Azkend 2: The World Beneath
is the latest title from 10tons
, the developer that recently released Sparkle 2
, a match-three marble title. In Azkend 2
, players are again asked to make matches of three or more items, but here, symbols are matched to clear the board. As a match is made, the tiles underneath it are turned, and the objective is to turn the entire board and collect artifacts that one needs before the timer runs out.
The game begins on a ship called the Celestia as it sets out to sea, and its problems begin almost immediately. As the ship is being drawn into a maelstrom, the puzzles begin. As each chapter opens, a picture will appear bringing the player up to speed on the story. This image will then become a puzzle itself. A timer appears in the top left-hand corner while a piece of the picture that one must find appears in the top right-hand corner. The number of these images one correctly finds will dictate how many Tesla coils (i.e. lightning bolts) one will begin with. It's easy to manipulate this aspect of the game; by hitting the start button and returning to the Main Menu, one can begin these particular puzzles again at any time. The images will always appear in the same order, making it easy to fill all of one's Tesla Coils for the next round of puzzles. The only annoying part about this is that the images in the top right corner appear in random directions. For instance, a picture in the corner might be upside down or sideways relative to its position on the larger image, making some of them a royal pain to locate.
Match the images.
Once this image matching is done, the real matching game begins. The goal of each set of puzzles is to find the pieces of a tool or artifact one needs to progress. In the first chapter, for example, four pieces must be found with which to build a pair of binoculars, which are needed to check out the approaching storm. Each piece of the artifact will have its own puzzle to solve. All the puzzles in the game have 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. Off-white tiles must be turned once; gray tiles must be turned twice. Once the entire board is purple, the artifact will fall onto the board. Tiles must then be turned to move the artifact into one of the shining tiles at the bottom for the round to be completed.
The artifact appears!
All seventeen chapters of the game follow this pattern, but the developers have done a great job of adding various elements to keep the game from getting tedious. First, each artifact completed then becomes a power-up. Two power-ups can be equipped at all times - one active and one passive. An active power-up includes such abilities as freezing the timer (or bugs), knocking out tiles with hammers, or creating a "waterfall" of tiles. Passive abilities can do such things as remove a color from the board, slow down the timer, or double the lightning bolts.
Choose abilities wisely.
Secondly, the timers are handled differently on different levels so as not to become monotonous. Early on, levels start with a plain old timer. As the game progresses, this can take different forms. The board can be on fire, and if it spreads too far, the level ends. Flowers can appear on the board, and if they lose all of their petals before adequate progress is made, the level is over. Perhaps the most annoying is the bugs. Bugs will appear at the bottom of the screen and slowly make their way to the top. If any of them manages to fly away before they're killed, it's failure again. Each of these methods works to create tension and a sense of urgency, so each is a timer of sorts but without resorting to the same mechanic for every level.
The dreaded bugs.
Aesthetically, the game is quite pleasing. The artwork is simple but pretty, and the music is a pleasantly appropriate accompaniment for gameplay. The story is described by the developer as "Jules Vernesque" though it's also reminiscent of legends of Atlantis. The Celestia is sucked under during a terrible storm after which our narrator awakens in the abandoned environs of an ancient civilization, and each chapter of puzzles solved takes the gamer a step closer to escape. The narration, too, is beautifully voiced, adding to the game's overall aesthetic appeal.
The one big negative for the game would be the clunky controls. After choosing a starting point, the left analog stick is used to move the cursor in the direction one wishes to travel to make matches. It works relatively well when going in a straight line, but it can be awkward making turns. Where it's especially clunky is if one needs to make a change. The movement is sensitive and responds well for the most part, but it's not hard to make a wrong turn. There's no way to change that short of backtracking, which is much less responsive, slowing one down considerably. This can be nerve-wracking as the timer ticks down. The game didn't seamlessly make the jump from its mobile, touchscreen beginnings.
Tesla Coils at work.
The achievements for the title are interesting. Only four achievements will fire during the natural course of the campaign and then only if you make long enough matches. All of the others will require that levels be re-visited and played very deliberately for achievements. Levels cannot be re-visited in the main game, but they can be through Medals mode. Medals are obtained by completing a level in half the original time, but the timer will continue after one has failed. For those who like an extra challenge, there's a Time Challenge mode that pits players against the clock and other players on the leaderboards.
The game is fun, especially for fans of matching games, despite its awkward controls. Successfully completing levels opens up new challenges and new abilities, keeping the game fun while encouraging the improvement of skills. The main campaign can be done in under fifteen hours, giving gamers plenty of time solving puzzles without turning into a major grind. The variety of ways used to create timers (without actual timers) also added to the fun by keeping the game fresh and not allowing it to fall into tedium. Azkend 2: The World Beneath
is a fun, if sometimes frustrating game well worth its asking price.
- Well-voiced story
- Nice music
The reviewer spent fifteen hours matching shells and chasing bugs and earned four of the game's sixteen achievements. A copy was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.