Once you escape the waxy hallways of the opening chapter's castle, the game world, while tightly corridored, is attractive. Ancient walls built from oversized stones rounded by wind and time rise, resolute, from the tall grass. Patches of bright purple flowers are attended by origami butterflies, dazzling white in the high-contrast sunshine.
The delicacy of the art, however, isn't matched by the game's lighting, which is crude. Set against Shadow of the Colossus, which has landscapes of similar terrain and climate, textures lack detail and the absence of filters and fog to soften each vista ensures the game world is never quite as enchanting as it should be.
Likewise, some atrocious voice acting undermines what could, with a little more care and attention, have had a cohesive, magical atmosphere. It's an issue of design as much as execution. The choice to have the Majin speak without eloquence in childlike rhythms, combined with a disappointing performance from the voice actor, lessens the character's appeal.
In the animation, too, the Majin falls short of what he could have been. His lantern jaw grinds comically as he speaks, but there's only rudimentary characterisation in his movement, suggesting that Game Republic's artists lacked the talent or budget necessary to meet their impressive imagination.
Too often, the flow of play is interrupted by an in-game cut-scene. These, while well-directed, are spoiled by a weak script and risible voice-acting. In time the game falls into a familiar pattern of puzzle-solving, platforming and combat leading up to a well-telegraphed boss battle.
Nevertheless, there's just enough inventiveness to maintain your interest. Remove the theatrics and storybook charm, and what's left is little more than an elongated series of locked-door puzzles. But it's a testament to Game Republic's vision and skill that the game's set-dressing makes it enjoyable over the long haul – and for all its rough edges, this is an experience that will likely pull you through to its endearing conclusion.
There is undeniably a scrappiness of execution here, one that only serves to make Team Ico's achievements seem all the greater. But despite the shabbiness, Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom delivers on some of the promise of its premise.
With Enslaved and the forthcoming The Last Guardian, 'buddy' games are becoming fashionable, their setup offering both narrative and mechanical benefits to the designer of adventure videogames. Game Republic's effort lacks polish and elegance, but, thanks to charm and the in-built strength of its setup, it is an experience worth partnering with.