I really liked Greak: Memories of Azur. It has some minor problems, but as an overall package, it's well worth your time.
The first thing that you will notice as soon as you start Greak: Memories of Azur is how gorgeous it looks. It is absolutely stunning. The character designs and animations are sublime and the world itself is straight out of a fairytale. Gorgeous and extremely detailed hand-drawn backgrounds parallax scroll as you move through the land of Azur. From dark caves and icy mountainscapes to old temples, all of the environments you will see in Greak look amazing.
The once peaceful land of Azur is now in turmoil as the enemy race, the Urlaugs, attacked, invaded, and murdered most of the Courines. You start the game by playing as the titular hero, Greak, who is just a tiny boy belonging to the Courine race, looking to reunite with his older siblings and collect enough materials to repair an airship so the remaining Courines can make a successful escape to another land.
It's a sidescrolling action-platformer game, so all of the usual stuff is here. Double jump, wall jump, dodge, basic attack combos, it's all here. What's unique though is that as you progress through the game and you reunite with your older brother and sister, you get to control all three characters separately or have them follow you by holding down a button. Controlling each one separately plays a big role in how you navigate through the world, as some paths are accessible only by one of the siblings, but also how you solve most of the puzzles as each of them has their own special abilities.
For example, Greak is small and he can crawl inside some tiny caves. His sister can hold her breath for a long time and instead of double-jumping, she can "fly" or hover for a limited time so you can reach distant places. While the older brother has access to a grappling hook and also a shield that can block any incoming damage. And you will need to use all of these mechanics rather creatively when you need to solve the puzzles that are present in the game. One can argue that some of the puzzles can become quite annoying as you'll have to switch to one character to open a door, then back to another one to have him stand on a button on the other side of the door, so the third one can swim under an opening to reach a place that raises a platform so that the first character can run all the way back to access another button so that the other two ones can switch places so that you can finally solve the puzzle. See what I mean? But, I kinda liked these long puzzles, cause I really needed to think about how to solve them and I didn't mind the backtracking that was involved in the solution.
The other main part of the gameplay, the combat, can be challenging at first when you only control one character. But as you get all three of them and you understand how to "cheese" the system, you can just mow down everyone in a matter of seconds. That includes the bosses too. While the boss encounters are neatly designed with cool telegraphed attacks you can dodge or block, once you understand that if you have the other two siblings follow you and you move as one unit, when you attack, they attack. What that means is that if you spam the attack button, they too will spam their attacks so you can melt through even the toughest of bosses in a minute or two. At any time during combat, you can use items to boost your attack power or heal your characters. There are a lot of these items spread out in the world that you can find and even combine to make even more powerful items that will aid you.
Exploring the world has its benefits as you don't only find consumables, but also trinkets that permanently upgrade each of the siblings. However, the lack of a room-by-room map where you could clearly see what part of the world you have visited or not was a huge problem for me made no sense in my head. Was it an oversight or a design choice from the devs? This world is beautiful and these trinkets are cool but remembering what part you have visited or not is hard, especially when you don't play the game in one sitting. This gets even worse when you have a couple of quests to complete and you don't really know where to go and do them. I played the game for 2 hours, then did not get a chance to play it for 3 days and when I got back to it, I didn't really know where to go. So, yeah, a room-by-room map would have been extremely more helpful than the simple overview map that's in the game.
While this oversight was a "big" problem for me, I absolutely enjoyed Greak: Memories of Azur. A gorgeous art style, great soundtrack, and smart puzzle design make Greak: Memories of Azur one of the best games I played in 2021. If you get a chance to play this game, do it. Thanks for reading!
The game was reviewed on a PS5 using a promo code provided by the publisher. Greak: Memories of Azur is available now on PC, Playstation, Xbox and Switch.