A Crumb by any other name would play as sweet – or at least that’s what publisher Merscom would like you to think with Majestic Forest. A re-engineering of the puzzle game Crumb from 2008, Majestic Forest shares much of the original title, but has a few important changes.
For those who never played the original, Majestic Forest has you selecting one of several fantasy-based avatars to travel through the forest, looking for your Forest Mother who has taken care of you since you were abandoned in the forest at birth. You’ll travel across 60 levels looking for her throughout the four seasons.
In each level of the game, you’ll be wandering around collecting talismans which open up a cottage door, leading to the next level. Each stage has many different hazards, such as rivers, fires or wandering enemies to avoid. You may step into a teleporter and be whisked off to a far-away place on the map. Sometimes, there are colored locks which – surprise, surprise – require a same-colored key to open them.
Controlling your character is as simple as pressing the arrow keys in the direction you’d like to go – but only in four directions. (It’s also possible to play the game by revolving your cursor around your avatar and clicking in that direction, but this control scheme is cumbersome at best; use the arrow keys for minimum frustration.) There are no diagonal movements in Majestic Forest, as your movements play a major role in the gameplay.
Progress in Majestic Forest isn’t just through level progression. Rather, the game keeps track of the number of steps you take to complete a level. If you complete the level in the fewest number of steps, you’ll earn a yellow flower for the level on your map.
To help you in your quest, there are various potions that are found in some levels. The yellow potion stuns enemies when you touch them; the red potion allows you to walk through fire, and the blue potion allows you to walk on water.
The game allows you to see a bird’s-eye view of the map by pressing the M key (or clicking on the Map icon in the lower left – something added to the game from the original), but in an important change from Crumb, you are also given access to a “Solution Map.” Essentially, this extra assistance feature allows you to see what the game feels is the optimal solution to each level, and to compare your progress against it. While it may seem to be a bit of a cheat, the solution map doesn’t really spoil every level, and sometimes you may find a solution that’s even more effective.
Helping you further is the ability to undo up to ten prior steps, in case you pushed a rock into a place it can’t budge from, or took that extra step when you’re going for the best score.
The solution map isn’t the only change from Crumb to Majestic Forest. When re-thinking the game, Merscom spent a lot of time sitting down with focus testers, identifying the concepts that gave them trouble, and then built tutorials around them, helping to make it much more accessible. Additionally, the game is far less punishing. Originally, touching an enemy would force the player to start a level over from the beginning, but here you only receive a five-step penalty. While this will make getting the best score more difficult, it also allows you to simply enjoy the game with a lot less pressure.
As nice as these changes are – and they are great improvements over the original – a number of nagging issues remain. There are a number of odd glitches; for example, enemies would disappear without warning right before I would potentially collide with them. Also, the scoring system is a little confusing. I ran into four enemies in one level, adding an additional 20 steps to my count. Yet, when I completed the level, I received the best score and earned a yellow flower.
Overall, the game itself is largely the same, flaws and all. The graphics and audio are so-so, and gameplay can get tiresome. You’ll probably lose all impetus by level 30, and once you complete the last tutorial (which happens around then) no new elements are added to the game. There is no motivation to earn best score on each level outside of the self-satisfaction, and there’s simply not enough variety to the gameplay.
While the changes Merscom implemented in Majestic Forest are improvements from the original Crumb, it doesn’t change the fact that Majestic Forest is a decidedly average game. Any benefit from the changes is dragged down by not addressing the core gameplay issues that Crumb had in the first place. If you’ve played Crumb, feel free to pass on Majestic Forest. If not, it’s worth checking out the demo, but see how you feel after an hour.