If you read the title of this review, you probably think that this game is either utter crap or we are being unreasonably harsh. I am here to say that it’s neither, it’s just that this game is very reminiscent of 2D platformers like Ori or Hollow Knight, but upon closer inspection it turns out that it’s more coat and paint than real substance.
Let me first say that no, this game isn’t crap. It’s not even bad. It’s alright, in fact. It has a lot going for it: gorgeous visuals, nice music and adorable characters are trying their best to draw our attention, which is hard, considering just how many games are being released every week. There are some interesting ideas, too: you can play as three different characters, all with their unique abilities. And you can play as them at once, to either solve a puzzle or kill a particular monster. It’s a relatively small title with about 10 hours of play time. But was this time worth it?
I respect Team 17 immensely: some of my favourite games have been released or developed by them. Overcooked? Chaotic fun. Yoku’s Island Express? Adorable and addictive. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair? The best tribute to classic Donkey Kong there is. And the list goes on. To have their name on your game page means having a stamp of quality, and not many publishers can say that about themselves in 2021.
All of that meant that I had high hopes for Greak: Memories Of Azur. And the first minutes drew me in immediately. First of all, this game really does look good. The story is also there, told with the help of impressive animated segments. And the gameplay is… alright as well. The first surprise for me was how unforgiving the game can be: being a Metroidvania with a Hollow Knight feel, it retains a lot of the genre’s tropes, but it never goes overboard. If you die, you have to begin the level anew, but I rarely felt like that was the game’s fault. Most of the time I wasn’t paying attention and had to pay the price. And since the game doesn’t feature auto saving, you have to be careful and look for those save points. So I reluctantly accepted the punishment and soldiered on.
Greak: Memories Of Azur presents its core mechanics as something fresh and unique, but really, they aren’t. Controlling three characters at once is not something you see often, but it’s not unheard of. But really, what does it matter? What matters is that all three are a joy to control; they are different enough and are easy to master. I liked Greak, the titular character, the best — he knows some sweet moves.
Controlling all three can be fun, but it also a chore, especially during some platforming sections. But I got over it. The game also turned out to be a bit deeper than I expected, with surprising Zelda-esque inclusions of cooking, upgrades and tools.
It’s all more or less nice, as you can see, but the more I played, the more dismayed I became. Why? I guess I expected more of the story. When you have such a nice art style as well as sweet animated scenes, you have all the tools at your disposal to tell a story — hell, Celeste had less! And yet the developers didn’t even try to make something distinguished. The basic plot tells a story of Greak in search of his siblings, and it’s as gamey as it can be, with a bunch of loosely connected chapters with no trace of character development or interesting story twists. The pacing is all wrong: it all just plops along, going through the usual paces. In 2021 I expect uninspired story from a triple A title, but not an indie game like that. Is it an issue of the game or my high expectations? Maybe both.
Greak: Memories of Azur is a nice-looking little Metroidvania with a lot of potential but a bit undercooked structure. It got my attention with its gorgeous style, but lost along the way due to bad pacing, convoluted mechanics and forgettable plot. But one thing is certain: Navegante Entertainment are a talented bunch. They just needed a bit more experience.