Azkend 2: The World Beneath is a tile matching and hidden object finding puzzle game available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4 and PS Vita. Azkend 2 has previously been released on many platforms such as iOS, Android, Windows and more besides since 2012 and is the latest sequel in the critically acclaimed series with Azkend 2 also earning such acclaim too, but how does the PS4 and Vita versions compare to what has went before them in their previous releases?
The story revolves around a woman who is travelling from Liverpool to New York on a ship which is unfortunately pulled down into a powerful vortex in the sea; only to wake up later to discover a place under the sea that may never have been explored by anyone, although to survive and continue living you must help her to ascend in order to return to ground level and civilization.
An unfolding story in adventure mode consisting of matching upwards of three tiles as well as hidden object finding gameplay spread across over 60 levels, while challenges includes time challenge in which the player has two minutes to make as many matches as possible in order to accumulate the highest score of points and is available from the start, although medal challenges have to be unlocked by completing individual levels within each chapter. There are many intricate gameplay elements such as having to turn the bottom of every tile blue by matching every tile which adds a specific object onto a tile at the very top of the board that has to be moved down to the very bottom of the board to unlock that particular item as it is an object that is essential to continuing on the story such as the frame and both lenses of a pair of glasses which would enable the character to see her surroundings after the third chapter, while earning important items also provides power-ups. There are further gradually introduced gameplay elements such as grey tiles requiring two tile matches before they turn blue and not being able to select tiles to match when ice is around them, although you have the ability to break the ice by matching tiles directly next to the ice.
There are 16 unlockable power-ups split into two categories of active and passive with 8 within each category as every power-up provides their own unique power such as active power-ups including binoculars that finds and removes isolated pieces from the board and a further active power-up which spawns hammers to help in completing the level, while passive power-ups including eyeglasses produce hints more frequently and a further passive power-up which provides more time to complete a level and many more power-ups besides.
Azkend 2 supports cross-buy between the PS4 and Vita, although it unfortunately does not support cross-save, so you will not be able to continue from your previous progression on the Vita version when playing the PS4 version and vice versa, however as Azkend 2 also supports remote play; you can technically continue on playing the PS4 version anywhere you want to with the same save file during remote play. Cross-buy presents a superb amount of value as it means that you will be purchasing the PS4 and Vita versions of the game with just a single purchase.
The controls are well mapped to the Vita comprising of an entirely touch screen control scheme consisting of swiping across the touch screen to match upwards of three tiles; tapping the top left or right of the touch screen to display the pause menu, while the PS4 version relies upon a completely different control scheme that does not include the touch pad.
Graphically, Azkend 2 is not just a simple matching tiles game as there are eight stunningly beautiful hand drawn and animated scenes which provide completely unique backdrops to the tile matching action throughout the adventure mode that perfectly compliments the general graphics of the tiles and tile matching effects.
The presentation of the game is solid with a great touch screen based user interface across various menus such as the main menu, adventure menus, challenges menus, options menu and gameplay menus, although it does not include support for navigation via the left or right analogue sticks, face buttons, d-pad and rear touch pad. The background of the menus consists of a person standing amongst overgrown foliage with balls of light floating upwards as the title logo takes centre stage in the foreground with rays of sunshine shimmering around it.
A female voice-over narrates the story with the appropriate amount of awe and surprise, while the award winning composer Jonathan Geer returns with yet another amazing cinematic soundtrack, alongside sound effects reminiscent of those found in Peggle; particularly in the sense of how the music and sound effects provide you with a sense of achievement every time you complete a level and the increase in tension with a ticking clock signifying when you are on the brink of failing to complete a level.
The trophy list includes 16 trophies with 12 bronze trophies and 4 silver trophies. The trophies are mostly quite easy and are earned naturally through playing the game; as you will most certainly improve your intuition to a point that the matching of tiles will progressively become second nature such as the Match Ten, Match 16 and Expert Matcher bronze trophies for matching 10, 16 and 24 tiles respectively which should be earned within the first two chapters providing that you spot certain available matches. There are much harder trophies though that requires a specific order of matching tiles such as the Carpenter bronze trophy for turning all of the wood tiles before turning any steel tiles and the Challenge Champion silver trophy for reaching a multiplier of 30 in time challenge mode. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 5 to 10 hours to 100% the trophy list.
There are no difficulty levels, although the difficulty curve certainly ramps up when new gameplay elements are introduced such as a compass which can combine with any two of the same tile to make a match or mastering how to perfect a steadily increasing multiplier, while the hidden object finding levels during the adventure mode can be tough to master.
There are no local or online multiplayer modes, although perhaps a competitive pass the Vita or controller multiplayer mode to see which player can complete a level or a chapter in the fastest time or a co-operative multiplayer mode in which the timer would be ticking twice as fast and both players would be trying to clear all of the tiles or obtain all of the objects in order to progress through each of the levels or chapters with an incredible amount of teamwork required in order to succeed, but as this genre does not typically have local or online multiplayer it results in there being no big loss to the gameplay.
There are no online leaderboards, although there is a single local leaderboard for the timed challenge mode including ten previously set high scores ranging from 25,000 points all the way through to 250,000 points that you have to attempt to displace containing each player’s ranking position; name; and their highest score with the positioning of each player based upon their highest score.
The replayability stems from extremely satisfying tile matching and hidden object finding gameplay throughout a story driven adventure mode of over 60 levels which is complimented by further tile matching gameplay in the additional time and medal challenge modes with a retro styled local leaderboard for the timed challenge mode.
Overall, Azkend 2 is an absolute must purchase for anyone who appreciates tile matching and hidden object finding gameplay as Azkend 2 is quite possibly the best game in both genres with beautiful graphics bringing an adventurous story to life.