If you’re a puzzle fan with a taste for adventure, then Azkend 2 The World Beneath might the game for you. It combines a hexagonal take on the Columns genre and wraps it up in an enthralling fantasy adventure. You'll have to think carefully and plan ahead, all against the clock. Repeated levels of the same puzzle could get boring quickly, but mini games and an on-going storyline will keep you coming back for more.
Azkend 2 - The World Beneath.
The first thing that hits you about Azkend 2 is the stunning soundtrack. Clearly, a lot of time and care has gone into the production of its orchestral arrangement. It's by Jonathan Geer – but I couldn't help think back to some of Murray Gold's work on Doctor Who, which is a big compliment.
Music by Jonathan Geer.
The primary component of the game is very much like Columns. There are a range of tokens which populate the hexagonal board. If three or more are adjacent, you can remove them by drawing your finger over them; the more you get in an uninterrupted line, the better. However, the object of the game isn't to clear the board, which is just as well given that more and more tokens come in from the top of the screen! As you progress through the game, you'll be awarded power-ups that let you clear even more tokens at a time. There are two types of power-up, active and passive; as you build up your inventory, you can select which of each will be in force during the next level. Active power-ups include dynamite, which blasts all surrounding tokens away, and hammers which knock out specific targets for the current level. Passive power-ups include increases in time limit or power-up frequency.
The basic premise of the game is to link tokens.
While this type of puzzle is fun and engaging, having level after level of it could become quite tiresome after a while. What sells it though is the game's storyline, which is augmented by the wonderful music. The main character narrates the story of her experiences between levels. Initially she's a passenger on a ship caught in a storm, but she soon finds herself in a world of monumental sights after the ship is pulled into a massive whirlpool.
Some of the artwork early on in the game.
During each part of the storyline, the main character (who is nameless) requires a piece of equipment to complete some task to move into the next area – which is the motivation for playing each round of the game. After you achieve the primary objective, a section of the equipment appears, and you have to clear a path through the tokens for it to fall off the bottom of the board –presumably into her hands.
Gathering your equpiment.
The basic objective for each level is to turn all hexes blue by matching tokens, and for each hex turned, you charge up one of five Tesla coils. Once all five are charged, bolts will arc out, clearing a few extra tokens for you. If you manage to get a long line of tokens in one go, spontaneous ball lighting is emitted, clearing even more tokens.
This electrical theme is complemented by a mini game at the beginning of each chapter. There is rather sumptuous artwork depicting the scenes that our heroine finds herself in. The mini game shows you a circular copy of small sections, that have been randomly rotated and you have to tap on the matching part of the scenery. The more you get right, the more Tesla coils will be charged up before you start to play the main game again.
Occasionally there are puzzle mini-games which do follow the Columns formula much more closely, in which you are required to simply clear the board. However, because of the way that tokens tumble down as those below are removed from the board, you fail if the last few tokens end up spaced apart, preventing you from matching them.
In addition to turning hexes and recovering segments of equipment, extra challenges are added to the main game board that fit in with the current state of the storyline. These include killing bugs and putting out fires (etc.) by matching up adjacent tokens. The more you match at once, the harder the 'enemies' are hit.
One of the extra challenges - in this case, collecting flowers.
All of these twists and deviations from the basic game formula, helped along by the story and music, make this game amazingly addictive. I honestly had trouble putting the game down to write the review. Therefore, Azkend 2: The World Beneath gets my "Highly Recommended" verdict.
You can find Azkend 2 in the Nokia Store for £3.00 – worth every penny.
David Gilson, 12th April 2012.