Coming from Navegante Entertainment and Team17 is another entry in the not noticeably starved for content platform genre. Bringing a strong story, some great looking graphics and promising some tough platforming action to go at, can Greak: Memories of Azur bring anything new to the table, or should it just bow its head and admit that Ori still rules the roost in this particular genre?
Now, the first thing I have to say is that Greak is absolutely beautiful to behold, well on a par with the market leader I mentioned a minute ago. The characters that you control have a lovely fluid motion to them, and the backdrops are all beautifully realised, looking like a painting almost. The enemies are suitably scary, with a kind of zombie look about them, yet on the flipside the main characters are cute enough that you care what happens to them. Throw in some well constructed levels with multiple paths and branches to explore, and it’s all very good indeed.
The sound is equally well done, with growling monsters and boingy mushrooms well represented. Even the audio cues that are attached to the ingredients you can drop in a cooking pot in order to create new items is done just as well as the visuals. Top marks go out here to the developers, pretty much as any game that makes you stand and gaze at a vista that it has created is going to get a big tick in my book.
Now, the next thing any game needs to have in order to be a success in my eyes is a strong story. Luckily, the narrative here is a pretty good one. At the heart of it is a family, and the bond between siblings. We start out playing as the titular Greak, and our overriding mission is to find our sister, Adara, and our brother, Raydel.
You see, we are Courines, and our race is under attack from a shadowy evil by the name of Urlags. We are sadly losing the fight, and so the decision has been made to evacuate – however, in order to evacuate, we need to find the missing components of an airship before we can make our escape by air. So, in true Metroidvania style, the scene is set for us to have a two fold mission: Find the rest of our missing family, and hunt down the bits and bobs we need for the airship to take flight.
At the beginning of the game, all is well and Greak plays like most platforming heroes before him – running, jumping, double and wall jumping, attacking with a sword; you know the drill. He also has a handy dash move that can pass through attacks and also close the gap to enemies. Any fans of the genre will feel immediately at home. Playing as any of the other characters, once you find them, is also equally fun, especially as Adara with her floating balls of doom attack. Using the separate character’s abilities to solve puzzles is also pretty good, as are the occasions when you have to work together to open doors, for instance. All in all, the gameplay on display, when controlling a single character is great fun and involving to play.
However there are times when you have to control more than one character at once and well, this is where there is a puncture, even if it’s not a full on wheels falling off moment. You see, in theory, it should be pretty easy to control all three characters, as if you hold the LT button, all three characters can be moved as one. And this works well, until you have to jump over a gap.
That’s because each of the three siblings in Memories of Azur has such a wildly different style of jumping that trying to make all three clear a gap together as one, like a well oiled machine, is doomed to failure. One character (usually the one you are controlling) will make it, while it’s usually Adara, who has a floaty kind of jump, not a double jump, that will fall down the gap. And when this happens, you have to go back, take direct control of each character in turn, and move them individually to the area that you want them to be in. This makes a mockery of the gameplay, as you have to clear the same jump three times, which takes three times as long, and so things start to lose their flow as soon as you find the third family member.
And this is a real shame, as is the lack of a two player option. Why have multiple characters on screen that can be controlled, and not have the option for at least couch co-op? That’s a massive missed opportunity to me. And while I’m complaining, why on earth is this game an X|S exclusive? Whilst there’s no debate it looks gorgeous, there’s nothing here that couldn’t run on an Xbox One, as Ori proved, so locking Greak away to X|S only users (while it’s on the Nintendo Switch, a machine with less processing power, don’t forget), seems like a kick in the teeth to Xbox One owners.
All in all, Greak: Memories of Azur is the very embodiment of a game of two halves. It looks incredible, there’s no two ways about it, and when playing as a single character, the gameplay is extremely good. It’s in the later stages when trying to manage three characters at once that annoyances creep in. Overall, Greak is a good game, but there are some control gremlins to overcome.
The beautiful Greak: Memories of Azur can be found on the Xbox Store