Greak: Memories of Azur

25 March, 2024 - 8:00 am by
About 11 mins to read
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch

Drew has pledged to slowly but slowly churn his way through his sizeable stack of Nintendo Switch games for his ‘Beat the Backlog’ feature. Check out his main article to see what games he’s completed already!

Okay, so I’ll come clean – the pretty, multi-character platformer, Greak: Memories of Azur, hardly had enough time to sit unplayed on my Switch for me to call it a ‘backlog’ game. But I would like to add that’s only because I’d had it on my wishlist FOREVER before pulling the trigger, so it’s been on my backlog in my head ever since it came out in 2021, even if it wasn’t actually loaded on my Switch for all that long. 

(I should also add that I actually played Greak way back in November 2023 and neglected to scribble up my review. I’m backtracking a little bit here, but the game is so good that it definitely deserves a write up.)

A 2D side-scrolling platform-puzzler, Greak: Memories of Azur conjured up some ancient and long-forgotten memories of the 16-bit classic, The Lost Vikings. That might be a deepcut that only decrepit old folks like me will get, but there really are a number of similarities between the two games, despite there being almost 30 years between their releases. Each game asks you to take control of three characters, each with a different set of skills, and have them work in unity to traverse the environments, solve puzzles and proceed through the game.

At A Glance

Date Added to Backlog14/10/2023
Price Paid£3.99
Positives  + Surprisingly deep lore
+ Beautiful, hand drawn art style
+ Powerful orchestral score adds huge weight

Negatives  – Controls are fiddly in places
– Combat rather simplistic
– Some poor framerates detract from the awesome cut scenes
Overall8 /10
Played OnNintendo Switch
Also Available OnPC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
Find out about our scoring policy here.

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The game opens with you taking control of the titular Greak, the youngest of three siblings. Having fled his hometown of Drendle following an attack from the barbaric Urlag, he traverses the land of Azur in the hopes of finding his sister, Adara, and their eldest brother, Raydel. The siblings belong to the Courine race; sweet-looking, elf-like characters with bright white complexions and blue hair, who are the curators of life in the world. They have long fended off the warmongering Urlags, but the land is now engulfed with fighting more fierce than ever before, with fewer and fewer Courines living to defend it. On top of the threat that the Urlags pose, the Courines must also overcome hellish plague creatures who stalk the landscape and kill any prey they fall upon.

Greak is eventually taken in by the residents of a small Courine township, who are making their last stand against the Urlags whilst building an airship, hoping to leave Azur behind and start a new life on a new continent. Eager to help the cause, Greak volunteers to find the materials needed to finish the aircraft while he searches for his brother and sister, keen that they aren’t left behind. Granted, it’s not the most original of quests, but it does offer you the chance to build some attachment to the Courine townsfolk as you share in their hardships. For such a sweet looking game, there’s a certain sense of doom and gloom about the place, which is a credit to the character design and writing in making you care about these little people in such a short space of time.

Greak aspires to use his short sword, bow and impressive mobility to join the Scouts, whose reconnaissance duties are as well respected as they are danger-filled. As the smallest of the three, Greak is able to squeeze into areas his elders cannot fit, accessing nooks and crannies that often serve as shortcuts. Adara is the middle sibling; enrolled as an Oracle, she has learned the mystic arts and can use her powers to attack enemies at a distance, float through the air (think Princess Peach in Super Mario Bros. 2), and help her breathe underwater. The eldest of the three, Raydel is part of the Warrior class and is much more well-armoured than his siblings. He fights with a long sword and shield, allowing him to block incoming blows and even hold back beam attacks coming from above, but his extra equipment comes at a cost, as he is the only character of the three who is unable to swim. His manoeuvrability isn’t entirely hampered by his armour though, as Raydel also carries a hookshot which allows him to grapple onto nearby points, traversing high walls and crossing great chasms (at least when the fiddly hookshot controls aren’t battling you at every turn). 

Once you’ve reunited the family, you’ll have to use their combined abilities to overcome various obstacles, often splitting up to reach various buttons and switches that open up alternative routes to allow the siblings to reunite and progress. The puzzles aren’t especially difficult and the signposting is solid, so you’re never left wondering what you need to do to access new areas – it’s more about steadily working your way around to open things up with the right character. 

Traversing the world as a trio of characters can be a little tricky, in that it’s not uncommon for one of the three to become stuck on ledges and such while the other two continue. It is a little annoying switching between characters to get everyone together again, but it didn’t happen so often that it hampered my experience too much. Perhaps the most difficult part about having three protagonists is that each one has a separate health bar (even when you’re travelling together), and it’ll be game over should any one of the siblings’ life bars run out. As a result, I tended to leave two of my companions behind when getting into combat, deciding to fight one-on-one instead, which admittedly spoiled the USP a little bit. The combat isn’t especially complex and you can overcome any number of enemies by simply taking your time and using a hit-and-run approach. That said, it is effective enough in giving each of the characters some unique advantages and offering some deal of threat outside of just simple pitfalls.

So what first drew me to Greak: Memories of Azur? Well, just browsing the eShop, it was probably the hand drawn artstyle, which, I think you’ll agree, looks absolutely stunning. In many ways, the visuals remind me of Hollow Knight –  and, trust me, that’s a comparison I wouldn’t dole out lightly, as Team Cherry’s Metroidvania masterpiece is in my Top 10 (maybe even Top 5), games of all time. But there’s similar beauty in the thought-provoking backgrounds and almost the same haunting feel to the environments, so I can’t help but draw comparisons between the two. And while the character design is quite different, the quality is no less impressive, with the wonderfully endearing player characters standing in stark contrast to the menacing Urlag and the grim and frightening plague zombies.

What really surprised me about Greak was how detailed the lore seemed to be, especially for a game that’s only between 6-10 hours long. It would have been easy to make such a short game an ‘action-only’ affair, but instead Navigante Entertainment has packed their little universe full of legends, heroes, and backstory that outdoes some games twice or three times the size. The Courine characters even share a number of sweet idioms as they talk with one another, and just adding these few unique phrases adds real weight to the believability of the lands, races and histories you’re introduced to in the game.

Helping to elevate this minnow of a platformer towards heavyweight status is a powerful orchestral soundtrack, the likes of which is usually only found in much bigger budget titles. Themes are nuanced and complex, inspiring thoughts of endless plains, towering ruins, and sprawling forgotten caverns far beyond the short levels depicted in the game. Equal parts mysterious, militaristic and melancholy, the score tells you an incredible amount about the world without ever uttering a word. The brass section deserves particular praise, with the horns adding a sense of timeless royalty to the soundtrack that helps underpin the impressive sense of history played out by the detailed lore.

I fell in love with Greak: Memories of Azur from minute one and would be overjoyed to see a sequel sometime in the future. Navegante Entertainment have created a world rich with lore and overflowing with melancholy storytelling that I quite simply wish there was more of it to explore. The powerful orchestral score adds considerable weight to both the action and the narrative, folding in another layer of depth to the experience. The puzzle-solving may not be the most taxing, but the levels are well designed and showcased with the most beautiful hand drawn visuals. Short, sweet, but almost perfectly formed, Greak: Memories of Azur should be on the radar of every Metroidvania fan out there.

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Our Rating