Greak: Memories of Azur is a beautifully hand-drawn single player adventure developed by Navegante Entertainment, telling the story of three siblings fleeing their invaded homeland.
Greak‘s presentation is almost flawless. The hand-drawn environments and characters look like a meeting of Hollow Knight and Zelda, and it plays much like that combination would, too. Against the backdrop of a dark invasion, the titular Greak must find his siblings and escape their homeland by building an airship before it’s all too late.
Exploring the world requires alternation between each sibling, making use of a small array of unique abilities to overcome enemies and solve puzzles. It’s never particularly intricate stuff, but it’s usually satisfying enough. Greak himself is nimble and handy with a sword – to be honest I would have happily played an entire game that just built upon his combat and movement abilities like a Metroidvania.
But this is a game about siblings, and all three of them are playable – in fact, once you’ve “acquired” a new sibling, you’re basically in direct control of them all the time. One button “calls” the non-controlled siblings to your side, and another makes them mirror the actions you take – like running, jumping, or fighting. It is, however, a very simple solution to the problem of having three playable characters, and the “call” button really just does the basics. Siblings won’t even jump over obstacles by themselves.
This works fairly well in exploration and puzzles, which is what it really seems built for. It does take a little getting used to, and the “call” button’s inefficiency feels mildly frustrating from time to time, but overall it makes sense in Greak‘s puzzle sections. The same cannot be said for combat, which just feels like a bit of a mess using those same controls. Despite having entirely shared controls, Greak and his siblings have individual health pools and attack ranges. So you can’t just stick together and clobber your way out – you have to pay attention to a few too many things at once.
Healing is done by accessing a menu which doesn’t pause or slow combat, and if one sibling dies, it’s game over for the rest. If just one of these issues was present, it’d be a minor gripe, massively outweighed by all the blatant charm and atmosphere Greak: Memories of Azur exhibits at almost every turn. But altogether, they can massively disrupt the game’s flow, turning boss fights into dreaded moments for all the wrong reasons.
Outside of boss encounters, it’s usually okay – you pick up items and can take on sidequests to learn new fighting techniques, which give a little more depth to the characters on an individual basis. Controlling all three characters at once in combat never really hits a decent flow, though. It’s the quality of Greak‘s world, accompanied by a varied, incredibly apt orchestral soundtrack that makes it special. The puzzles are decent enough, the combat is fun in small bursts, but the world it all takes place in is incredible.
Greak‘s world is fleshed out with sidequests and a cooking system which sees you acquiring new ingredients from the environments you travail. While the path to your next objective is never hard to find; there’s plenty of reasons to venture off the beaten track. Even when exploration results in a (temporary) dead end, you’re treated to some beautiful artwork.
It’s hard to deny the amount of passion and creativity that must have been poured into Greak.
Greak: Memories of Azur overall thoughts
Greak: Memories of Azur is a charming adventure with a clumsy title and even clumsier combat. If you can find your way past the headache of fighting enemies with three controllable characters simultaneously, you’ll be rewarded with a rich, emotive story told through beautiful artwork and emotive music.
Unfortunately – for me, at least – the fiddly combat turns Greak into an experience I’m not desperate to recommend. It has a ton of artistic merit, and it’s worth getting to grips with the awkward nature of its battles, but not everyone is going to have the patience for it.