Azul (Plan B Games) Game Review

6
A beautiful, charming game that -- for whatever reason -- couldn't catch my attention.

I feel like if I say "I don't like thinking games," some of my geek cred gets taken away. And it's probably not entirely accurate. Earlier this year, I became enamored with Sentient, which is basically just a numbers puzzle in a box. But for whatever reason, I don't like games like Azul: games where the basic premise is one long puzzle. 

Don't get me wrong: I can tell that they're good games. I want to like them. And I can tell that, if I let them click, I would be pretty good at them. But I don't want to, and, when I really think about it, I think I blame adventure games.

I can count on both my hands and probably both my feet the times when I've had to stop a murderer but for some goddamn reason I was stuck in the sewers completing a Match 3 puzzle first.

I had the secrets needed to disarm a nuclear warhead, but you know what? Before that, let's play some Towers of Hanoi.

Hold on now there, buddy, you can't possibly save the world from the Apocalypse before this sliding puzzle. 

You can speak to the undead king after playing Lights Out.

Something about games like Azul just remind me of a mini-game, except it's a mini-game for life, and I can't progress until I finish it. 

But Bringing it Back to Azul...

Azul is a very well put together game. Even the box is well put together. The cloth bag feels lovely (nevermind the fact that I hate cloth bags filled with tiles). And the premise is simple and intuitive. Just fill your rows with like-kind colors so you can move them onto your pattern.

Now, my frustration isn't entirely unwarranted. There are some weird, fiddly things with Azul that make it not-the-best. Every player has the exact same gameboard, unlike a game like Sagrada. Because of that, it's very easy for players to get trapped into the same strategy. You can change that (there's another side to the board), but then it becomes sudoku.

And even with some very experienced players, the game itself just seemed a little off and repetitive. Pick your tiles, throw the rest to the center. Pick other tiles, throw the rest to the center. At any given time, there were only a few valid decisions, and the correct one was generally clear. There were only a few moments (which came down to player psychology) that anyone had to hesitate. 

Overall, Azul looks like it's a pretty good game; not groundbreaking, but fun and intriguing. Despite that, there are those two things that prevented me from liking it:

  • It didn't feel rewarding in and of itself, it felt like something I had to do in KOTOR so the Jedi would let me have a lightsaber.
  • It's one of those 'trust scoring' games, where: A) scoring involves math and B) players are solely responsible for their own scoring. No matter how much I trust people, these games always end up completely off because either someone isn't scoring correctly or literally cannot do math. 
  • It's also $60. (I lied. There were three.) I try not to rate games based on price point, but at $60, it did feel entirely too simple. 

If you like puzzle-based games and want something relaxing, fast, and simple, Azul is definitely up your alley. I do think it's a game that can be likened to Sagrada, but I feel like there are a lot of areas in which Sagrada probably did it better. What I can say is that the game is beautiful. It has an incredibly charming aesthetic, and everything feels extremely polished and nice.