A Beautiful Game With Some Major Issues
Greak: Memories of Azur has a lot going for it. Beautiful, hand-drawn graphics, solid controls, clever puzzles that actually make you work for a solution, and an interesting storyline about three separated siblings needing to be reunited. You can tell that the design team put a lot of love into this one. I wish that made it easier to recommend.
A People Under Attack
You start the game as Greak, the youngest of three siblings. They’re all members of a magical race called the Courines, who are being chased from their homes by the invading Urlags. All you want to do is find your two older siblings and escape together.
Reuniting Greak with Adara and Raydel won’t be easy, though. Many enemies, puzzles, and traps stand in your way. You’ll need to use the abilities of all three siblings if you want to escape the land of Azur.
A Solid Start
In the early going, Greak is mostly a pretty standard side-scrolling action title. You start in a small village where you can help the locals with all kinds of tasks as many of them seek to flee these lands. Or you can work on your main goal of reuniting with your siblings. While Greak is small, he has a few things going for him. He can double jump and wields a sharp blade. He’s also pretty quick.
Combat can be fast and brutal, and dying isn’t uncommon, but once you get used to your weapons such as your sword and bow and get the hang of the game’s puzzles, you should be able to handle yourself. Nothing about the action feels fantastic, but it’s very solid.
The Lost Courines
Once you start reuniting with your siblings, though, things start to change. Each sibling has its own unique skills, and you can switch between them at any time. Many of the game’s puzzles involve using their abilities together to figure things out. As one example, a section might have you needing to line up lights to power a moving platform. Except even with movement, though, Greak won’t be able to reach the far platform. Adara can, however, with her ability to float. So have Greak keep the power on while Adara floats across. On the other side, she can activate another platform that allows Greak to join her.
The puzzles throughout Greak are clever and pushed me to really consider my options and abilities. The different characters with different abilities feel deeply reminiscent of the class series The Lost Vikings. Few games have played in that space since, and Greak manages to put its own stamp on it.
More Characters, Less Fun
The problems come when you get into combat. Normal enemies aren’t so bad, even with multiple characters. Unique combat abilities there, like Adara’s ranged attack or Raydel’s longer reach, give you more options. It is almost impossible to simultaneously use all three characters, but you can frequently take the character of your choice in while leaving the others back safely. Some scenarios, however, make this nearly impossible. Bosses, in particular, make this a huge pain. Being unable to protect other characters while using your main one can be a huge problem. If even one character runs out of health, you’ll see a game over. That you can’t retry the fight immediately but rather have to return to a save point doesn’t help. At least save points are fairly frequent.
Your options to control the characters at once don’t help matters. You can hold a button when the characters are close together to make the others follow whoever you control. It works fine over basic surfaces. In combat or when any significant platforming comes into play, however, this frequently falls apart. The characters don’t move at the same speed or have the same jumps. This means that frequently one of them will get off track, or fall behind, or miss a jump and fall to a lower area. You’ll then have to switch to them and fight the way, or let go of control of them and readjust your main character. That’s not the end of the world when you’re running around, but against a boss, it often means death.
So many of Greak’s issues could have been mitigated by a co-op option. True, it would be just as annoying for solo players. At least you’d have a way to play it without these troubles, though. The lack of a way to play with others feels like a huge missed opportunity.
At least Greak looks nice. Its hand-drawn art style is beautiful, with fantastic animations and tons of detail. It transitions seamlessly to some really nice-looking animated scenes as well. The character design may be a little basic for my liking, but this is a nice game to look at. The music and sound design are nice as well.
Greak: Memories of Azur has a lot going for it. I just wish that its core concept of controlling three characters at the same time worked better. Too often, instead of being helpful, your siblings just end up getting in the way. If you can look past these sections, though, you’ll find a beautiful game with some great puzzles and a lot of heart.
Final Verdict: 3/5
Available on: Xbox Series X|S(Reviewed), PS5, Nintendo Switch, PC; Publisher: Team17; Developer: Navegante Entertainment; Players: 1; Released: August 17th, 2021; ESRB: E10+ for Everyone 10+; MSRP: $19.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Greak: Memories of Azur provided by the publisher.