Greak: Memories of Azur – Charm and Adventure
PS4, PC, Switch
There’s nothing like the call to adventure to really get you into the spirit of a game. The challenge which lies head, the threats to be conquered, the lives at stake… it’s what makes for a thrilling experience.
And outside of a few issues, Greak: Memories of Azur certainly delivers on that promise.
Right from the outset, it’s a treat for the senses, from the handprinted backgrounds to the well-crafted character sprites. As you journey from the murkiest of swamps to abandoned temples, everything on offer is unique and filled with character and charm.
Then there’s its musical score – filled with dramatic motifs and exciting moments, which I found went a long, long way to recreating the excitement you might have gotten from a children’s adventure movie.
That’s quite a bar to meet, and exactly what drew me in when I first saw its trailer.
The game starts off focusing on our main hero Greak as he tries to find his separated siblings in the plague-infested lands of Azur. But it’s not long before the true weight of his adventure comes into play, as he encounters a lone village serving as a holdout against the threat of the Urlags.
After you gain the trust of the scouts by taking on a few hack and slash quests, the story really opens up, as you’ll be tasked with finding supplies so the villagers can construct an airship which they’ll use to flee to safety.
It adds a solid sense of progression to exploring the wider lands of Azur, as for each quest you’ll solve, the next will take you further and further away from safety. Usually by obtaining something needed to unlock the next area as well.
One such quest leads you to the first of Greak’s siblings, his sister Adara. It’s from this point on where the adventure truly steps up a gear, as you’ll now need to manage both characters.
Along with that, the scope of the puzzling you’ll need to do expands as well. From the simple challenges of getting from place to place, to working out how to unlock various doors and switches, which makes for a fine test of the old grey matter.
At the same time, traversing the world can be fiddlier than it needed to. Though Greak and Adara move at similar speeds, their jump arcs differ just enough to force you to slow down and move them one at a time over certain sections of the map. Once you catch up with Raydel, the third sibling, jumping over water hazards is further complicated as Raydel can’t swim.
This is minor in the scheme of things, but I found micromanaging each individual character in cases like this became tedious, especially when backtracking through parts of the map after a quest was finished.
But I found it truly became painful with the boss encounters. The first of these, when you’re just controlling Greak was challenging enough. But once you add Adara to your party, the subsequent pair you’ll encounter I found to be quite the exercise in frustration.
The first of these was simply because there wasn’t a safe space to leave one of the characters, so juggling them both was essential to survive. But that brings one big caveat: you’ll only see the health of your lead character.
You can see where that leads right? If any character in the party dies, it’s all over and you’ll be forced to reload and try again.
This is certainly where the experience was a bit of a letdown, as outside of boss battles the combat typically isn’t that challenging to deal with. Most enemies can be defeated with a few attacks, and the combined control of characters through Mimic mode doesn’t penalise too much there.
What also makes these encounters a letdown is they don’t take any advantage of Greak’s puzzling mechanics. Bosses don’t have phases where only one character’s abilities can damage them, nor are their chambers set up to take advantage of the multiple characters. It’s an area of the game I felt could really have been explored in much more detail than it was, making it the part of the game I enjoyed the least.
On the flip side, something I truly appreciated was the final sequence of the game. Having dealt with yet another boss battle, I was expecting this final quest to follow the same pattern – working my way through a fortress, switching out characters to negotiate puzzles, open doors and get to the final confrontation.
Instead, it offered a very neat twist: having the trio separated into separate chambers, linked up with a series of teleports. Where I found earlier parts of the game were great for giving the old brain a workout, this last part really, really put it to the test.
Though it does expose another shortcoming, the lack of a map. I’ll admit, I had almost solved this sequence, and found myself lost. It took a bit of work (with a nudge) to get myself back on track, but having even a rough map would have helped and saved a bit of time.
Then it’s done – I was genuinely surprised to not have to deal with a final boss encounter, but the finale to the story made the experience more than worthwhile.
Greak: Memories of Azur doesn’t necessarily set out to cut new ground when it comes to puzzling platformer adventures, but what it does, it does pretty well. For the most part. Though character movement can be a bit too fiddly when controlling the party together, the general puzzling of the adventure made for a great journey.
Though the boss encounters were the weakest part of the experience for me, they certainly didn’t do enough to dissuade me from working my way through the lands of Azur to help Greak find his siblings and help finish that Airship.
Greak: Memories of Azur was reviewed on PS5 with code kindly supplied by Five Star Games Australia
Rob is that weird hybrid of a developer and a writer. Having been enjoying games since the days of loading 8-bit oddities from cassette tapes, nothing excites him more than finding games which draw him into the zone or offer something slightly unconventional.
When away from review or development duties… he’s making videos diving into examples of older and lesser-known titles… to avoid screaming “This belongs in a museum” into the void anywhere near as often.