Azkend 2: The World Beneath is the sequel to a highly regarded match three puzzler Azkend. I’m not a huge connoisseur of match 3 games, but I have played a few: I was hooked on Bejeweled, loved Puzzle Quest, and enjoyed this game’s rather similar cousin Jewel Quest. While Azkend 2 is quite obviously a top tier puzzler, something is just a little off; as if the game could have used a little more time to cook.
The storyline covers a nameless adventurer after her ship is sucked beneath the waves during a storm and she awakes in a mysterious jungle hidden beneath the sea. To make it to the surface again she must match a whole lot of starfish, seashells, crustaceans and, for some reason, dinosaur bones.
Azkend 2 Gameplay
The game is the type of match 3 where you don’t rotate anything, you draw a line through 3 or more matching pieces to remove them. The mechanics of this are well done. If you make a match of 5 or more icons you charge a tesla coil. Charge 5 of these coils and they will “attack” 5 spaces on the playfield to help you attain your goal, which may be eliminating all of a certain type of piece, eliminating some bugs by zapping the pieces around them, or turning all the tiles a certain color. Linking a lot of pieces results in an immediate attack which is pretty cool.
Variety is the spice of life they say, and there is a lot of variety here. You have an inventory that stores both active and passive objects that can help you complete levels. These include hints, TNT blocks that explode, and the ability to eliminate blocks that cannot be matched. This adds depth to the game, and being mindful of what inventory objects you have enabled is the key to completing some of the harder levels.
Between stages is a sort of picture search mini-game where you get rewarded for locating a specific area of a large image from a zoomed in section. It’s an object search without the objects if you will. Whilst being picturesque, these sections seem unnecessarily thrown in and a little cheap.
Difficulty in Azkend 2 is wonky, and sometimes winning amounts to dumb luck. One level in particular required you to eliminate some shells at the bottom of the screen to complete the map. But bar the use of a craftily placed TNT, or the lucky strike of a binocular zap, there was no way they were moving, no matter how clever you were. Many of the smaller, harder levels end up being almost completely luck-based. Your best bet is to restart the level over and over until you get a favourable combination of objects to pass the stage. What seem like minor annoyances take away from what should be about problem solving, rather than the luck of the draw.
The graphics are very well drawn, especially the backgrounds which contain a small amount of animation; enough to add life to the game but not so much that it is distracting. The foreground graphics and movie-quality adventure music are of equal high standard, giving the game a professional feel.
Azkend 2: The World Beneath is a really good game if you can put up with the somewhat uneven difficulty and the filler between-round searching game. There is a good amount of content here and the story is enjoyable. If you aren’t burned out on the whole match-3 genre this game is well worth a play-through.
Publisher: 10tons Ltd
Description: Match-3 in an Underwater World
Pros: Great artwork, excellent sound, varied gameplay.
Cons: Levels rely on a degree of luck, it’s still yet another puzzle game.