Azada: Ancient Magic
Appearances by many of literature's most famous characters
A wide variety of puzzles
Ends with a teaser for a game that was never released
Books have bland titles
No hint system
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In the sequel to Azada (see my review on that game), Titus summons you once again to help him out. This time, the magic of Azada has cursed an entire library, making the characters sentient and trapping them in their stories. You must travel inside each book and help the characters solve their problems in order to break the curse.
Each book involves puzzle solving, finding items, and talking to characters. You'll meet several classic literary characters such as Long John Silver, Sherlock Holmes, Hansel and Gretel, and many more. Every few books, you'll be asked to round up the "suspects" (characters) and search their portraits for curse symbols using special colored lenses. The suspect puzzles are fun, but they can also get repetitive.
As with the first game, the artwork and music are beautiful. The music is once again reminiscent of the Harry Potter score (but sadly, Harry doesn't make an appearance in the game), which gets you pumped up for solving magical puzzles. The graphics are painterly and resemble storybook illustrations, which of course is fitting for the subject matter as well as being quite pretty to look at.
Now since you meet famous fictional characters, that must mean you travel into classic books such as Treasure Island and Frankenstien, right? Well . . . you travel into books that are clearly meant to be these classic stories, but for some reason or other they have bland titles. For example, Dracula is called "The Vampire," The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is called "The Detective," Around the World in 80 Days is called "The Journey," and Hansel and Gretel is called "The Witch." Why? I have no idea. These stories are in the public domain, so it's not a copyright issue. Why couldn't they just use the regular titles? It may be a nitpick, but using these bland titles instead of the correct ones takes a tiny bit of the magic away.
In the previous game, you couldn't turn off the timed gameplay, but thankfully this game lets you choose between timed and untimed. That's the good news. The bad news is that they also removed the hint system. If you got stuck in the first Azada, you could get a hint in exchange for five minutes on the timer, but that's no longer the case in this game. You can earn orbs as you progress, but they can only be used to skip minigames. If you need help finding an item or you're not sure where to go next, there's nothing to help you.
But those flaws are minor. Overall, this is a beautiful, engaging game with an ending that leaves you on edge for the next chapter. Unfortunately, that third chapter never came. Yes, a game called Azada: In Libro was eventually released, but it didn't continue the storyline of the previous games and turned the format into a standard hidden object game instead of a puzzle game. In fact, other than Titus showing up, Azada: In Libro has nothing to do with the previous games, which really feels like cheating the players. Although Azada and Azada: Ancient Magic are both great games, we may never know how the story ends.
Rating: 4 and a half out of 5 stars.