After the big hit that was Azada (still is, really – the walkthrough page gets hundreds of hits everyday, easily.) I waited for its sequel with baited breath. We were promised many things – bigger, better, more Azada-ness.

What I didn’t expect was a shorter game that took only an hour and a half for me to finish and a lack of challenge overall. I can understand that the first one might have been a little too hard for the casual gamer that are used to Match-3’s, but this is ridiculous. Most of the “books” clocked in at just under 3 minutes for me; there’s almost never a question of which object to use, the game held your hand all the way. When I couldn’t find something, the game obligingly points out where it is for me with a penalty of 4 minutes (nothing, compared to the 40 they gave you in the beginning).

When you’re well and truly stuck, the hints system allows for an unexpected way to get a hint without sacrificing time. Simply click on the hint button and see which page allows for a hint, then look around to see what you’ve missed. No need for a penalty.

There are certain mechanics that are somewhat inventive and new, such as the bury-wine-turns-into-vinegar-in-100k-years trick, but even that harkens back to Day of the Tentacle. Some of the puzzles seem to repeat itself; in two cases we had to click on one page, gets someone’s attention, flip back to another page, and take stuff. Of course, the guy turns around so quick we couldn’t get everything at once, so we just kept repeating the motion and he keeps falling for it.

Like in the previous installment, mini-games abound, but this time integrated into the “books” or storyline. No  sudoku this time around, or English pegs, thankfully. No slider puzzles either. In trading for the more inventive puzzles, even the mini-games were a bit of a let down. When you finish each book, its mini-game is available for replay. I wish the books themselves were left there for a playthrough as well, but I guess that wouldn’t fit well into the storyline.

Graphically, Ancient Magic is easily the best looking game in the casual market. With its 3D rendered background scenes with proper perspective, the only thing that can compete with it is Dream Chronicles. Even DC doesn’t have the kind of resolution Azada has – 1024 x 768 vs. DC’s 800 x 600. No contest there. Azada’s graphics are sharper and more detailed, objects being picked up are never pixelated.

The orchestral score performed with a real orchestra – no stock music here! – is impressive as well, and while I usually just leave the sound off or very low in games like these, Ancient Magic’s music is worth a listening to.

Is it worth $6.99? You betcha. $20? Not for an hour and a half of gameplay, it isn’t. If you load up the trial and each puzzle takes you 10 minutes to complete, it’s worth it for you. If you breezed through it, wait for a 40% off promotion.

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