iPad Game Review: Azada HD Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Azada HD is a high quality puzzle adventure from Big Fish Games. Hidden object game fans be warned: Azada HD is different than most of Big Fish's other offerings in that it is primarily a puzzle game with a sprinkling of hidden object gameplay, rather than the other way around. This is certainly not a bad thing, but it's important to know what you're getting into here.
In Azada HD, you find yourself trapped in a haunted room by the ghost of your late uncle. Apparently, the only way to free him is to solve a series of puzzles, which will make perfect sense to you if you're a veteran of these types of games. If you're not, however, just go with it. There are 40 different puzzles conveniently organized into bite-sized chunks. They vary wildly, not only in type and style, but also in difficulty. While some are fairly straightforward such as finding similar items or assembling jigsaw puzzles, others are surprisingly challenging, especially with the timer constantly ticking down. Thankfully, successfully completing a stage in the time allotted will grant you the ability to skip the occasional maddening puzzle in future stages.
In order to build a bit of tension and urgency, the developers have cleverly chosen to go with a single timer for each stage, forcing you to engage in a bit of time management. Dawdling on one puzzle will necessitate you working more quickly in others, etc. When I initially launched the game, I chuckled smugly as I stared at the 35 minute timer and the ridiculously easy puzzle. I was chuckling out of the other side of my face, however, after I solved it and moved to the next one where I was greeted by the same countdown, minus the time I had spent on the previous puzzle. At that point, I seriously regretted leaving the game running while I attended to a few emails.
Overall, I found these puzzles to be a bit more challenging than those you would find in a hidden object adventure game, and I enjoyed almost all of them. Azada HD has full Game Center support, allowing the achievement-minded to, uh, achieve. My only real frustration with the game had nothing to do with the actual gameplay. Due to the portfolio style case I use with my iPad, I prefer to place my iPad on its left side when in the horizontal position. Unfortunately, Azada HD only supports one orientation. Not a dealbreaker, but a surprising oversight that leaves me constantly pushing my iPad back into its case as it slowly slips out.
The graphics and animation in Azada HD are first-rate. Even the puzzles with minimal animation have a very polished, fluid feel to them due to the attention to detail given each of them graphically. Objects glow, spin, fade in/out, and just generally look great. My only complaint is the same one I have for every other game with a hidden object component that I've reviewed; the background images and items to be found should be rendered at a higher resolution. Azada HD is no worse in this regard than any other current offering (and better than some), but there is just no excuse for not sharpening these graphics up.
The sound effects are nicely done in Azada HD but it?s the soundtrack that I really enjoyed. It has a distinct Harry Potter style to it; mysterious, foreboding, yet playful. I not only left it on; I turned it up.
Azada HD is a very strong puzzle adventure game with high production value and tons of polish. The puzzles are clever, the graphics are beautiful, and the soundtrack is memorable. The countdown timer is bound to make this game less attractive to those looking for a little relaxation, however, if you don't mind a little artificial stress applied to your puzzles, you will be hard-pressed to find a better puzzle game than Azada HD.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 4 - Beautifully animated puzzles, and high-quality animations marred only by less than high resolution hidden object screens. Sound: - 5 - The sound effects are good, and the soundtrack is excellent. Controls: - 5 - All of the puzzle interfaces are easy to understand, and the touch interface is accurate and appropriately sensitive. Gameplay: - 4 - The puzzles are solid, however the presence of a timer that cannot be turned-off will keep some from completely enjoying this game.
Playing Hints and Tips:
If you're stuck, it may be better to use a hint (with its associated time penalty) than to stare blankly at the screen while the timer runs down. Speaking of the timer, be sure to pause the game if you stop playing for any reason. Try to save up the stones necessary to skip puzzles as the later ones are more challenging than the earlier ones.