As any Myst fan knows, open a book and it’s like you’re opening the door into a new world. In ERS Game Studios’ casual adventure Azada: In Libro, you’ll open such a door into not one, but three gorgeously rendered fantasy worlds. As you search for a dark magician bent on destroying these literary creations, you’ll have fun exploring vividly imagined locales filled with activity and animation. Unfortunately, for a game about the wonder of books, a forgettable tale serves as the backdrop for its wide variety of puzzles, feeling more like a short story stretched out than a fully novel adventure.
Let’s turn back the pages a bit first. The game begins with an intriguing animated opening. A strange man in wire spectacles with slicked back hair is in your office, revealing that you’ve just received a very large inheritance. The catch? You must travel to Prague to receive it. Curiosity piqued, with no idea who could be leaving you anything, you board a beautiful steam locomotive. The train travels through a bucolic countryside, white steam puffing from its black smokestack. As you slowly pull into an Art Deco-styled station and walk up to a gorgeous stone townhome, this is where the stranger’s helpfulness ends. You’re on your own from this point forward to discover why you’re in Prague, beginning with how to even enter the house before you.
After finally gaining entry, you walk into an opulent salon and are met by a distinguished butler. Most butlers wait on you hand and foot, but do you know any that rip their faces off and present themselves as someone wholly different? This butler turns out to be Titus, one of three guardians of Azada who watch over three separate worlds (he’s the same adventurer in need of rescuing in the two previous Azada games). As it turns out, the inheritance note was an elaborate ruse to get you to Azada, a mysterious world hidden in the pages of a book and rife with puzzles. Titus informs you of his uncle, a man with dangerous powers who is threatening to destroy and rule over Azada. This power-hungry man has destroyed or incapacitated the residents of two of the three worlds and captured their guardians. As the last remaining guardian, Titus is looking to you to find the missing guardians and the keys they hold in order to imprison his evil uncle.
You’ll immediately find ERS’s signature art style on display; each scene is sumptuously hand-painted and highly detailed. In a quiet room occupied by a single skeleton, you’ll see a faint rainbow halo encircling the dead man, created by light filtering into the room. In the first world you visit, you’ll seek ways to banish creatures made of smoke who don’t harm you, but won’t let you pass by them either. Strangely, they look like demonic octopi more than anything. A second fantasy world is filled with crystals, where all of the creatures have been turned into copper and frozen in place. Why? Well, you’re never really given a reason other than the fact that Titus's uncle wanted them out of the way. Why he chose to freeze them rather than vaporize the flesh from their bodies as he did in the first world isn’t exactly clear.
Home to “fairies” that appear to be short sparkly dwarfs with wings, this second world enlightens you to the fact that before he could complete his plans of domination, the uncle was imprisoned in Azada’s third world... which is hell. Literally. Skulls are everywhere. The skies are hot and lit fiery orange. In a dark alcove, you hear the slathering grunting of an enormous, and very hungry, rat. Bright geysers of molten lava spurt against the sky. Skulls swing on stakes. It’s an aesthetic that’s heinous and beautiful at the same time: hot colors splash against the background as you stumble upon MC Escher-like decayed buildings held together by dinosaur bones.
These fantastic worlds are brought to life by a variety of lively animations. Click on a crab to harass it. A rocking chair with a deceased occupant sways when you push against it. A slight breeze ruffles the remaining feathers of a half-robotic bird. A human skeleton appears to have lost his life recently, his pipe still smoking. Some of the animations are just gorgeous: If you try to open a locked elevator behind a gate, bolts of lightning crackle out. An attempt at another elevator with the inappropriate key results in a sickly greenish smoke slowly pouring out of the top in a sinuous motion. You’ll encounter an amazing multi-headed gargoyle carved in stone, and each head has animations characteristic of the element it represents – one shivers as if bathed in the wash of a wintry wind, one blows fire, another cries rivers of tears.
Rather fusty music filled with harps and clarinets provides a soothing if undistinguished accompaniment part of the time, fading completely into the background for much of your journey. This leaves layers of ambient sound to increase the immersiveness of the settings, like the small grunting of a creature hiding beneath a trolley, with winds howling through desolate alleyways. While there is voice acting, you won’t hear much of it, as there just aren’t many living beings that you’ll meet along the way.Continued on the next page...