It feels like we can’t go a week or two without a new 10tons game being released on the Nintendo eShop for Nintendo Switch at the moment. We’ve already practised the art of hitting baseballs at rowdy sports fans, shot coloured orbs at snakes of more orbs and even gone on massive alien killing sprees with an assortment of shotguns and explosives. Next up from the developer is another puzzler called Azkend 2: The World Beneath, and although it may not be one of the cleverest examples of the genre out there, is it still an entertaining one?
Azkend 2: The World Beneath tells the tale of an adventurer travelling to New York on the open sea. Unfortunately, her trip hits a snag when she’s pulled into a maelstrom stranding them in a mysterious new place and with no immediate means of returning back to civilisation. To be honest the game’s story is fairly ho-hum despite its Jules Verne style. That grandiose feeling of amazement and wonder his stories are known far is sadly never replicated here.
The game’s adventure is split into chapters, each consisting of a small number of varying puzzle grids. At its core, the game is a match-three puzzler where here you’re trying to identify and highlight hexagonal panels adjacent to one another that feature the same token on them. These tokens all revolve around nature and include everything from acorns and starfish to seashells and dinosaur skulls. A successful match will then remove said tokens from the grid where more will fall from above to fill in those newly formed gaps. Of course, the longer the chain of panels you line up the better the reward – in this case it’s Tesla coils, power-ups that randomly zap areas of the grid with electricity clearing them. Passive and active perks can also be unlocked and equipped, aiding you further in meeting your objective, whether it’s blowing up adjacent panels or upping the likelihood of power-ups appearing.
The overall aim of each puzzle can vary. Some may have you remove fog or extinguish fire from the grid by matching hexagonal panels next to them while others will require you to turn over every panel from one colour to another by making, you guessed it more matches. Accomplishing these tasks will then release an essential tool part into the grid that you’ll then need to shift to the bottom in order to move on.
While the game can be fun to play, sometimes it can also feel like luck plays a larger role than your actual matching ability. For example, puzzles can often rely on being able to make matches in certain parts of the board – a nuisance especially if the grid doesn’t line up the way you need it to. There were moments where I would be making matches over and over but annoyingly none of them would actually help me in making them in the areas I actually needed to. This would make some puzzles particularly stressful having to return to them over and over in the hopes of better luck the next time. Still, when things do go your way, Azkend 2: The World Beneath can have a really nice flow to it.
Though the actual puzzle-side of things is decent, it’s the hidden object challenges sprinkled between that fares much worse. Literally, a case of spotting areas on a static piece of artwork that match up with a snippet you’re given, these moments prove to be some of the weakest Azkend 2: The World Beneath has to offer. After just a handful of these hunting tasks I’d already had enough, the challenge neither fun nor rewarding.
As you play the main adventure, players can unlock and take part in timed and medal focused challenges based on those same puzzles. The former sees you trying to earn the largest score possible by raising your combo while the latter tasks you with clearing a puzzle in half the time. Both are fairly unremarkable and don’t really offer enough variety to help them stand out as their own unique modes.
While the game certainly has a somewhat unique look about it, the more detailed tokens you’re trying to match can also create some confusion. Past match-three puzzlers have shown that colours are very easy to decipher from one another (or simple patterns if playing with a colour blindness option) however Azkend 2: The World Beneath proves that the more complicated the designs become, the more crowded the grid looks and feels especially on the smaller screen. There were often times when I simply had to take a minute to process what I was actually looking at especially as later stages throw crawling bugs, fire and other annoyances your way. With a time limit on each puzzle though there’s little time to waste.
Azkend 2: The World Beneath offers the player two control options one using the touch screen in handheld mode while the other playable in docked also includes the standard button and analogue combo. The former works well allowing you to select panels easily. When using standard controls, however, moving the cursor feels fairly rigid in comparison making highlighting panels a nightmare. Of the two it’s easy to recommend the touch controls, however, bare in mind this restricts you to playing only in handheld mode.
Azkend 2: The World Beneath is another solid enough effort from 10tons that might not do anything we haven’t seen dozens of times before, but proves distracting enough when played in handheld. With so many other better examples of the genre on Switch already out there though, you’re probably better off investing your time and money in one of those instead.