Casual gamers love match three puzzlers and hidden object games. Azkend 2 fuses these two genres together in a rather impressive looking package but is it too simplistic for its own good?
Azkend 2: The World Beneath is played by using the left stick as a mouse cursor. You must draw a path between at least three touching tiles of the same type so your strategy basically involves trying to spot the longest and most beneficial potential path as quickly as possible. Upon completing a path, those tiles are removed. This either makes the background of those tiles change colour or allows a necessary object to drop. Once all of the tiles are coloured in, an object appears that you have to guide to the bottom of the playfield. After every story chapter, you're presented with a screen where you spot objects based on a small picture clue. The combination of simple tile-based puzzle gameplay and object finding is super easy to pick up and play. It also acts as a great way to wind down between more intense games.
One thing that Azkend 2 accomplishes wonderfully is its presentation. The background art is beautiful with detailed painted works and a playfield that's vibrant complete with easily distinguishable tiles. On the audio side, the sound effects are very satisfying as explosions go off and tiles become highlighted while the accompanying orchestral music is quite epic. Also, a talented voice actor provides the narration throughout her journey. It all adds up to one surprisingly captivating tale for a game that's as basic as it is.
As you progress in your adventure, you'll unlock both active and passive items that'll give you an upper-hand. Active items show up as tiles such as dynamite that explodes while passive items provide certain boosts like showing hints more frequently. On top of this, new gameplay elements slowly emerge like icy tiles that go away upon making matches near them and compass tiles that act as wildcards. Although these elements help keep things fresh, the simplistic core gameplay remains overwhelmingly basic. It still just involves scanning your eyes across the board and making matches as efficiently as possible. Because of this, it all gets rather tedious much sooner than you'd like it to. That being said, it's still enjoyable to play for a few minutes here and there.
The main mode tells the story of a woman who finds herself in a mysterious land. You play through a total of 62 levels that are divided between various environments and chapters. When you're done then you've basically experienced everything there is. The only exception is a time challenge mode where you try to get the highest score possible within a given time limit. You can also challenge the adventure mode's levels again and receive medals for completing them in record time but having to play through the same levels twice is more of a pain than it is rewarding. Finally, another major issue that I have is that highlighting a string of tiles can be tricky. Whenever you accidentally highlight an undesired tile (which happens way more often than you'd expect), having to tap a shoulder button to cancel then start the chain again or simply moving backwards takes too long. Considering you're timed, this can be very annoying. I should mention that you can adjust the controller sensitivity in the options menu but I didn't find that to help much.
Azkend 2: The World Beneath may look and sound very impressive but its far too basic core gameplay, shortage of available modes, and mistake-prone controls make it a tough game to fully embrace. That being said, exploring the world beneath is still an enjoyable experience that casual gamers will at least get some satisfaction out of.
- + Incredibly easy to pick up and play
- + Fantastic presentation with gorgeous art, captivating narration, and great music
- + Added complexities help keep things fresh
- - Simplistic core gameplay gets old fast
- - It's easy to slip up when highlighting tiles and it takes too long to correct yourself
- - Essentially only consists of two basic modes