A hostile race known as the Urlags have invaded the land of Azur bringing with them corruption and darkness that is spreading like a plague. It is now down to a young warrior to find his siblings and help his people escape this oncoming threat before it is too late. So begins our adventure with Greak: Memories of Azure, a side-scrolling platform puzzler from developers Navegante Entertainment. With multiple characters and beautiful art direction, will this be your next great adventure or a messy trudge you’d rather just avoid? Let’s take a look.
Three times the Adventure
Greak takes place in a beautifully crafted world, the hand-drawn art style and multi-characters switching put me in mind of Hollow Knight (though I’m the only person in the world who didn’t like that game) and Trine. Platforming is plentiful throughout this expansive world which helps keep the momentum flowing nicely, each area begs to be explored with numerous hidden areas and items to be found along the way such as ingredients for cooking up some healing items. Exploration can be a bit of a blind affair though as Greak lacks any form of mini-map to help you navigate the areas around you, there is a general overview world map to point you in the right direction for key quests but it doesn’t come in very useful for the more “dungeon” areas of the game.
Obviously, with an invasion imminent and the world turning to darkness, the lands you explore will not be uninhabited. A selection of enemy types will be lurking around every corner hoping to have you for lunch, though the variation in enemies is somewhat slim, they get the job done and make the three-character types feel useful. Greak is a traditional sword-wielding warrior class whereas Rydel is a bit more of a bruiser who can act defensively and Adara is the twinkly mage character.
To be successful in your journey you will have to become familiar with all three and swap between them regularly as and when situations require. This can be for puzzles where one character, Greak for example, must stand on a switch to open a door while another character like Rydel ventures forth to find a way to hold the door open so Greak can rejoin him, switching between characters is simple as each is assigned a direction on the d-pad. The puzzles vary in complexity and some will have you scratching your head, but they never become overly taxing in their own right, the true brain strainer comes with controlling multiple characters at the same time.
A Puzzling Design
Though chunks of the game will be played with just one character, once you have others with you, they must be manually controlled whether they are your active character or not. Holding L2 will ensure any character within a certain area will follow you which means you will have to hold this button while scaling walls, jumping and navigating areas which can become fiddly as each character has different jump mechanics and animations. If you do become separated you can call them back to you but once again, only if they are within a certain distance meaning you may be spending a bit of time running back and forth and retrying sections which should otherwise be a breeze. It is here that the cracks began to show with Greak, as I found myself wishing the other characters could just shadow my main when not in use.
The same issues can arise during combat which is somewhat simplistic in execution mainly consisting of a core attack and a dodge mechanic to avid incoming hits, but boss battles and conflicts with larger enemy numbers can become frustrating when juggling between the three characters. Using one of Adara’s abilities then needing to reposition yourself and switch to a Greak to lay in some damage or put-up defence with Rydal while trying to manage the other two’s positions and movements against other enemies just felt like a sloppy affair coupled with the fact that if one character dies its death for the other two. This could just be me being bad at the game with my uncoordinated Gollum fingers, but it wasn’t a mechanic that ever seemed to find its groove and continued to be frustrating at times.
Despite the frustrations with certain mechanics, I absolutely loved exploring the world of Azur, the art style was beautifully striking, and it is hard not to be impressed with how immersive the different environments became, from simple forest areas to murky bogs and lush vistas, there was plenty of sights to take in along the way. All this coupled with an emotional story that will please any fan of fantasy adventures makes Greak: Memories of Azur a great little package for the $19.99/£19.99 asking price. Though I had no major issues with overall performance, I did find the loading times to be a bit lengthy and on the very rare occasion, I did notice a bit of framerate stutter.
Greak: Memories of Azur is a beautifully imagined game that will be pleasing to most but is slightly let down by some frustrating mechanics and a lack of mini-map to aid exploration. Fortunately, those things were not enough to spoil my overall experience as it’s impossible not to fall in love with this world and the story it tells. For players who prefer their adventure games to have a higher emphasis on puzzles rather than complex combat, this is one for you.
Review code provided
Platform: PC, Nintendo, PlayStation, Xbox
Release Date: 17/08/2021
No. of Players: 1
Category: Adventure, Action, Platformer
Developer: Navegante Entertainment
Download link: US eShop / UK eShop