Another day, another puzzle game for me to sink my teeth into. This isn’t a bad thing. I do it willingly, for not only the website or you, the reader, but also for myself. I enjoy puzzle games of all types, and if you have been paying attention to me at all you know I am already a huge fan of developer 10tons Ltd., and most recently, a couple of their puzzlers, namely Tennis in the Face and Baseball Riot have been on my mind a lot. Phenomenal games, and you should definitely check them out on their various devices as soon as you can. So when I heard they were delivering a new puzzle game for consoles I was immediately interested. Then I saw the name and got confused.
I had never heard of Azkend 2: The World Beneath up until very recently. There’s so many games being announced or releasing every week that it’s really tough to be well versed in games you’re super passionate about, let alone keep up with everything coming out. Even when it’s your “job” to do so. It sucks, but it’s almost impossible to be on top of it all. So when I saw 10tons talking about this having not even heard of it, let alone the original game, I was bummed. How did I miss the first go ’round? Well, I did, but I’m glad I didn’t let this one pass me by this time. Maybe it has to do with being on a crowded iOS app store for years? Who knows, and as of now, I don’t really care, because I can play it on a system I am most comfortable with.
When first starting up Azkend 2, we’re made aware of who composed the music for the game, a regular for this developer, and man named Jonathan Greer. I bring this up first because it’s one of the first things you see (and subsequently hear), and duh, I’m a fan of music in games. There are a handful of tracks in the game (maybe around 5 if I remember correctly), but they all have an epic feel to them, and many times I kept thinking to myself that these tracks sound like they could have been in big movie, TV show, or game and they’d fit right in perfectly. I really appreciate that. And since we’re on the topic of sound, I’ll point out the sound effects while playing the game proper are lovely. I don’t know what exactly about them got me so enthralled, but moving around the board and confirming moves threw effects at me that hit some area of my brain that made me happier. I know, that’s probably really weird, but it isn’t any less true. The sound design in this game is great. And staying on the sound theme…
The game is voice acted during the story mode’s animated cut scenes, and the actress that is present does a really good job, too. There were a couple of lines that didn’t quite hit for me, but overall, I am really pleased with everything we’ve got when it comes to noise in this game.
The main mode in Azkend 2 is the Adventure mode, and in this story mode we’ll tackle over 60 levels of matching tiles in various, uh, variations… From the standard “turn the tiles blue” to smashing bugs, to putting out fires, and more, there’s enough variety to break up the constant cursor moving and tile match-confirming so you don’t get too tired of it.
The story starts off with you traveling from Liverpool to New York in 1896 on a ship called the Celestia. From there, a huge storm knocks you out and you wake up in a beautiful, yet curious place and you must find your way back to your ship and your true destination. Once you wake up, traversing the areas require you to acquire artifacts and that’s where each level comes in to play.
Each chapter has you looking for a specific item that is needed to progress the story, and once you make it through a level, a piece of that artifact is gained once it appears on the board and you’re able to bring it to the bottom to secure for yourself. At the end of the chapter, with all the pieces found, you move on, but also gain that item as a power up going forward. Binoculars, a hammer, an amulet, design documents, and dynamite are some of the active and passive powers you’ll gain, just to name a handful. Matching similar tiles 3 or more is the goal, so you can turn the entire board blue. That’s the ultimate goal to allow the item to appear. You’ll be racing the clock trying to match as best you can, and using these powers will be supremely helpful to your cause. Throughout the 17 Chapter journey, you’ll be really glad you have them.
After each chapter, before moving on to the next artifact you need to find, we get a story scene, but that scene also turns into a game itself. As seen above, you have a timer and you need to match the snippet of the scene shown in the top right corner for as many indentations are shown. These can sometimes be a bit difficult, not only because the image isn’t always right side up, but also because you have to balance the same-y looking snippets that bleed together with the clock. And if you guess wrong enough times, the clock speeds up, so you want to make sure you’re guessing properly and not just spamming the button on an area that may or may not make sense. The good thing about this mini-game is that it isn’t required to beat, and will add a bonus if you can. Otherwise, you just move on. A nice touch.
