Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. So let’s begin this year in indie reviews by taking a look at Azkend 2, a Bejeweled-ish puzzle game.
This game actually has a story. A somewhat basic story, for what is essentially a Bejeweled-esque game. We are introduced to the narrator, Jules, at the helm of a ship on a journey from Liverpool, when all of a sudden the boat is sucked into a whirlpool thus thrown into darkness. You awaken to find that you have landed somewhere below the sea, thankfully (and somehow) unscathed. This is where the uncharted journey begins, as you must make your way back to the surface. It’s not a masterpiece of a plot, but having one at all does ease some of the blandness that puzzle games tend to have.
Azkend 2 is a tile matching puzzle game borrowing from the aforementioned Bejeweled. Across each level, your objective is to match tiles on a huge board in order to complete it. The game is divided into chapters, with each one having several sets of puzzles. The goal of there is to find the pieces of a tool or artifact one needs to progress. Chapter 1, for instance, has four pieces of a pair of binoculars, which are needed to scope the sea. Each piece of the tool or artifact will have its own puzzle to solve. Despite this, every puzzle has the same basic mechanics. Matching three or more items in any configuration will turn the tiles under those items. The goal is for all the tiles to be purple. Some tiles may need to be turned several times for this to happen. Once the entire board is purple, the piece will fall onto the board. Tiles must then be turned to move the artifact to the bottom of the screen to finish the level.
Every chapter follows this trend, but there are counterbalances to the monotony. Each artifact completed becomes a power-up, of which two can be equipped, one active and one passive. Active powerups involve things like freezing time or destroying tiles, and passive abilities can do such things as remove a color from the board or slow down the timer through the entire level. The timed nature of the levels changes as you progress, in scenarios such as fending off bugs or keeping a flower from wilting, so it’s good to see a puzzle game actively attempt to avoid monotony.
Unfortunately, this tends to get bogged down by the gameplay’s biggest issue: the controls. Azkend 2 is one of the few games where portable mode is recommendable over docked mode, because the touchscreen controls are so much better than analog sticks, which move slower than your average computer mouse. It’s not unplayable by any means, but clunky for sure. Even then, the timer is generous enough that the stick controls are forgivable to an extent, but they are a legitimate problem. Using the touch screen brings Azkend 2 closer to your typical mobile game and is much better enjoyed as such. Control gripes notwithstanding, Azkend 2 certainly delivers on gameplay.
If you remember the Sparkle Unleashed review, I could just copy paste my thoughts from that game’s aesthetic onto this section. Sure, the overall theme is different now going for something akin to an Atlantis story and not mystical fantasy, but the graphics and musical accompaniment are rather similar(ish), to the point where I thought they had the exact same title theme upon initial startup. That, mind you, is not a bad thing, as it still looks and sounds great.
To sum up, this is a fun game, awkward control notwithstanding. Completion is always rewarded with something, so there’s incentive to go on and see just how fast you can get through the levels. The main campaign can be done in fewer than ten or even five hours, so it’s plentiful without being a grindfest. The variety used in later stages also does wonders for avoiding the painful tedium other puzzle games might have. Azkend 2: The World Beneath is a fun, if sometimes frustrating game worth the asking price.