Release Date: 2009
For the last several years, casual games have been exploding in popularity as well as actual quality. From simple arcade pleasures like Bejeweled and Zuma to the rich Agatha Christie mysteries from Jane Jensen, there has been more and more reason for us “hardcore” adventure gamers not to turn up our nose at this new wave of gaming.
With Azada, the “casual adventure” has really come of age.
The game is essentially a series of puzzles connected by a framing story. The story, in which you are attempting to free a mysterious personage through your puzzle solving, is thin, but it’s no thinner than the stories of Safecracker or Jewels of the Oracle.
The game consists of ten chapters, and you solve each chapter by completing a series of puzzles. These puzzles range from such classics as sliding wood blocks, Tower of Hanoi, the jumping pegs game, symbol sudoku, etc., to more involved, inventory-based challenges.
Developed by casual game publisher Big Fish Games, Azada has beautiful production values. The screens are lush and detailed, the music excellent, and the animations smooth.
A game like this lives and dies by the quality of its puzzles. In this department Azada certainly doesn’t scrimp. The puzzles range in difficulty level, with some taking less than a minute to solve and some being genuine head-scratchers.
I should mention that each chapter is timed, which will not please some adventure players.
Since there are ten chapters and lots of puzzles per chapter, it’s no surprise that some puzzle types repeat. This is terrific if it’s a puzzle type that you like, but it’s definitely a drawback when it’s a puzzle you don’t like so much. For instance, there’s one particular repeated puzzle type called “Round and Round,” which always felt more like work than fun to me. On the other hand, I love sliding block puzzles and couldn’t get enough of those.
Mitigating the timed aspect of the game somewhat is a parlor where you can go and practice on any puzzle type that you’ve seen in the game. This is helpful if you need to work on a particular puzzle type, or if there’s simply a puzzle you enjoy doing multiple times.
A pet peeve of mine is when the key to solving a puzzle in an adventure game isn’t logic or ingenuity, but the ability to read the mind of the designer. Azada is guilty of this with one particular puzzle type: the matchstick-moving puzzle. It’s a classic puzzle type, which is fine, but the instructions are vague. You’ll be told something like, “Move at least four matchsticks to make five boxes become four.” There might be lots of different ways you can move matchsticks in a given puzzle to get the described result, but the game will only accept the single arrangement that the designer was thinking of. This is a cheap and tacky way to make a puzzle more challenging. If you want me to create a specific arrangement of four squares, damn it, indicate in the puzzle instructions that that is what you want!
However, as you play the game you bank up to four “get out of jail free” magical marbles which can be used to automatically solve a puzzle that’s either giving you too much difficulty, or that you just don’t like solving (*cough*”Round and Round”*cough*).
All in all, though, Azada is a short, pretty, deluxe-feeling puzzle adventure that is very easy to recommend.
Final Grade: B
System Requirements: Windows
System Requirements: Mac