This is a combined review of 3 exciting games, we will be reviewing Azkend 2 HD – The World Beneath, Back to the Future Ep 1 HD iPad & Backyard Bounce
In Azkend 2 HD – The World Beneath, you play as an explorer aboard a ship that hits some tough chop. Before you know it, you’re sucked into a typhoon and get lost. Eventually, you find yourself in a mysterious jungle, presumably buried somewhere under the sea and preserved from man and time. You begin exploring and find marvelous jungles, volcanoes, and mountains. Bugs and other animals, never before seen by man, can be found everywhere. The beautiful, mysterious world of Azkend is yours to explore and document. And did we mention this was a puzzle game?
Yeah, Azkend 2 surprised us, as well. You’re greeted with romantic music and hand-painted scenery when the game opens. A delightful female voice narrates your trek and various dilemmas. From the very beginning, it is clear that this is not your ordinary puzzle game.
The actual puzzles themselves are atypical, as well. What originally appears to be a game of matching tiles quickly becomes a game of strategy and luck. Each board is laid out similarly, with six-sided tiles decorated with various artifacts on them arranged in a honeycomb-like pattern. By using your finger to connect the tiles, you can remove them from the board, causing the remaining tiles above to move down. You must connect at least three tiles with the same image on them, but connecting at least six will unleash a ball of lightning
The ball of lightning is only the tip of the iceberg. There are two types of power-ups in the game to help you solve the tile puzzles quicker: active and passive powers. These power-ups are based on items that you recover by solving other puzzles. For example, you must find several sticks of dynamite. The dynamite is recovered by getting the dynamite tile in a puzzle to the bottom by clearing the tiles below it. Once you’ve recovered the dynamite, dynamite tiles will appear. Matching at least three of these tiles will result in an explosion, clearing nearby tiles.
Passive powers, also based on items you find in the story, aid you without having to be activated. Eyeglasses, for example, will show you nearby tiles you can clear. You can choose which active and passive power-ups you would like to use, but you can only have one of each selected. As you move further into the game, more power-ups will become available.
Azkend 2 does a great job of guiding you easily into the puzzles, starting out with a simple matching game. As you progress, you’ll have more to do than just matching. By connecting similar tiles, you will change the color of the space beneath the tile. At some point, you’ll need to change all of these spaces to the same color. You’ll also need to thaw tiles that are frozen by matching nearby tiles. While this may all sound overwhelming, it is a smooth transition.
This also means that you’ll rarely play the same puzzle twice. Every puzzle will introduce a new type of obstacle or power-up. The design of each puzzle will change as well. Sometimes there will be holes in the honeycomb design, or even bottlenecks. At times, it can feel like you’re at the mercy of the tiles, but thinking strategically and not worrying about the clock can often overcome the challenge.
The story, combined with the short-term goals of finding new items and power-ups, will keep you playing. Rarely have we ever played a puzzle game to experience a story, but Azkend 2 constantly surprised us with its attention to detail and cleverly-crafted game experience.
It may have a funny name, but Azkend 2 isn’t anything to laugh at. It has plenty of variety, gorgeous art, and tremendous music, making it a gaming gem for anyone fond of puzzle games and paperback adventure novels.
Telltale Games has established themselves as the necromancers of long-gone franchises, bringing some of our favorite characters and fictional worlds back from the dead. Wallace and Gromit, Sam and Max, and Guybrush and LeChuck have all received their own brand-new episodic adventures on PC and Mac, and each have an iPad episode as well. Now, Doc and Marty from Back to the Future have been given the Telltale jolt.
If any sci-fi trilogy deserves further adventures, it’s Back to the Future. The unforgettable characters, classic music, and time-traveling conundrums can easily take off in new directions, and Telltale certainly seems up to the task. However, all their skill with writing, art direction, and level design is marred by the choppy technical execution on the iPad.
