Normally, when I do a review, I usually start with some pithy introduction. I’m not going to bother here as I really just want I get stuck into this one. Greak: Memories of Azur is a stylistic 2D action-platformer from developer Navegante Entertainment and publisher Team17. As I said, I just want to get stuck in with this, here’s a trailer so you can see just how ‘effing stunning the game looks.
That’s the first thing I want to cover, as that was the first thing that hit me when I played, those awesome visuals. The art style is this wonderful hand-drawn thing that really is stunningly beautiful. Coupled with some amazingly smooth and detailed animation, then wrapped up in an awesome looking world that is just as visually pleasing as everything else. Greak: Memories of Azur is a very easy game to fall in love with purely based on its amazingly impressive art and animation. Sadly, in this case, I need to break out an oft-used phrase. Beauty is only skin deep.
Kicking off with the obligatory tutorial where you are introduced to the game’s controls and mechanics. Being a 2D action-platformer, you’ll pretty much know how to play Greak: Memories of Azur before you even pick up the controller. That is not necessarily a bad thing either, there’s something very comforting about familiarity and understanding a game right from the off is always very welcome. So yeah, this is pretty much your bog-standard 2D action-platformer that you have probably played dozens of times already. That is not to say that the game doesn’t have any new ideas, it does and one very specific idea that is the game’s unique selling point. Only, it’s not a good one. But before I do get to that.
Honestly, Greak: Memories of Azur is perhaps a bit too familiar. Yup the core 2D action-platforming gameplay is there and in that regard, it is very competent. Alas, the quests you get sent on are all too generic and plain Jane. Fetch quests where you have to collect so many of one item and return to the quest giver. Collect ingredients to do a spot of cooking, all topped off with huge amounts of backtracking of course. Everything here has just been done so many times before that the game never really offers anything new or interesting to get your teeth into.
There is one thing that the game does differently, that unique selling point I alluded to earlier. See, you don’t control one character in Greak: Memories of Azur, you actually control three. the titular Greak is just one of three siblings in the game as he is joined by Adara and Raydel. All three have their own abilities and skills. Greak favours melee combat and has a very handy double-jump ability. Adara uses magic attacks, while her jump is aided by a floating skill. Then there is Raydel who is a hefty sword and shield type of fella and he uses a handy hookshot to get around. Now, after the introduction to the game (where you are split up), you’ll eventually get to control all three characters and use all of their skills. Swapping between characters is as easy as tapping the D-pad. Alternatively, you can actually control all three characters at once by holding down one of the trigger buttons… and this is where the game falls apart.
There are multiple times in Greak: Memories of Azur when you’ll need two or all three of the characters to get past one of the game’s many (but seen it all before) puzzles. Traversing with all three (or even just two) characters is just an utter pain in the arse. Because all three characters play differently with different jump mechanics, you can’t do something as simple as jump a gap with more than one character. As an example, there was a point where I had to jump from a platform to a swinging rope that was above a pit of spikes. Now, controlling all three characters, with each one jumping differently, only one of the three made it to the rope while the other two fell on the spikes. That is just one of many examples where the whole multi-character thing falls apart. Honestly, you’re better off just leaving the other two characters behind and playing it with just the one… which kind of destroys the whole unique selling point of the game and renders it redundant.
But of course, there are parts of Greak: Memories of Azur where you need all three characters. So you have to use the multi-character thing… which is just too damn annoying. Then there’s the stupidly restrictive inventory. You only start with three slots, which you can add to by buying upgrades… but to get the coin for those upgrades, you’ll need to grind and grind and grind some more. The thing about the restrictive inventory is that even key quest items take up a slot, sometimes more than one slot. Plus, you’ll need to carry healing items (trust me, you really, really need to carry healing items). Then you’ll also be carrying ingredients to make those healing items too. Basically, when it comes to inventory, there’s a layer of micromanagement that really shouldn’t be there in a game like this. But do you know what’s worse? There is in-game dialogue from the various NPCs that point out your lack of an inventory. So the devs went out of their way to code in NPCs that comment on your lack of an inventory instead of just giving you a bigger inventory?
Now, Greak: Memories of Azur is not a terrible game, it’s not even a bad game. It’s just a very ‘meh’ game with a few niggles that become bigger issues and ruin the gameplay later. Seriously, if this had dropped the multi-character thing and given you a bigger inventory from the start, it could’ve been a good little 2D action-platformer. Sure, it wouldn’t have broken the mould or anything, but it would’ve been so much more enjoyable and playable. With a price point of around £16/$19, I suggest waiting for a sale, even with it being as drop-dead gorgeous as it is.