Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom feels very much like a Team Ico game, which is high praise indeed.
Basically, players control Tepeu, the human protagonist, and fight and explore alongside the Majin, a powerful but innocent creature which Tepeu befriends during the course of the story.
The controls are similar to other modern action platformers, with the face buttons allowing him to jump, dodge, attack and run. The run button also displays as a context-sensitive action button. You can string attacks together by repeatedly hitting the attack button, and there's a knockdown-effect dash attack activated by pressing the attack and jump buttons at the same time. This is an odd combination, and frequently results in performing a jumping attack instead. Also, the process for climbing up from a ledge is the opposite of what you might be used to; pressing jump while hanging will make you drop down, which is confusing at first.
The shoulder button and trigger on the left allow Tepeu to throw rocks and crouch respectively. Crouching allows you to get into areas which would otherwise be inaccessible, and enables you to sneak up on enemies to deliver instant-kill attacks. These tend to draw attention to you, though, so if you have to sneak past a lot of enemies, it's worth thinking twice before attacking. When the game introduces rock throwing, you can use it to trigger mines, or to distract enemies, although distractions are rarely useful until later in the game.
Holding the right trigger allows the player to give the Majin basic instructions like "follow" or "wait" by using the respective face button. Certain locations allow the Majin to perform context sensitive actions, such as rolling boulders onto enemies, and opening doors. Many of these will make fights easier, defeating several enemies in a single blow, and sometimes weakening or eliminating powerful opponents who would otherwise pose a significant challenge. They're just as often there to open new paths, either for secret areas or to advance the story. Using the face buttons in conjunction with the right shoulder button makes the Majin use his powers on a selected enemy, with different effects depending on the power you choose.
Mice and birds show up everywhere to give Tepeu advice and help on his quest, but this information is often without context, and sometimes the path is still less than clear. I've backtracked in this game far more times than should be necessary, and occasionally gone back to places that didn't need to be revisited because there's simply no description of where to go next. Once you unlock the "Room of Transport", travelling between areas become less of a chore, but this doesn't happen until quite a way into the game. Even so, it still only travels to a handful of places and the map is already very large by that time.
Early combat situations let you basically just attack enemies and let the Majin fend for itself. At the beginning of the game, he's practically indestructible, though later enemies begin to pose more of a threat to both of you in different ways. When you're fighting alongside the Majin, weakened enemies will often give you a prompt to initiate a co-operative attack, usually an instant kill. These actions look great, especially the powerful attacks you can unleash after stringing together several such attacks in a short time. They're also necessary for building up your "friendship level", which unlocks even more powerful attacks.
Once you start unlocking the Majin's powers, you'll encounter enemies with resistances to them. While contrived, this approach adds much-needed depth to the gameplay. Unfortunately, it also tends to make the combat bog down, sacrificing the flow of the earlier areas for a greater challenge. In contrast, the boss fights follow a simplistic "exploit weakness" routine. Each boss is different enough to feel unique, both in appearance and in how you take them down, but the actual fight itself becomes an exercise in repetition once you know what to do. In spite of this, they manage to retain the sense that you're fighting an epic and powerful opponent.
It's a shame the combat always feels either too basic or too complex, without ever really finding that middle ground developers Game Republic seem to be aiming for.
Combat isn't the real focus of the game, however, so the minor flaws there can be forgiven. The puzzles and the story form the bulk of the title, and you can tell the developers have focused on those elements. While there are a lot of "get to switch, open door" puzzles, the way you have to get to the switch usually makes sense. Many areas are sealed against the Majin, but Tepeu can get through because of his smaller size and greater flexibility. There are puzzles which work the other way too, where the Majin can create a path using either its powers or brute strength. .
Most areas require a combination of approaches, making both characters feel equally important to progression, and emphasising the bond between the two.
It may have the appearance of being a children's game, and the platformer styling doesn't contradict that, but the story is actually pretty good. It's far more intricate and well thought out than a cursory explanation here can cover, but suffice to say that the creatures of the Darkness have more motivation than just "we're evil, lets do evil things", and the game does a good job of building the bond between Tepeu and the Majin, rather than simply assuming they're friends because the gameplay says they should be. The Majin's child-like speech and cute appearance manage to be endearing instead of annoying (mostly), avoiding the biggest trap "cute" characters fall into, and Tepeu gets a selection of outfits with different attributes, catering to players who like customising their appearance, and those who want to go for the best stats.
Everything about the game's presentation is cheerful and eye-catching. While the graphics aren't spectacular, the world is vibrant, and it's good enough to feel current-gen. Ruins are suitably dilapidated, but in a bright, stand-out way, overgrown with lush trees. The soundscape is just as good at catching and holding your attention, with the background music fitting the fantasy setting; calm and soothing strings when exploring, and faster percussion-heavy tones kicking in during fights. The Majin's voice, oddly, is the only thing that almost seems out of place, however the difference between his dim-witted voice and the rest of the rather clever story serves to emphasise the innocence behind his power.
While this game has its sights set on young gamers, older players will probably get just as much out of it. It has a rich story combined with the rare brilliance of character development centred around personalities and friendships, rather than lines of numbers and special abilities.
The combat system isn't the best, but it's not really trying to be, and everything is implemented in a way that fits the storyline and character development. It's a rare game that makes players care not just about a character, but about the relationship between the characters, and Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom has achieved just that.