They say that two heads are better than one, but I’m not entirely sure that’s true. Imagine two-headed mosquitoes sucking your blood twice as fast – doesn’t seem like an improvement, does it? Meanwhile, a two-headed yappy dog might just yap twice as much. The horror! While the saying might not apply to every situation, Greak: Memories of Azur suggests that three heads might even be better than two, at least when it comes to teamwork and puzzle-solving.
The land of Azur was once a peaceful place inhabited by the Courines, blue-skinned elfy sorts of folk who settled Azur and built a civilization. Everything was great until the Urlags, a race of shadowy monsters, appeared and started laying waste to everything in their path. The Courines fought back, but things are looking pretty dire as our story opens. We follow the Courine Greak as he seeks to reunite with his siblings, with his tale eventually becoming significant to the fate of Azur at large.
Initially we only control Greak, who’s armed with a sword, a crossbow and some great upper body strength for climbing around. Greak’s basic actions are simple enough: slash a guy, climb a thing, jump around, shoot a crossbow. Greak’s gameplay becomes more complicated, though, when our hero actually manages to find his siblings. Sister Adara is a priestess capable of flinging magical energy around and hovering like Princess Peach, while brother Raydel has a shield to protect the others and a hookshot for swinging around.
Three characters with different capabilities who have to use their unique skills to traverse treacherous areas? That sounds like Trine, right? Close, but not quite: in Greak you’re actually going to control all the characters at once. The experience closer to something like the classic Blizzard title The Lost Vikings, and like that game Greak takes a little getting used to.
The characters can be controlled as a unit or switched to separately, and you’ll need to do both to solve puzzles and get ahead in combat. Having Raydel stand in front of Greak and Adara to absorb incoming fire with his shield while the others attack at range is a classic move, for instance, and as you might imagine there’s plenty of brain-bending puzzle action awaiting the trio like splitting them up to press buttons, open gates and the like.
This is a cute idea that works pretty well, though it really must be emphasized that things will feel clunky at first, particularly in combat. It’s kind of surprising that there’s no option to have friends control the other characters, in fact – Greak seems like a game that’s built for cooperative play.
You’ll progress through numerous areas, solving puzzles and battling foes in true action-adventure style. When you’re not slashing up baddies, there’s a simple cooking system that can be used to create helpful items as well as a plethora of sidequests to take on. There’s plenty to do in Greak and the siblings’ unique playstyles help offer some spicy gameplay variety.
Greak’s presentation aims for something akin to Dusk: An Elysian Tale or Ori and the Will of the Wisps in that it’s got a similar cartoony, dreamlike feel. The Courines and Urlags alike are lovingly animated with plenty of detail throughout, while the environments that Greak and his siblings explore are expansive and beautifully designed. The fantastic soundtrack certainly doesn’t hurt either.
Between the gorgeous presentation and multifaceted, polished gameplay, Greak: Memories of Azur is that rare sleeper hit that just sort of appeared out of nowhere. While it would have been nice to experience this one with a friend, Greak’s take on cooperative adventure is a perfectly enjoyable experience solo. It’s not to be missed, especially for puzzle aficionados.