Title: Azkend 2: The World Beneath
Where To Buy: PSN Store, Xbox Store, Steam, Google Play Store, App Store
While there have been a plethora of puzzle-like titles that have filled the PC and mobile spaces, most focus solely on procedurally generated gameplay that makes them approachable. Rather than implementing a story that makes the game memorable or adding interesting gameplay techniques, the vast majority fall to the wayside and are forgotten. Fortunately, Azkend 2: The World Beneath breaks from this formula and gives players something worth remembering.
Azkend 2: The World Beneath is a match-3 puzzle game set inside of a storybook adventure. You play as a sailor aboard the brigantine Celestia traveling between Liverpool and New York in the late 19th century. The game begins with your ship being berated by heavy rainfall before falling into a whirlpool and stranding the player in a strange world beneath the sea. From here, it’s the player’s job to craft the necessary materials to traverse this dangerous and magnificent landscape and try to make it back to the surface.
The story is told through the narration of your female protagonist over active artistic landscapes. Each of these set pieces requires the player to craft a new tool in order to advance, each of which adds a new element to the gameplay. While most if not all games need a suspension of disbelief in order for the story to make some sense, it seemed strange to me that your character has the ability to craft everything from binoculars to submarine parts later in the game. While certain things I could understand, such as a working raft, it seems unlikely that your character would know how to assemble and use depth charges at a whim.
Normally, the Bejeweled style gameplay of match-3 puzzlers tends to be limited and only gets harder by limiting moves or time. This was not the case with Azkend 2. The gameplay starts simply and basically with a relatively small and easy level design with plenty of opportunities to succeed and not much to get in the way. Quickly, though, the difficulty curve ramps up and continues to add new challenges to keep the player on their feet as they race against the clock to clear obstacles and obtain the missing pieces of their construction.
While most of them were fairly easy to figure out, such as locks blocking half the level, fire that threatens to consume schematics, ice that freezes pieces, and steel pieces that require twice as many matches to clear them, the one that challenged me the most were the bugs. Each bug requires a certain number of adjacent matches in order to eliminate and easily became the most frustrating part of the game. I genuinely can’t remember how many times I almost beat a level only to have one of those bugs narrowly making it to the top just before I squashed it, causing me to restart the whole sequence again.
Fortunately, the game gives you complete control over how you want to beat stages. At no point in time does the game try to stop the player from using a specific active or passive power-up, but rather hints to you at most load screens that you should mess around and try new techniques. This alone adds some flavor and changes up how difficult the stages are, as well as helps the player play off their strengths and alleviate their weaknesses.
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the mix of the challenges and story that Azkend 2 manages to deliver. It was never so difficult I wanted to stop playing, and while the story told isn’t incredibly intimate or personal, I felt intrigued to find out where I would end up as I progressed. The story is incredibly short, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it made it a tight experience. That being said, it left me wanting more, especially as it ends with a sort of cliffhanger with many questions unanswered. I’m fully expecting more additions to the series and am looking forward to the continuation of this adventure.
When you finish the story, the game has two separate activities for you to explore: a sort of new game + mode that lets you replay the story with all of the powerups unlocked in the first playthrough, or a set of challenge stages based around each set piece from the story. These extra stages change the level layouts and push the player to adapt in order to conquer.
As someone who tends to steer clear of puzzle games (as I find them too repetitive and pointless), I admire Azkend 2: The World Beneath for integrating an interesting storybook adventure into their game. It felt great to finish the more challenging stages and getting more clues into what was happening in the world they created. It’s a game worth picking up, and I look forward to finding out more of the tale they’ve created.
- Gameplay: Easy to pick up, difficult to master
- Graphics: Very pretty art stills
- Sound: Simple, typical soundtrack
- Presentation: Interesting story, personalized gameplay, difficult but enjoyable
- Personalized Playstyle
- Beautiful Art Style
- Procedural-Generation Can Become Tedious
- Requires Heavy Suspension of Disbelief
- Fairly Short Story, Feels Unfinished