Match 3 puzzle games are a regular port of call for puzzle fans, and while many seem to follow the popularity of Bejewelled few try to freshen things up which often leaves the games feeling stale and repetitive.
But with a drag-over selection, and a deep engrossing story, could Azkend 2 : The world beneath rejuvenate the genre.
Travelling from Liverpool to New York your trusty ship is embraced by a maelstrom and pulled under, the tragedy knocks you unconscious but you awake in a world unknown to man with the sole quest of escaping.
As you progress through the stages you’ll need to find parts of an item which will help you on your journey, one such item is a set of explosives. You complete a quick objective such as changing the colour of the spaces by making a match over them, completing the objective brings an item piece onto the board and continued matches will knock the item off the bottom of the board and reward you.
Each stage contains a number of levels (usually about 4) witch each rewarding section pieced together your explosive is complete and you can blow away some rocks to progress. Azkend then cleverly uses some of these items as a power-up for future levels, so matching numerous explosives will cause a blast that will clear surrounding spaces too.
In line with the various stages you’ll soon end up with a variety of power-ups which fall into two categories, one which you trigger by matching icons, and the second whihc is a passive skill to help you further. You can select one of each and it’s often worth experimenting because some power-ups will prove far more useful than others on various levels.
After mastering the usefulness of each power-up you’ll find yourself progressing nicely, but that’s not to say Azkend 2 is an easy game, some stages will keep you enticed by ramping up the difficulty just enough to keep it challenging, and the full-screen cut-scenes do a good job of portraying the story.
Sadly the ‘professional voice-acting’ isn’t quite what it could be, and it leaves a very B-movie feel to proceedings, but it’s still considerably better to mast games in the genre.
The same can be said for the story as a whole, it feels a little flat at times, but it does it’s job and there’s just enough to keep you interested.
Another aspect of the game is the ‘Hidden item’ sections which sit between stages, these show a small circle of landscape which you need to locate in the scene and click on, initially this is pretty simple, but soon enough tougher scenes and rotated excerpts make things more challenging.
Across the 17 stages, there’s plenty of times you’ll breeze through a level, and more than enough where you’ll have to retry or experiment with various power-ups, this adds valuable longevity and the developers have to be praised for producing a system that rewards experimentation with the power-ups that are filtered through to the player throughout the duration of the story.
Graphically things could be better, some of the icon images are a little bland and confusing, but they’re more details than the usual ‘gem’ and colours make them easy to spot and differentiate. It’s tough to be too critical about Azkend 2 because it’s an impressive little puzzler for when you’re looking for something more relaxing, however it’s worth noting controls can be a little fiddly at times, especially when your trying to make a match of 20-30 icons, and it keeps selecting the wrong one, meaning you have to trace back and try again, which proves annoying especially when your on a level with a more strict timer.