I’m not sure I’d consider myself a big puzzle gamer. Oh sure, I played Tetris on the original NES and owned it in various forms over the years. I suppose that I’ve also played plenty of addictive but not particularly deep ‘puzzle-like’ games on the Atari 2600. But I feel like my gaming renaissance came with Puzzle Quest on the Nintendo DS around two years ago. With the addition of story to a well presented puzzle game, I was in gaming nirvana. I’ve been searching for a follow up, and almost found it in Aurora Feint, but to put it in baseball terms, that game was like a triple. Azkend is a homerun.
The story isn’t as deep as Puzzle Quest, so lets get that out of the way right up front. You are not trying to defeat other monsters in puzzle battles, and you are not choosing quests and different paths for your character. That said, there are some similarities between these two games. There is a plot to the game: you appear to be on a quest to recover your memories of an object you found on a previous expedition to Asia. Between each level, you will make progress on a map screen, slowly working your way through the adventure to the ‘end’ of the game. I say ‘end’ because like any good puzzle game, Azkend has fantastic gameplay, giving you plenty of incentive to continue to play, and that’s without all the extras you can try to earn as well.
But back to the gameplay. At each stop along the map, you’ll play the basic puzzle game of Azkend. It takes the form of small hexagons arranged into various patterns on your screen. You touch the picture on one hexagon, highlighting it, and then drag your finger from that to any adjacent hex, connecting three or more of the same symbols together. When you lift your finger from the screen, those symbols are cleared, and the ones above shift downwards. Your goal in each level is to highlight all the hexagons, whereupon a talisman piece will appear at the top of one column. You must then clear all the hexes beneath that talisman piece to clear it from the board. And you must do all of that within a certain time limit.
Those talismans come in handy because once you’ve gathered together all the pieces, you can use the talisman in future puzzles. They’ll appear as symbols on the puzzle screen, and when you connect four or more of them together, they’ll activate different powers which will help you clear the board faster (highlighting random hexes, clearing columns of symbols, etc.). And you’ll need that help, because as you progress, there are challenges added to keep you from completing the level in the allotted time: frozen squares that can only be highlighted after an adjoining square has been cleared, goo covered squares that will expand and keep you from clearing them, locked squares, and more. Every once in a while along the map you’ll be given a beautifully rendered picture whose pieces you must quickly identify in order to gain additional time in the upcoming puzzles. This is of course, critical to your continued success.
There are eight talismans to collect, all of which you must collect to advance in the story adventure. But beyond that, you can then access each of these talismans in the survival challenge mode, where the goal is to collect 10 stars before your timer runs out. Each star is placed on the board as you clear the tiles just like you would in the regular game, so you need to do it ten times before getting all ten stars. Each star will gain you some time back on the clock, but there’s an anxious ‘beat the clock’ angle that’s well presented here. And each talisman has it’s own survival challenge, so you can play levels over and over to try and gain more stars than you did the last time.
Plus, you can revisit any of the game boards, to try and beat your prior time. When you have more than 50% of your time remaining after completing a board, will gain you a star for that level. There are also trophies and awards – more incentive to keep playing the game even after you’ve completed the adventure story. Some of these are easy to get while others are very difficult. For a time, I wasn’t even sure if one of them was possible (a chain of 24 or more tiles) but then I realized the ‘wild-card’ symbol can actually be used to link together a chain of one type of symbol to another.
Maybe that would be my only complaint. The instructions are a little vague and light on substance. But Azkend is so easy to play, you won’t really need to be spoon fed how to play it, you’ll just play the game and know. It’s presentation is gorgeous, the gameplay is top notch; frankly I love Azkend so much I could Kiss It.
|Price:||$4.99||App Size:||8.9 mb|