Azkend 2: The World Beneath
Developer: 10tons (Sparkle Unleashed, Crimsonland, the upcoming cyberpunk shooter Neon Chrome)
Available on: Xbox One (reviewed), PS4, PlayStation Vita (reviewed)
This is going to make me sound like a crotchety old man, but I don’t own a good cell phone and rarely use my Kindle for anything other than a web browser or e-reader. That being said, mobile games are foreign territory. Clearly I know what they are, and I know my mom is obsessed with them, but I’ve just never had an interest in match-threes or card games. With a PlayStation Vita and a 3DS, why bother?
I’ve kept in touch with the fine folks at developer 10tons over the last year or so, having reviewed Sparkle Unleashed and Crimsonland for them, and when they approached me about checking out their fantasy matching game Azkend 2: The World Beneath, I wasn’t quite sure I’d be in to it.
Azkend 2 is a mobile game that’s been refined and ported over to the Xbox One, PS4, and PlayStation Vita. While that’s not much of a selling point, the term “mobile game” shouldn’t discourage you from playing something enjoyable. It’s not a shoddy cash-grab. There’s no microtransactions. It’s just a game that happened to originate on a mobile device.
You’ll need to match three or more tiles by tracing them with your finger on the Vita’s touch screen, or the old fashioned way via Xbox One and PS4 controller.
If you’re familiar with mobile games, the point of Azkend is to match three or more similar tiles in order to complete a variety of objectives. For instance, frozen or locked blocks require you to match adjacent tiles in order to remove their hindrances, while some puzzles have you killing bugs or putting out fires in similar fashion.
It’s a formula that’s been used time and time again by many a developer. There’s no new ground to be broken here, and it’s that homogeneous design that’s kept me from playing more of these types of games. Every match three I see on a mobile device looks exactly the same, aside from a few different candy shapes or how they focus on taking money out of our wallets. At first glance Azkend 2 is just another mobile experience, and while it may share similar themes, there’s more here than meets the eye.
There’s a fully voice-acted story about a shipwreck that occurs between Liverpool and New York, in which your character gets sucked in to a cataclysmic maelstrom and ends up in a mysterious world. As she explores forests, ruins, and underground magma caves in search of a way back home, you’ll solve the aforementioned match three tile puzzles in order to unlock power-ups that play in to the story — collecting pieces to build binoculars or a compass, for instance. I also found the accompanying soundtrack by musician Jonathan Greer to be particularly imaginative, which is a term I never thought I’d use when describing a match three game.
Each chapter is separated by gorgeous hand-drawn backdrops and hidden object mini-games.
There’s nearly 20 power-ups to choose from, like wild-card tiles and increased time limits, which are frequently awarded throughout the game’s 60 levels. It was a nice incentive, knowing I could replay older levels with new power-ups in an attempt to unlock Trophies or Achievements, but I mainly stuck with a few favorites throughout my play time.
With Azkend 2 transitioning from the mobile realm, the Vita version is easily the most enjoyable, thanks to its touch screen. Rather than using a controller to select tiles, you can simply trace your fingertip along the screen for a much more responsive and amusing experience. Azkend isn’t overly obtuse on the Xbox One or PS4, but I didn’t personally care for the analog controls in comparison to the Vita’s touch screen. There’s no contest between sliding my fingertip along the screen and holding A or X while maneuvering a cursor on the TV. To make up for the less intuitive controls, those two versions have more forgiving time limits during each of the game’s puzzles.
While Azkend 2: The World Beneath falls victim to many visually indistinguishable designs at times, it displayed enough depth that allowed it to stand on its own. The more I played with it, the more I said to myself “okay, yes, I’m actually having fun,” as if the terms “fun” and “mobile game” couldn’t co-exist in the same sentence. It wasn’t the best mindset to have, but I’m glad I gave it a chance. It began as my go-to game during homework breaks, before bed, or (TMI) trips to the bathroom for a twosie, but it eventually weaseled its way in to my regular gaming sessions. 10tons excels at crafting fun, accessible games that respect their player’s time, and Azkend 2: The World Beneath is no exception. But given the choice, I’d recommend the Vita version above all else. I’m not certain how long I’d stick with the game using a standard controller.
*So where’s the final score? There isn’t one. I did spend a lot of time conveying my opinion in the above text, and I hope that’s worth more to you than some arbitrary number or a sequence of shaded-in star shapes. Basically, I’m not a fan of scores so I no longer use them. Read the review and judge for yourself if it’s worth playing.
Full disclosure: This review was done using a Playstation Vita and Xbox One copy of Azkend 2: The World Beneath provided by the game’s developer, 10tons. I pride myself on providing unbiased reviews to fellow consumers and constructive feedback to hard working developers. Whether or not I pay for the game is completely irrelevant.