Sometimes you don’t want to be shooting people, driving cars or exploring a huge world in a game (I said sometimes, not always). Every so often, a smaller or simpler game can grab your attention for all the right reasons, but other times they just don’t hit the mark. With the former in mind, 10tons, the developers behind Sparkle Unleased have released Azkend 2, a tile matching puzzle game. The concept of the game is simple enough, but how is it executed?
Whilst you wouldn’t think that a tile matching puzzle game needs or even warrants a story, Azkend 2 has managed to give us a fairly in depth one. You take control of a girl who is travelling from Liverpool to New York on a ship, in the year 1896. Unfortunately, the crossing doesn’t go very well and you end up overboard, waking up in a new place with a whole new world below the sea to explore. Overall, the story is interesting and told well (even if the voice acting is a little erratic at times), but it isn’t really needed and feels a little over the top when the gameplay is simply matching tiles. The gameplay could have been exactly the same whether there was a story or not, but the fact it is there makes your tile matching feeling a little less trivial.
Azkend 2: The World Beneath : Xbox One [Reviewed], PC, PlayStation 4
Developer: 10tons Ltd.
Publisher: 10tons Ltd.
Release Date: 06 May 2016
Price: £6.39 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
The levels play out as your character writes in their diary, with each entry consisting of three or four different levels. These essentially see you matching patterned tiles in groups of at least three, and trying to do this with all the tiles on the board. You then must also use your matches to clear fog, kill bugs, flip all tile colours and other various tasks, which when completed throw a piece of an artefact onto your board. This then must be guided to the bottom of the board in order to win and finish the level. These artefacts are then pieced together over the levels, and act as an ability once they are unlocked and consequently help you on future levels.
You unlock both active and passive abilities, and you can use any combination of these on any of the levels, but can only ever have one of each of these active at a time. The active abilities will show up as tile on the board and will help you in getting rid of tiles, such as dynamite to blow pieces up, and binoculars to get rid of lone pieces. Passive abilities work by giving you more time for a level, or making the active ability tiles show up more frequently. You can play about with combinations of these abilities to see which works best for you for each level, and this freedom allows you to find a pair which suits you best and has no limit to changing it as many times as you need.
When you aren’t matching tiles, in between the levels gives you a smaller and slightly different puzzle to complete. You are challenged with finding the matching picture to the one given to you in the corner of the screen, but this could be flipped or turned upside down, making things that little bit harder. These rather strange matching puzzles seem an odd addition to the game, but serve as a decent enough flow between the levels. If you manage to find all the pictures then your reward is being given charged coils in the levels. These coils, when fully charged, will release electric shocks and get rid of a number of tiles on the board, so there is some incentive for trying to do these puzzles, but no real punishment if you fail.
Though you can’t replay a level once the story is done, there’s a couple of other modes that you can try your hand at if you want to carry on matching. The medal mode allows you to go back to the older levels, and try and earn a medal on these by completing them within a certain time limit. Using your active and passive abilities will definitely come in handy here, and allow you to challenge yourself to complete levels as quick as possible. The other mode is a timed mode which sees you try to gain as much score in a pre designed board in a set time. Whilst these modes give you a slight change of pace from the story, they don’t alter the actual gameplay much in any way, so there’s nothing overly exciting going on in these modes that you haven’t seen before.
One of the main rather annoying points in the game, is its achievements. Whilst it is a pretty standard list in itself, you can’t unlock all these achievements from the start of the game. The further you go through the story, the more achievements you are unable to unlock, and you can keep track of this via the in game achievement list. The fact that they can’t all be unlocked from the start is an unusual concept, and is more irritating than anything else. The actual gameplay itself can get rather tedious if you play for too long, and is definitely best enjoyed in short bursts. The game overall is colourful and fun to look at and play, but the cursor doesn’t fit well with an Xbox controller, and you might find yourself clicking the wrong pieces more often than not.
Azkend 2 is a perculiar one, and acts as a great filler game when you aren’t really in the mood for anything too heavy. The gameplay is fun for a while but does eventually get tedious, and the story for the game seems very overdramatic at times. While there are a few modes to explore after the story, problems like the locked achievements and cursor problems overshadow the good points. If you like puzzle matching games, then Azkend 2 is surely a game you’ll enjoy, but there’s nothing amazing here to draw you in if this isn’t your kind of thing anyway.
Azkend 2: The World Beneath
- Bright and fun looking matching game
- Active and passive abilities add to interest, and ability to mix and max these helps complete levels
- Achievements are locked until you complete more of the story
- Cursor doesn't always click on the tile you want it to
- Game gets tedious after a while, can't play for long periods