Azkend 2: The World Beneath is nicely summed up as ok. It does what it does competently but no more. The premise is simple, you’re given a game board with various different symbols on, all you have to do is connect 3 or more of the same symbol to clear it from the game board. Each level has different objectives for you to complete but it all builds upon this base concept. The game features two modes: adventure mode and challenge mode. Adventure mode is where you will be spending the bulk of your time, the game has a nice story which was actually a lot more interesting than expected for a game of this type. Each chapter will have you completing several levels in order to assemble an object and progress to the next chapter.
Each chapter only has three to four levels so you’re always making noticeable progress. Between each chapter there’s a mini game to complete, which if you do well can help with the next set of levels. The mini game is simple enough, you’re given a large background and you have to find set locations based on a small snippet of an image. These start easy but quickly become frustrating distractions as the small clues given get ridiculously vague later in the game. Each chapter you complete also earns you a new power-up. These come in two forms, passive and active. Passive will grant you a bonus throughout the level such as making 15% more power-ups appear during a level. Active power-ups, however, will appear as symbols on the game board that are activated when matched. You can only have one active and one passive power-up at a time though you are free to switch which ones you have equipped between levels. However, I never felt the need to switch powers which suggests that while all power-ups are viable that the game never really takes advantage of the unique traits of each power and gets you to strategize which powers to take into each level.
Each level has its own objective that needs completing and as the game goes on more new objectives are introduced. The game starts simple by only asking you to clear fog by making matches next to it on the board, however objectives become tougher later when you need to extinguish an ever growing fire by matching around it or stopping bugs from reaching the top of the game board. These new objectives help keep the game from getting too stale, just as you think you have the hang of it a new game mode keeps you on your toes. Some of the game modes are better than others however, stopping those bugs reaching the top? Complete pain in the ass that feels like it relies more on luck than any real skill. The puzzle levels though are good fun and are a nice change of pace to the rest of the game.
On the whole Azkend 2 is competent at the match 3 formula and the little variations are welcome, but even this game struggles at times. As per any match 3 game, sometimes your success in a level is as much dependant on luck as your own skill which can be very frustrating. To add to this the board layout is hex based and so when pieces are matched and start to fall it’s hard to judge where pieces will finally land, again it feels more like luck than skill.
Challenge mode is a small diversion for after adventure mode or fancy a change of pace. Challenge mode offers two options, the ability to replay adventure mode missions competing for good times and medals, or a timed score attack mode. It’s a little disappointing choice wise, the score attack mode is fun but other challenge levels built upon the puzzle game type or other game variations would have been nice. As it is there really isn’t much reason to come back to the game after beating adventure mode the first time.
The game does feature some nice artwork in the scenery for each level, though you’ll only get to admire it between levels as the game board covers it all up during the level – which is a shame as it would have been nice to see more of the locales in the game. The symbols you’ll spend so much time matching up are pretty basic icons of objects, there doesn’t seem to be any reasoning for the symbols chosen, a starfish, a dinosaur skull and some purple thing… for example. It’s not an issue but on the smaller screen and larger game boards it can some times be difficult to quickly spot matching symbols when under pressure. Most levels will feature a timer, this is displayed to the player in the top right corner of the screen. As time passes the clock hand will turn and more of the clock will turn red, once its filled up its game over. It does the job though it would have been helpful to have a clearer idea of exactly how long I have left such as a little timer underneath the clock as opposed to guessing if I have 10 seconds or 2 to finish the level. Again its only a minor niggle but could help improve the playing experience.
All in all, Azkend 2: The World Beneath is an ok puzzle game, it doesn’t push the boundaries in any exciting way but it doesn’t do much wrong either so if you like a decent match 3 puzzler then you could do worse than to show some love to Azkend 2 and its interesting albeit brief story.