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For: iPhone   Also on: Android

Smells like teen spirit

Product: Azkend | Developer: MythPeople | Publisher: 10tons | Format: iPhone | Genre: Puzzle | Players: 1 | Version: US | App version: 1.1
Azkend iPhone, thumbnail 1
If games were people, Azkend would be a Buddhist monk. Taking refuge in the peaks of the Orient, it eschews staid convention to achieve enlightenment with its own creative puzzle play.

While Azkend uses the match-three formula, it differs by having you trace out combos instead moving pieces around the screen. Hexagonal tiles are cleared by sliding a finger over three or more matching icons. Tiles must be touching, though not situated in a straight line - instead, you can whip a finger through a swath of tiles and clear huge sections of the screen in one go.

When a match is made, the selected tiles change colour. Tan tiles flip to blue with a single match, though bolted spaces need two matches. Special ice blocks and tar tiles require first making a match using adjacent tiles before flipping them to blue.

The objective in each stage is to turn every tile blue, at which point a talisman fragment appears at the top of the grid. Clearing titles so that the fragment reaches the bottom of the screen completes the level.

The challenge comes not from finding tiles to assemble in combos, but strategically flipping tiles and using special talisman abilities to help you finish the level before time runs out. Combos are the easy part: matches are quick to find, tiles shuffling if none can be made. Instead, Azkend derives its substance in how you come about deciding which tiles to clear from the screen.

Unusual tile arrangements with holes and awkward shapes complicate matters, while a hodge podge of tiles can render half the board unplayable.

Helping you out occasionally are talisman powers that can change or flip tiles. Clearing four or more talisman symbols from the screen activates the related power such as the hammer that hits tiles, causing them to switchcolours. Others trigger explosions and flip tiles in a straight line.

Talisman powers do make things slightly easy at times, even if they are essential for getting out of rare sticky situations. Reducing the number of talisman tiles that appear, as well as encouraging creative combos using regular tiles, would result in a more sophisticated puzzler.

Lightning storms reward you by zapping tiles when you make consecutive matches that flip a tile, though it's not a strong enough incentive to discourage frequent reliance on talismans.

A handful of achievements chronicle your progress through more than 50 stages in Adventure mode. These are joined by talisman challenges in Survival mode where you work to earn stars by flipping tiles as the clock runs down.

An endless mode or a set of non-timed stages would be nice, though Azkend packs in several hours of quality puzzle play as it is. While a couple of tweaks are needed for it to attain Nirvana, this well-done puzzler deserves praise.
Reviewer photo
Tracy Erickson | 6 May 2009
Azkend abandons the match-three sutra for something a little different, offering an enlightening puzzle game that could use a slight increase in difficulty
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