Azkend 2: The World Beneath is an entry into the match-3 puzzle genre, a genre that is well trodden, especially on mobile. This time, the game makes its way onto the Nintendo Switch and is set apart from its competitors by its quality and high standards. The idea in Azkend 2 is to match at least three symbols with bigger benefits being acquired by matching as many symbols as possible at the same time. The game can be played entirely with the console’s touch screen, which offers a quicker and more intuitive way of controlling the action. In a game where time is of the essence, the length it takes to complete a move can be the difference between winning and losing. Azkend 2 allows for movement horizontally as well as vertically, meaning there are more ways to solve puzzles than usual. With the added freedom presented to the player, the game has more room to add variety and different challenges, which it does in abundance.
The title starts slowly, with the initial chapters introducing the basic mechanics. At the beginning it is relatively easy to hit big multipliers, which in turn charges electric pylons at the top of the screen, which aid you in your endeavours. To begin, they simply help speed things along, but eventually become pivotal to completing stages; they will push items down the board, flip tiles and destroy bugs. The levels are generally broken down into two stages, the first part is matching symbols so all of their respective background tiles are flipped to the same colour. The second part is creating a path for an item to travel down the board from top to bottom. These items are assembled over a full chapter and as both a power-up and story progression. The game incrementally increases the challenge with every chapter, adding ice blocks that freeze over tiles, locks that prevent the flow of new symbols and tiles that need flipping twice to name but a few. As the game increases the level of difficulty, these items become essential and give the player more creativity and power to solve puzzles. They come in two forms, active and passive items. Active items are represented by symbols on the board and give benefits when they are matched, whilst passive items are always working behind the scenes. Only one active and one passive can be used at the same time, but as more items are accumulated, they can be switched out to suit different scenarios and play styles. The compass, for instance, allows for two different symbols to be matched together. This is especially helpful in a tight spot and when used with the game’s horizontal movement can create massive multipliers where they wouldn’t usually be available.
Azkend 2 generally follows a singular formula in its levels but sometimes adds challenging twists to freshen up proceedings. These scenarios usually take away the standard timer and asks you to complete tasks like defeating bugs before they reach the top of the board and putting out a fire before it spreads too far. I found these scenarios to be a welcome addition and kept things fresh so the boredom of constantly completing the same actions never set in. Between each of the 16 chapters there is also a picture puzzle. As you gaze out into a beautiful landscape the game times you to find specific parts of the picture and tap on it. These sections were generally easy but sometimes left me confused. At some points the picture clue was rotated which was hard to solve before I realised it had been. The artwork is of a high quality and gorgeous, but sometimes didn’t lend itself well to this puzzle, for example the glaciers, as it all looks the same. Thankfully these sections are short and act more as a bonus round, giving variety, so they are easier to forgive for their shortcomings. Overall I found the game to be both addictive and challenging but I never felt cheated by it. I always considered the challenge to be fair and fun, making me improve my methods and upping my game, rather than blaming the game or its mechanics for my failures.
Azkend 2: The World Beneath (Reviewed on Nintendo Switch)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
Azkend 2 has a threadbare story that basically gives context for going from one puzzle to the next, and it definitely won’t be the reason anyone picks this game up. The events are narrated by the female protagonist whose voice was more akin to that of a children’s TV presenter. The wonderful artwork fuses well with the game’s musical score, both of which set a suitably mysterious and adventurous tone.