The story picks up one year after the events of the original movie trilogy. Doc’s been missing for months, and his estate is being picked apart by Hill Valley’s residents. Then the time-traveling DeLorean arrives in a cold, noisy blast, and Marty has to figure out when and where to go to rescue Doc. From a storytelling perspective, Telltale has knocked it out of the park with this debut episode.
Over two to three hours of gameplay, you’ll have to solve puzzles using a combination of your inventory, the environment, and dialogue with other characters. You’re never left to explore very far, since all the solutions are contained within relatively small areas. If you do get stuck, you can use a generous hint system to get to the next scene.
The puzzles will be familiar to anyone who’s played a Telltale game. They start simple, then grow slightly more complex before leading to an action-packed conclusion. What’s more entertaining are the expert voice actors, including Christopher Lloyd and a spot-on Michael J. Fox impersonator, A.J. Locascio. The art direction in Back to the Future Ep 1 is also brilliant, with exaggerated yet recognizable versions of each character, suggesting that we’re in a slightly unique Back to the Future universe.
Where this first episode stumbles is in the frame rate and technical glitches. We want Telltale to finish polishing these games when porting them to the iPad, because otherwise, iOS gamers are getting a sub-par version. Dramatic action sequences like car and foot chases are filled with stutters that pause the action and skip the music. The graphics don’t render smoothly, and the worst part is that these tech problems distract from the cinematic gameplay.
We’d love to sit back with these games and enjoy the storytelling, but without better optimizing these games for the iPad, Telltale is sacrificing an important part of the experience. Until Telltale perfects these ports, we think the PC or Mac version is probably the best way to play the new Back to the Future episodes. Playing it on the iPad is a frustratingly imperfect way to enjoy an otherwise exciting adventure.
Take one backyard, one ball, and one hoop, and you have the necessary ingredients for a bit of fun and exercise. Good stuff, but we’re living in the digital age, so let’s do a little better. We’ll take one ball, one backyard (and a couple of additional settings), one hoop, some hammers, some girders, some planks– heck, let’s just dump the entirety of a construction site into an iPhone game. Add some physics-based puzzles, and voila! Now you’re playing Backyard Bounce by Clickgamer.
Backyard Bounce asks the age-old question, “How do you use a bowling ball to get a basketball through a hoop?” In fact, the game challenges you to do the swissssh thing across 70+ levels, and the solutions are far from straightforward. When you begin a level, gravity will get the ball rolling, so to speak (and sometimes, it won’t even do that). Then it’s up to you to guide Mr. Basketball to his net.
You’re issued several tools to get the job done. In some instances, getting the ball to the net simply requires building a crude bridge out of planks. In more complex cases, you must utilize planks, springs, tennis balls, and even dominoes. You might have to string objects together so that a tennis ball tips over two dominoes, which fall into a bowling ball, which rolls into a hammer and swings it into the basketball, which rolls over some planks and bounces off a spring to– well, if you’ve ever played Milton Bradley’s classic board game “Mouse Trap”, you know what to expect, except your crazy, zany contraption actually works in Backyard Bounce (no green plastic diver needed).
Like most physics-based puzzle games, Backyard Bounce awards stars according to your performance and score. You need a certain amount of stars to advance beyond the backyard and into other “courts.” Backyard Bounce is made of familiar stuff, but the game does have some interesting traits that help give it its own voice.
For one thing, there are multiple ways to solve most levels, and you’re awarded points if you have leftover tools at the end of a stage. Second, you can “buy” a certain amount of hints on each level at the cost of some points. This can affect your star total, but buying a hint will place a silhouette that will give you an idea of what tool ought to go where (and the angle at which the tool should be tilted, which is every bit as important). Very handy stuff when you’re stuck, especially since Backyard Bounce offers no option to skip levels.
Backyard Bounce adds a touch of originality to a genre that’s been worked over on iOS, but it’s still essentially a physics-based puzzle game. Granted, it’s a good one. If you still want a chance to best gravity, and if you haven’t been tired out by birds, pigs, ropes, and the rest of the gimmicks this genre has to offer, challenge Backyard Bounce to a little one-on-one.