STAFF REVIEW of Azkend 2: The World Beneath (Xbox One)

Saturday, June 4, 2016.
by John Elliott

Azkend 2: The World Beneath Box art Azkend 2: The World Beneath gives the first impression of a neat puzzle title which draws from great puzzlers like Hexic and Bejeweled. Addicting games in their own rights which have garnered quite a loyal following, but in terms of this review, the question is how does Azkend 2 hold up when compared to these big hitters in the puzzle genre?

First off it should be noted that I have never played the original title, but from doing a bit of research online, I was able to figure out that the sequel has been built upon the original game with a lot more story and some new gameplay mechanics to mix it up a bit. If you're interested in playing the original Azkend, there are free downloadable versions on many online retail stores. Azkend and Azkend 2 are both mobile games, with the sequel now on Xbox One.

The core gameplay mechanics are simple in Azkend 2. You take the pointer and select a puzzle piece, and while holding the pointer in place, you connect identical pieces together to create a section of the puzzle board to clear off the table. What's different from this puzzler when compared to something like Bejeweled, is that the pieces don't have to be in a straight line, so feel free to make a horizontal, diagonal, or vertical lines should you desire. In Azkend 2 you make connections in any way you like as long as it's a continuous and doesn't fall back on itself. Throw some power ups to help clear out levels into the mix and you got yourself a somewhat unique puzzler.

The story mode starts you off on what one would assume is a pirate ship on the ocean and you come across a dangerous whirlpool which just happens to be a portal to another world for you to explore. As you explore each of these areas, power ups are unlocked which will perform various actions like randomly clearing icons, area explosions, or acting as a wild card to link together connections to get them even bigger. The story is one of exploration and discovering new and interesting places, but to be honest, the game would have been better off focusing on adding more levels for gamers to play through. One of my pet peeves is when a story is thrown in just for the sake of being there when the game mechanics can hold up the game on its own.

Each area has four puzzles to solve, and as you conquer each area you are presented with a segment of the story and a mini game that has you finding a spot on a picture with a view finder. Aside from a brief change in the gameplay, this portion of the game had no added value and if I wanted to play a 'find-the-object' type game I could have easily picked up a Where's Waldo book. Where's Waldo would have been infinitely more challenging than what was included in this game.

The rest of the title is repeating this process over and over again, but when a game repeats itself this much and the levels are completed so quickly, it should never ever have come to console because this is a mobile game; pure and simple. To make matters worse, the music throughout the game is just as repetitive and is typical puzzle game fare. Last but not least, you know that boring story that didn't need to be included in the game? well, it came with an annoying narrative voice that explains their astonishment of finding new and and intriguing areas. This is the worst voice acting I have heard in a game in the past few years.

Visually, the game isn't that much of a looker, with simple graphics that have become synonymous with mobile puzzle games, as that's how it has been translated to the console version. There hasn't been a whole lot of extra work put into the presentation except smoothing it out for bigger screens.

The core puzzle gameplay of Azkend 2: The World Beneath is a lot of fun, but it really seems that it is meant for a tablet or cellular phone, not the Xbox One. I could easily see people, including myself, playing it while waiting for a bus, sitting on said bus, or while in a store standing in a line-up getting ready to make a purchase. When it's on a console like the Xbox One however, and you are hunkering down to play games for a few hours, or heck, even 20 minutes before heading to work, this game will get repetitive quickly. I definitely suggest you save your money and get this title on one of your mobile devices to get the best bang for your buck and truly experience this game as it should be played. If you must have a new puzzle game on your Xbox One, this title may just may suffice.

Overall: 6.2 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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