Aztez is a beat 'em-up with a twist

Black and white and red all over.

Team Colorblind's Ben Ruiz loves beat'em ups. Bayonetta, God of War, Devil May Cry - you name it and he's played it. But as much as he loves the genre, Ruiz wants to do things a little differently. So he's taking matters into his own hands by creating a brawler (of sorts) that's as esoteric as they come.

Aztez is a beat 'em up, and a stunning looking one at that. Its stark, stylish visuals were just something that Ruiz came up with some years ago during a game jam ("this was before MadWorld," he emphatically states). There are black and white tones with the prerequisite reds - Aztez is after all game about a brutal Central American culture that was steeped in violence - but also greys that pop less than the rest of the colour palette, providing stylised visuals without the eye strain.

What's maybe more interesting about Aztez, and where it deviates from other games of its ilk, is that it's also a strategy game. When you're not defending the interests of your empire from internal strife, you have to manage your lands and resources and (of course) widen your reach.

While my brief time with Astez didn't leave much time to go in-depth with the strategy element, the allure of dealing in politics and economics as well as smashing heads makes for a pretty promising design.

That said, Colorblind has definitely spent a great deal of time on the combat element as well. When you need to micromanage among your citizenry, it's time to bring out your brusiers. The 2D melee has a gruesome crunch to it as you beat the tar out of enemies using a variety of combos. Sound in particular is spot-on here, if a little cartoony, and there's a grisly connect to each blow that tells of the damage you've dealt (of course, the buckets of blood are a pretty good barometer there, too.)

There's a lot of minute detail in Aztez's art that's wonderful to behold. Stylised characters at once resemble both the silhouettes of gods and men depicted on ancient murals in Tenochtitlan and an old Disney cartoon, and much of the Aztecs' more identifiable mythical iconography is present in one form or another.

A favourite effect is how fallen enemies instantly transmute into the greyed out environments, with the clean, straight lines of the civilisation's breathtaking architectural skill looming at all times over the chaos of the foreground. In general, the historical flourish is great - at one point during an "uprising" I was slaughtering new recruits - 15-year-old boys who had just eagerly joined the army.

While the mechanics for Aztez's graphic battles are tight and feel solid, it is replayability, the whole reason Ruiz wanted to make the game in the first place, that may be the real hook. The strategy half of the game is built procedurally, meaning that environmental factors and scenarios, among other factors, will be different every time you play. And if Colorblind can capture the savagery and society of the Aztecs in equal measure, Aztez could very well attract both brains and brawn.

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