Azkend 2: The World Beneath (PS Vita) Review

By Nikola Suprak 18.05.2016

Review for Azkend 2: The World Beneath on PS Vita

There hasn't been much evolution to the match-three genre over the years, most likely because there aren't a significant number of ways you can play around with the basic mechanics before it becomes something else entirely. While these games are all basically the same general idea with different window dressing on top of them, they have still found a huge resurgence of late among casual gamers, mobile gamers, and that one aunt on Facebook that hasn't figured out that no one else wants to play Candy Crush Saga so please stop sending out invitations every ten minutes. Azkend 2: The World Beneath, developed by the folks over at 10tons Ltd., was one of the games that rode in on that wave of popularity around 2012 for iOS. Now, the title has made its way to some more traditional platforms, including the PS4, Xbox One, and PS Vita. Whether or not the trip was worth it, however, is open to some debate.

Most of match-three puzzle games don't really have much of a story other than "...and then those blocks disappeared, and then those blocks disappeared, and then those blocks disappeared..." written over and over again as long as the game lasts. Azkend 2 tries to make things a bit more interesting by tacking on a plot to all the block-matching. A relaxing seafaring trip gets decidedly less relaxing when a huge storm pulls the ship under, and suddenly the heroine finds herself in hidden caverns with structures built by some ancient civilization. Of course, every step along the way requires her to solve some puzzles, and doing so will unlock a few more lines before the blocks show up again and require some attention. The plot is entirely forgettable and feels like the kind of adventure that would be featured in a children's book. It wasn't a bad idea to try and build an actual quest around this, but so little time was spent fleshing out the story that it might have been better to just omit it entirely.

When it's time to actually dive into the game itself, the gameplay is pretty much what has come to be expected from the genre, albeit with a handful of twists. Each level has a different-shaped board with various icons filling up the spaces from top to bottom. If there are three directly adjacent to each other, they can be removed via the touch screen. If more than three are touching, they can all be removed, which will lead to longer chains and other bonuses that help along the way. The touch screen mechanics work well here, making removing matches easy and leading to a quick-paced, enjoyable experience. It really is the same basic formula that these games have been utilizing for the past decade or so now, but it does things competently enough, and the basic mechanics here are a fine enough way to kill some free time.

Screenshot for Azkend 2: The World Beneath on PS Vita

There are a couple of clever twists along the way so that things don't become too monotonous too quickly. Levels are almost always divided into two parts: the initial match-three segment, where some sort of specific goal needs to be accomplished, and then a second portion where whatever thing that was needed materializes on the board and needs to be moved to the bottom by removing tiles beneath it. Each story level has some item that needs to be built to get to the next area, with three or four connected levels per area. They're all basically the same, although new tricks are opened up as you progress. The specific goal that needs to be accomplished in each level varies, with some core puzzles recycled. There will be fires on the board that need to be put out by matching tiles next to them, bugs scurrying up to the top that can only be hurt by matching next to them, and flower petals that need to be gathered by matching the flower icons before they all wilt. There are even levels where the board doesn't refill and the goal is to match everything so nothing remains at the end. There is some decent variety here, and the way the game builds up to keep things fresh is fairly interesting.

Beyond the different goals, there are also a fair amount of power-ups that can be unlocked. The heroine can equip one active and one passive power-up per level, and they can be swapped up whenever feels best. The active power-ups show up as tiles that can be matched in the levels and offer some benefit. The clock can be frozen, hammers can be used to clear out big chunks, and horizontal and vertical columns can be cleared. Passive benefits can add to a level's time limit or put in a greater percentage of the active power-ups. Additionally, the tesla coil at the top of the screen can provide huge benefits if used correctly. If it is filled, it will randomly strike throughout the board, and it can be filled either by completing long chains or a smaller sequence of multiple moves that work towards the level's specific objective. Between the power-ups, varying objectives, and tesla coil, there is actually a fair amount of good ideas to add some meat to the simple core gameplay.

Screenshot for Azkend 2: The World Beneath on PS Vita

Unfortunately though, even with all the additional stuff, there isn't enough here to really justify the length. The varying objectives are nice, but the vast majority of them fit into the same category. Most of these require matches to be made on adjacent squares, and it doesn't matter if they're to put out fires or squish bugs, as the same basic idea is at play here. The action also feels a bit slower than other similar titles, and the game is missing the big, fun, board-clearing chains that can be found in the best match-three titles. Part of this might come from some of the boards feeling more cramped, but the random layouts certainly don't help things. At times, it feels less like levels were cleared based on actual skill, but more by sheer luck. There were a couple of times where there weren't any moves, the board would reset, and only one or two moves could be performed until the board had to be reset again. Another time gave a board that was half of one tile for some reason, making finishing it somewhat of an accident. The various additions here are nice, but there aren't enough of them and the variety isn't good enough to make up for some deficiencies in the core gameplay. More ideas would definitely have been appreciated, as things get dull here before the halfway point.

Screenshot for Azkend 2: The World Beneath on PS Vita

Beyond that, there are a couple of other minor additions here. In between each of the areas is a minor hidden object scenario where small portions of the scene are shown and need to be matched on the touchscreen. It helps build up the tesla coil in the next puzzle sequences, but the hidden object scene is a complete throwaway. The backgrounds are nice but somewhat simple, so the idea of "hiding" small portions of them and requiring them to be found doesn't fit with them. Beyond the main story, there is a time attack mode which offers some of the fast-paced fun the main game is missing, and a series of medal challenges that are slightly more difficult versions of the levels found in the main game. The package is fine, but the main game isn't enjoyable enough to really warrant going through the couple of extras the game has.

Screenshot for Azkend 2: The World Beneath on PS Vita

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

Even with an occasional twist on the well-established formula for match-three games, Azkend 2 never really comes up with anything to distinguish itself. It feels like a budget iOS title, and maybe that's because that's what it originally was. The things that were added to give this some bulk largely feel like throwaways, with both the story and the brief hidden object minigames failing to deliver anything remotely worthwhile. As far as the match-three mechanics themselves, there are certainly worse games out there, and this might be a decent way for a fan of the genre to spend the weekend. At the same time though, there are certainly far better ones out there, and this isn't the kind of thing anyone really needs to run out and play. Entirely functional and relatively pleasant, Azkend 2 is the kind of game to play once and then forget about forever.

Developer

10tons Ltd

Publisher

10tons Ltd

Genre

Puzzle

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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