interesting how many mechanisms - healing is a very good example - rely on interaction between the two characters.
The levels revealed so far seem to have a nice blend of styles and agendas: one minute you're in a combat arena surrounded by hulking brutes, the next you're picking your way through a temple riddled with dead ends, treasure chests and Dark Scouts - the spindly, Simian nasties who can hear your movements a mile off.
Although there's little in Majin that won't be faintly familiar even the first time you encounter it, the game promises to have a lovely sense of pace: pretty vistas loom into view at unusual moments while the itinerary muddles around with different objectives like somebody jiggling loose change in their pocket.
It's a tiny glimpse of what promises to be quite a large game - one developer suggested the entire adventure might clock in at around the 20 hour mark - but it's enough to suggest that Majin might be worth keeping an eye on. While it's nowhere near as heavy metal as something like Darksiders, it promises to be a bit more sprightly - a bit more openly gamey - that The Last Guardian.
Like the pairing of the Majin and the thief, then, this all depends on a balancing act. Can Game Republic hit the sweet spot between something tender and something thrilling? Can the developers offer a simple fable that still has room for a bit of substance along the way?