Matching games are a genre that has stood the test of time over almost every console generation. From Columns to Bejeweled, matching games seem to keep evolving with the times. The latest one to hit the market is Azkend 2: The World Beneath, by 10tons, and it brings matching gameplay and unique items together for one refreshing experience. Different is good, but does Azkend 2 do enough to separate itself in the crowded market?
When I started Azkend 2 I was pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of a story mode. Fully voiced artistic scenes tell of a woman on a voyage from Liverpool to New York when she was pulled underwater by a powerful whirlpool. When you emerge from the wreckage you find yourself in an area that is so overgrown with vegetation that it looks like no person has ever been there before. As you play more you find yourself in different environments. You can only depend on yourself to make it back to civilization. I will give 10tons credit for the beautiful artwork and pretty decent voice acting, but overall the story was a feature that was just there.
The way you play the game is to match three or more of the same symbols. You use the left analog stick to control a cursor and holding the A button selects the tiles. Creating matches results in different things depending on the level. You may have to clear ice, fog and fire sections, kill scuttling bugs, or simply turn all the regular tiles a blue color; this is all done by creating matches next to these areas. If you create a large enough combo you will charge up your tesla coils, this creates electrical shocks that will zap a few tiles that may not be close to any matches. During the level there is also a timer that will expire if you take too long. The idea is that you very quickly create long matches that not only help you with your objective (clear areas) but utilize your tesla coils to make everything go faster. In some sections you must create a match with at least one new space (not blue) or your tesla coils will lose their charge.
In every level there are four sub levels that require you to find the missing pieces to an item. For example, when your character loses her glasses you must complete four sublevels to collect the four pieces of the glasses. Once the item piece is unlocked it will spawn at the top of the level and you have to make matches below it until it reaches the bottom. Once you piece back together an item it becomes a new active or passive power-up, there are 16 in all. Some examples of powerups I unlocked are dynamite that blows up sections, glasses that will give you hints, binoculars that remove isolated pieces, etc. There is also a compass icon that acts as a wild card, making huge combo chains possible. Choosing the right active and passive powerups adds a lot of strategy, which is necessary to complete the 60 levels in story mode.
That sounds like a lot to take in, but it doesn’t take very long for things to click and to complete levels within minutes. I found the gameplay to be very fun and engaging but sometimes a little stressful. It can be pretty deflating to fail a level right when you’re trying to move the item piece to the bottom of the screen. Despite that I usually retried and had success after a second attempt; as you get better acquainted you will become faster at matching and that solves the majority of the failing issues. The gameplay is very addicting, I found myself playing level after level without getting bored. Azkend 2 does a great job of mixing up the level types to keep things from getting stale.
In addition to the story adventure there are two other modes to play, medal and time. In time mode your goal is to keep raising your multiplier and earn the highest score you can before time runs out. Medal mode is actually more about time which is sort of weird, you are required to finish the level in half the normal time. Completing this objective earns you a gold medal for the section, you can try to earn medals in every level you’ve completed in the story mode. The addition of these two modes is good for extending the replay value of the game. Overall I found there to be a lot of content in this Azkend 2, especially considering it’s priced at below ten dollars.
Graphically the game looks nice when you are creating matches but the real beauty is in the story scenes. Partially animated backgrounds are drawn with great detail and look stunning. There are environment investigation sections in between levels where you have to find certain areas on screen using only a small window for hints. There wasn’t really any reward at all for finding all the areas so I tended to just skip these sections. The music is very enjoyable as well. The sounds range from calming to intense when you’re about to run out of time. Created by composer Jonathan Greer, the music in the game is a definite highlight.
Azkend 2 is a high quality game in nearly all areas a game can be judged. That is even more impressive given the fact that this was previously a mobile game. 10tons found the perfect combination of refreshing match three gameplay, unique powerups, stunning graphics and wonderful music. Sure the story is a little bland and those investigation sections between levels are pointless, but I’m willing to overlook that. You can even try the game for free for crying out loud. There’s no excuse not to give Azkend 2 a try, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised like I did.
+ Matching gameplay is addictive and objectives never get repetitive
+ Lots of content and value for the asking price
+ The music is a joy to listen to
– Environment investigation sections are pointless
– The story is not the most engaging