Azada combines elements from a number of casual genres to create a game that's one of the most unique titles I've played in months. Take a point-and-click game such as Myst, then combine it with item hunting from Mystery Case Files and throw in a dash of short puzzles just for fun. Everything is so elegantly combined that you can't help but keep playing, both to uncover the rest of the story and to experience more puzzles.
You begin in a locked room listening to a spirit named Titus who has been imprisoned by his great uncle. In order to release him you must solve a series of puzzles within his manor. Puzzles are presented in the form of pages of a book with eight making up a chapter. As you piece together chapters, more of Titus' story is revealed.
Each page challenges you with a different type of puzzle to solve, ranging from matching games to sliding tile puzzles, memory matching and much more. The most common task you'll undertake is item-hunting, which just happens to be the most enjoyable part of playing Azada. In these levels you'll see a still scene of a room inside the mansion. Move the cursor around and watch for sparkles indicating what you can interact with. Click to uncover items, clues, or new parts of the puzzle you'll need to complete the page. Many of the rooms have a number of items you'll need to find and use in conjunction with each other, creating several "stages" within the page. The difficulty level in these puzzles is fine-tuned to give you just enough challenge to keep you interested but not frustrate you.
Each chapter has a time limit (usually around 30 minutes) that slowly ticks as you play through each page. You can request hints during the item-hunting scenes at the cost of 5 minutes each, but use them sparingly! You are also given a limited number of gems to use that allow you to skip puzzles.
Analysis: Azada plays like a delicious blend of a Myst-like adventure with a casual puzzle game. The story keeps you interested in the long-run, while the variety of puzzles treat you from moment to moment with new entertainment. And it's horrendously addictive.
Unfortunately Azada's greatest strength can also be its main weakness: variety. The item-hunting stages are superb, but every puzzle page you encounter won't be as entertaining. Not everyone likes jigsaw puzzles or memory matching games, which could make some roll their eyes in disgust every time one of these comes around. Fortunately you can use purple gems to skip puzzles, and Azada is forgiving enough to keep the difficulty low so you can complete them and move on to greener pastures.
Try the rest of the Azada series:
Azada's presentation is excellent on all fronts. The music and sound effects match the mysterious atmosphere but keep things light-hearted and charming. There are a number of small visual effects that brighten up the scenes and liven-up the otherwise still scenery.
Azada is an alarmingly entertaining game with good variety and a delightful set of puzzles. The Myst-like atmosphere melding with Hidden Expedition-type item hunting makes it extremely addictive, and the slight touch of adventure keeps you in for the long haul.