Sometimes games lose the balance between production values and good gameplay, but when a fine balance is struck, it can be serendipity. Such is the case with the beautiful Greak: Memories of Azur. It’s a game that tests the limits of potentially cumbersome game mechanics, and through sheer beauty and competent gameplay, manages to be one of my favorite games of the year.
Greak: Memories of Azur is a side scrolling action platformer with a generous amount of puzzles. In it, you play as tenacious Greak, a young swordsman, and the youngest of three siblings including Adara, a magic wielder, and their oldest brother, the warrior Raydel. It has gorgeous hand drawn art, and a combination of action and platforming that is challenging, though sometimes frustrating. Greak incorporates the liberal use of tandem-style puzzle solving. Meaning, you’ll often have to use at least two characters to overcome most obstacles. While I really like these puzzles, sometimes the mere act of juggling multiple characters can feel cumbersome.
In Greak: Memories of Azur you start off just controlling the titular character, but soon you’ll also have control over Greak’s sister, Adara. Greak can run, eventually double jump, and has a sword and crossbow. Adara, on the other hand has a longer, floating jump and the ability to sling spells. To move these characters you can either select them independently, or have them mimic your actions, moving at the same time. This is okay for getting around short sections, but Adara’s differently styled jump makes it harder to sync the two up for tricky jumps.. This can make exploration a bit of a chore, as sometimes you have to independently bring both characters to your desired location. This gets worse when, late in the game, the elder brother Raydel joins and makes it a trio. Raydel is a powerful fighter, but can’t swim or dodge, relying on a shield to avoid incoming damage.
Despite movement between the two (or three in the later game) character being a bit cumbersome, it feels like it’s ultimately worth it. I absolutely loved Greak’s puzzles. They weren’t so hard as to be frustrating, but they weren’t so easy to make them merely a chore. Few games give me genuine “aha!” moments, and Greak is one of them. And while most of Greak’s puzzles employ the use of more than one character, they never feel stale. Sometimes you might need Adara to swim someplace deep Greak can’t get to—or you’ll need Greak to carry a torch before it burns out, something Adara can’t do as easily.
Combat in Greak: Memories of Azur is fast paced, and even a little difficult to start out. At first, Greak isn’t great at combat—he has to do a series of quests to increase his combat capabilities. But Greak isn’t entirely helpless, and his ability to dodge roll with i-frames gives him an advantage over most foes. Adara isn’t as adept at combat, but she also gains skills and power that makes her helpful in a fight—especially with her unlimited ranged attacks.
Death, no matter how it comes—through combat or pitfalls—can set you back pretty far. The game is only able to be saved via certain shrines, and without autosave, a mistake can set you back pretty far. What makes it extra difficult is the fact that if any of the siblings die, the entire game ends. This can get pretty difficult, especially during boss fights. One boss fight requires you to juggle all three characters, something that took me a while to overcome.
While Greak: Memory of Azur isn’t labelled a metroidvania, it certainly has metroidvania elements, especially when it comes to exploration. If you take the time to find all of the hidden spots and talk to every character, you can find some pretty powerful items that will make the rest of your playthrough a little bit easier. It’s also great that exploration is rewarded with useful items.
Greak: Memory of Azur is a beautiful game that’s incredibly fun. Its multiple character gameplay can feel cumbersome, but it never became tedious for me. Everything about Greak is a joy, from its puzzle design to its world building and especially its hand drawn art. If you’re a fan of puzzle platformers or metroidvanias, you should definitely check this out.
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