It’s no secret that I’m a little tired of mobile games being ported over to the Switch (and every other console). If you missed it, please check out my review for Dustoff Heli Rescue II and read my thoughts on the matter. Once again, I‘m faced with a five-year-old game, previously released for everything from Windows to iOS and Steam, and I have mixed feelings. Azkend 2: The World Beneath by 10tons, is yet another match-three puzzler among a million, but even though it’s ported from a mobile version, I find myself slightly addicted to it. The game isn’t perfect, and a part of me would never have paid for it on mobile, but even I can admit when something is downright fun, polished, and a good time overall.
I’m going to start by laying out the story as I always do, but why this game needs one at all is beyond me. Mini-rant time! Why do puzzle games have a story? I never understood a developer’s need to justify simple match gameplay by writing a whole convoluted backstory behind it. It’s a PUZZLE GAME, not a swashbuckling adventure. With that said, Azkend 2 actually has a nifty backstory for players, even if it has no point to the actual game.
As the protagonist, you’re sailing from Liverpool to New York, when out of nowhere, your ship is pulled down to the unknown depths of the sea. Turns out, you’ve travelled to the centre of the earth, where ancient civilizations and wonders never before seen by man await you. If this were Tomb Raider or another one of Nathan Drake’s adventures, it would be awesome, but it’s not. It’s a match puzzle game, plain and simple.
As you navigate this mysterious world via cutscenes, you must seek out and find/fix objects needed to get home. In order to do this, you simply play the game. Each completed level yields a piece of object X, which when put together, can be used to aid in your quest. Each object has some kind of power or trait that can have an effect on the game board. For instance, the binoculars, when matched three or more, will cause random tiles to fall off the board (that’s a good thing), or matching three or more dynamite sticks will cause surrounding tiles to be blown away. Although I feel the story behind finding these objects is unnecessary, the actual usefulness and implementation of them is outstanding. The collectable power-ups add another dimension to the simple match puzzle premise.
In between rounds, players are treated to beautifully drawn cutscenes that propel the story further. While in these scenes, you get to take part in hidden object minigames. This aspect of Azkend isn’t overly sophisticated but definitely adds another layer to a tired genre. With over 60 levels in story mode alone (plus time trial and medal modes), 10tons has packed a lot into this little game.
Azkend 2 plays well using the Joy-Cons, but speed and accuracy do suffer slightly (levels are timed). Luckily, this is the Nintendo Switch, and with it, comes a nifty touchscreen. The game works even better in handheld mode, and using your finger on the touchscreen is incredibly more efficient than a controller. The game plays well when docked, but I personally loved the ease at which I could match tiles while using the touchscreen. I should also note, in docked mode, the subtitles (which can be turned off), appeared to stretch beyond the edges of my television. When I played it in handheld mode, the text was normal. Most likely, a port issue, but it has zero effect on the play mechanics.
The soundtrack is described as “cinematic” by the developers, and I actually agree. The incomparable Jonathan Greer (Owlboy OST, Sparkle, etc), recorded music that you’d normally find on an epic adventure game, and I really enjoyed it. There isn’t much in the way of visuals in match puzzle games, so the fact that we get a great original score fees like a treat. It’s a little thing but goes a long way in elevating the experience.
As I have said countless times with other mobile ports, this is an old game with an even older premise. Although 10tons does offer a slightly fresh take on the genre, players shouldn’t go into it thinking they’re getting anything unique. However, as I have also stated in the past, this is the Switch, so no matter how tired a concept may be, this little wonder console can breathe fresh air into things that have gone stale.