Since the inception of 3D adventure games, the genre has become polluted with hordes of “me too” titles featuring uninspired mascots and licensed cartoon characters trapped in the same hackneyed plots and cookie cutter worlds. While such efforts as Super Mario 64 and Devil May Cry have served to restore some gamers’ faith in the genre through their styles of gameplay and/or presentation, there yet remains a festering pool of nigh-unplayable monstrosities leaking all over store shelves under the guise of videogames. Azurik: Rise of Perathia falls into this category.

 FDR's fireside chat provides more thrills than Azurik
El scorcho

    Azurik's plot is as hokey as they come. Perathia, a typical utopian city of fantasy, has maintained its balance for the past several hundred years through six elemental discs stored inside the sacred palace atop the city's central hill. These discs were infused with their respective flavors by the Ancients, a presumabley ancient race of demi-gods who entrusted the discs to humans. Unfortunately for Perathia, if any of the discs should disappear, the corresponding realm will deteriorate.

    And it is within the six surrounding elemental realms that the game takes place. As Perathia's premier Lore Guardian, it is Azurik's job to stop his rival Balthazar from wreaking havoc with the stolen Disc of Death. The game takes a very epic attitude toward everything, as showcased by the grandiose opening and heroic, John Williams-inspired theme music, but unfortunately never comes across as anything more than mildly urgent. Azurik and the player's journey feels like another trifling fetch quest in any RPG you've played, made only slightly interesting by the odd puzzle strewn here and there. Perhaps a cast that consisted of more than "blue guy," "purple guy," and "old blue guy" would have opened more doors to the story that the game tries so hard to create.

    But even the shabbiest plot can give way to an enjoyable gaming experience. Unfortunately, Azurik's gameplay plummets layers beneath the mark of dullness set by the storyline, giving the player an experience that rivals activities such as cutting grass or doing taxes in terms of sheer exhiliration. Azurik's slow, choppy animations mesh poorly with the awkward and unresponsive controls to produce a wholly unenjoyable game.

This almost sort of halfway looks like an actual environment, kind of
Knock-down drag-out

    Combat is simple hack'n'slash, made slightly more interesting due to Azurik's ability to combine elemental powers using his double-bladed staff, the Axion. By holding down the L trigger, players can combine elements using the corresponding buttons on the Xbox controller to activate or deactivate them and subsequently imbue Azurik's weapon or armor with one of several elemental combinations. Through this, players can melt walls of ice, extinguish monsters made of fire, and overcome other elemental puzzles neatly and easily. The game will even allow you to play around with combinations in the submenu, without wasting precious elemental fuel. The simplicity of combining elements during play would have fit perfectly into a fun game, but is instead wasted on Azurik. The main problem with the elements themselves comes from the fact that simply, they don't make much of a difference. Aside from using the required combinations to level barricades and bosses, going out of your way to acquire the numerous power-ups and new Axion abilities is simply not worth the effort when standard enemies offer little to no challenge.

    But beyond issues of story and control lies Azurik's most critical flaw: levels designed and constructed with the sole intention of crushing a gamer's spirit. The various realms of Perathia serve not to demonstrate the divine artistic skills of the Ancients, but instead the awkward ineptitude of Adrenium Software. Caves and alcoves are messily tacked onto mountains with no semblance of natural form, sole passageways to main areas are all but invisible in the darkness, and unnecessarily narrow landbridges mean lots of slips and retracing of steps. Furthermore, the will of the Ancients will occasionally dictate which open areas you can or cannot pass through for no discernable reason by erecting a massive, invisible wall, frustrating players who would dare give in to their sense of exploration. On top of all this, the game is completely devoid of maps (auto or otherwise), meaning that keeping track of which of the several dozen secret areas have or have not been accessed after acquiring a new element is virtually impossible.

 You are the outcast smurf
The world has turned and left me here

    Azurik's graphics are altogether unimpressive. Monsters seem hastily thrown together from whatever was left over from Oddworld, and the character models are downright ugly. There are several spots among the elemental realms that come close to looking nice, but are quickly diluted with the presence of these uninspired enemies as well as Azurik himself. The visuals would have almost been impressive in any recent PSone title, but instead insist on shaming the Xbox, which is certainly capable of much more than this.

    As a whole, Azurik: Rise of Perathia is an ill-conceived project that somehow made its way into production and emerged as a broken, unplayable scrap of a game plagued by poor design and riddled with flaws. Sadists may enjoy Azurik for its ability to inflict endless pain in one's mind and body, while future game developers have found a definitive example of how not to make an adventure game. If Azurik were to ever to manifest itself as an actor's career, it would easily fit into Pauly Shore's; torturous, awkward, and not worth remembering.

Review by Alex Fraioli, GIA.
Azurik: Rise of Perathia
Developer Adrenium Games
Publisher Microsoft
Genre Adventure
Medium DVD-ROM(1)
Platform Xbox
Release Date  11.28.01
12 screenshots