While traveling throughout the land on your way back to civilization, those power ups mentioned will be both a blessing and a curse. A blessing, because you definitely need them to progress, but a curse because, if you’re like me, you’ll find one you like and stick with it, even if it isn’t working and helping you to progress. Don’t be stubborn like I was. Mix powers up. This game is really difficult, even if a good combo has been found, so handicapping yourself just makes it that much more difficult, because, this game is plenty frustrating on its own without any help from you.
And those frustrating things? Well, for starters, the control scheme isn’t a home run. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t an abomination, either, it just doesn’t work as well as it would on a touch screen device. There’s really nothing a dev can do in a situation like this (at least I don’t think so). What we have works, but it isn’t perfect. You can cancel out of a move with the press of a button, but it doesn’t always mean an end to a mess up. The cursor speed can be changed, but I couldn’t find a setting that felt good enough. Sometimes it was too fast, sometimes it was too slow, and when you’re fighting the clock on each level, that huts you both ways. And moving around the way you have to complete a match can turn into a missed opportunity. Like I said, fighting against the clock is a major theme here, and a major obstacle, so you’ll potentially be moving too fast sometimes to realize that what you thought were 6 tiles being matched, were only 5 because you didn’t sync up the button press smoothly enough. It’s not a game killer, but it is a bummer because it’s going to happen pretty often I’d guess for everyone and not just me.
Another frustration is the bug levels. I actually quite like the mechanic for this variation. You have bugs making their way to the top of the board and you need to match tiles next to them to lower their hit points. Simple and fun. The way they move, however, is frustrating. I could never figure out their patterns. Meaning sometimes some of them would sit around and just wait to get wailed on while other times they’d be speeding up what feels like the whole time. I’m exaggerating, but, not completely. Again, I actually do enjoy these levels, I just wish they were a bit more forgiving. Unless I just suck, which, in all honesty, is a possibility. /sadface
The game overall is pretty frustrating. The problems listed above combined with the obvious (and expected/appreciated) “the further you get, the harder it becomes” puzzle game trope, you’ll find yourself getting angry; possibly often. Take a breather. It will help. This game can go from relaxing to stressful really quickly, and sometimes, both simultaniously.
The other modes included are a nice detour off the main path. One hinges on the completion of Adventure mode to get the most from it, and the other is a time honored tradition (no pun intended – seriously). The Time Challenge has you competing against the clock to not only get the highest score, but also see how many multipliers you can tack on to achieve said score. All this while trying to set leader board high scores. The one thing I didn’t like was when you made the board, you were listed as “Player” and not either your Gamertag or a name of your choosing. A missed opportunity.
Medals Challenge sees you playing the levels of the Adventure mode again, but this time, trying to beat them in half the time to earn the medal. In this case, the medal is the item and once you tun the board, you must bring the medal down to the bottom, like normal. This mode can get just as tough as the main game, though it also feels a bit more forgiving. It’s a weird thing, and I don’t know how to explain it. Maybe I was just projecting that.
If you’re in this game for the Achievements/Trophies, I have some bad news for you, friend. Azkend 2 is not in the business of giving out a freebie completion. You will work for that. Work hard. Some of the requirements are pretty difficult (a theme I’m sure you noticed), and I don’t know of anyone who has completed this game 100% yet. Not saying it hasn’t been done, but it’s not a big number either way. I do like the in-game checklist that you can view through in the menu. That’s another nice touch.
Even with the frustrating aspects of this game, 10tons has done a great job bringing a traditionally mobile title to home consoles. And, with no micro-transactions to be found anywhere, you can feel safe knowing you have the whole game should you pony up the dough. You can find plenty of fun in Azkend 2: The World Beneath, especially if you already enjoy the casual game play these style of games bring to the table. If you don’t mind a challenge, and you’re looking for a wind down game, this is one you should really look into.
Azkend 2: The World Beneath is out now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita for $7.99 (with a 10% discount for Gold and Plus members until May 13, 16), and on iOS for $5.99, Android for $4.99, and Windows Phone for $4.49. You can also find it on other devices. A code was provided by 10tons for the purpose of this review.