Azada: Ancient Magic
With just over a year in the making, Azada: Ancient Magic, the sequel to the enormously successful adventure/hidden object hybrid Azada, has finally arrived! Fusing a large variety of unique puzzles with an undeniably intriguing atmosphere, Azada: Ancient Magic puts you in the shoes of a puzzle solver helping the young Titus disarm a magical menace. As you sift through the library of classic literature you'll help legendary characters such as Rapunzel, King Arthur, Dracula and more escape from stories gone awry. Expect some great puzzles and a lot of interesting minigames to come your way in this spectacular sequel.
Azada: Ancient Magic is structured around solving self-contained puzzles within a series of almost two dozen storybooks. Crack open the book and the main character introduces his or her problem. Flip through the pages using the arrows at the bottom or by moving the cursor to the extreme edges of the screen. Each page contains a scene that could have items, clues, puzzles, and more, all of which fit together to solve the main riddle of the book. Gather what you can, use objects where appropriate, and flip back and forth as you try and free the trapped character. It plays a bit like a multi-level room escape game, actually.
After you solve a set of books and collect the corresponding character cards, you'll need to take them to the upper level of the library to the strange-looking machine. This contraption helps you sniff out the source of wickedness in the library by identifying possible suspects in the cards. You'll have to complete a few short mini-games to get things done, then it's back to the shelves to solve more puzzles!
Analysis: Azada: Ancient Magic is nothing but a big "wow" at every turn. Fresh, fun, just the right amount of challenge, and superbly crafted puzzles that require you to both think and experiment, as soon as you dive in you won't want to come out until you've reached the end. It's that good. It's worth noting that the same production team behind the original Azada returned for Ancient Magic (along with a few additional members). The soundtrack was recorded by Deutsche Film Orchestra who composed nearly 30 minutes of original music for the game.
Azada: Ancient Magic is more focused on using items to solve puzzles rather than locating said objects. To that end, you'll often find yourself experimenting with your inventory's contents on various places throughout the game. Will that crowbar pry open that box? Does the trowel let you dig in that dirt? Your attempts don't always follow through, and unfortunately Azada does the unthinkable in these circumstances: it shaves off some of your time. Yes, you're punished for trying to explore. The penalty is minimal, however, and I never found myself wanting for more time at the end of each round, so it's no real setback. It does, however, feel wrong to be punished for simply playing the game.
Try the rest of the Azada series:
Another slight drawback is the game's length. Azada: Ancient Magic is rather short, and this is exacerbated by the fact that you'll be so engrossed in playing you probably won't stop until you've beaten the game.
Azada: Ancient Magic packs a huge (if a little brief) punch, just like the original game. It's a genre-bending title that soothes both the adventurer's and the puzzle-solver's soul and delivers an amazing experience from start to finish.