The thief can of course jump into the fray too, wielding the large steel pin that once held the Majin captive. There are even special finishing moves that see the pair attacking together, but the thief will struggle to down an enemy by himself. His talents lay elsewhere; in stealth, agility and cunning. Often you'll have to run off by yourself to pull a lever or collect an item, at which point hand-to-hand combat is a less than desirable option. Sneaking up behind an enemy and plunging your weapon into their back is a much safer (and more satisfying) approach.
By collecting glowing shards from the corpses of your fallen foes, you can increase the attributes of both yourself and your bumbling partner. Blue orbs increase the thief's health and stamina, whilst red ones – obtained by pulling off combos - will increase the friendship level between the two characters. Over the course of the game, the Majin will learn new moves and become even more lethal in combat, and the thief too can improve by equipping new pieces of armour collected throughout the adventure. The RPG stuff is basic, but helps develop the characters from the perspective of gameplay as well as narrative.
After escaping the dank depths of the ruins, the pair steps out into the bright colour-drenched world of the Forsaken Kingdom. Sitting under a tree, the duo finds some time to indulge in a little conversation – not that the Majin is very articulate. Still, he introduces himself as Teotl and asks that the thief reveal his name, too. The thief is unable to do so, however; like all too many protagonists, he's gone and lost his memory. A person without a name is too bewildering a concept for the giant, so he decides to name his master himself. "You Tepeu", he declares, and the pair shake on their belated introduction.
This triggers a flashback in the Majin's mind, shared by the young thief through the pin that once held the creature captive. In quaint 2D visuals, the Majin is seen protecting a young woman from hordes of shadow warriors. The friendly oaf is bleeding heavily; an assortment of arrows lodged into his back. He refuses to rest, though, and the scene fades out as the Majin continues to fight a seemingly hopeless battle.
Just who was the mysterious woman? Why was Teotl protecting her? Does she know anything about Tepeu's unaccountable past? These are all questions I'm looking forward to have answered, as well as seeing the relationship between the two protagonists blossom. Sure, the gameplay won't set the world on fire - the likes of Zelda and Ico have done what this has many times before, but there's a fantastically endearing quality to the game. It's in the atmosphere, the child-like innocence of the colossal Majin and the intrigue that quickly arises from a seemingly clichéd narrative. There's something very likeable about it.
With so many great titles vying for attention in the run up to Christmas, there's been a lot of talk of 'sleeper hits'. For me, Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom could well epitomise that phrase. Given that I hadn't heard a peep out of the title up until a few weeks ago, I was genuinely taken aback by it. The co-op mechanics are solid, so too is the AI, and you'd have to have a heart of stone not to fall in love with the Majin. Quite how a creature of his size has evaded the attention of the industry for so long is a mystery.
Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom is available for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 this winter.