Ario is a 2.5D action-adventure that has some slight tower defense mechanics periodically. Unfortunately, the lack of polish makes this game unplayable in spots with some truly head scratching design choices.

Playing as a boy searching for his mother as it gets raided by odd looking masked enemies, the plot doesn’t make sense. Normally, the narrative can be pushed aside as it might not mean much in term of gameplay, but here, it is just the opposite. There is a big emphasis on the plot, as the story is told through some nicely drawn cutscenes, but the player is never really told who these bad guys are, why they all look the same, what exactly are they trying to do, and why did they so happen upon your specific village. As another laughable point, the player encounters an old man locked in a cell who then gives him a crossbow. How does a frail old man keep a giant crossbow hidden in an empty cell? Wouldn’t the guards easily see this large, deadly weapon being housed there?

Making matters worse, the characters speak gibberish during cutscenes. However, by default, subtitles are turned off. At first, I thought something was wrong with the game but then realized that this critical option is deactivated for some reason. So if you play this game, be sure to turn on the subtitles as the first thing you do.

Gameplay is essentially classic Prince of Persia-ish but faster, looser, and buggy. It feels cool to move with such a high speed but then becomes tedious and inaccurate when faced with detailed platforming challenges. On a few occasions, I got stuck on parts of the environment and had to restart. One time I actually got stuck on an enemy’s head, soft locking the game. It is a shame because the foundation of a parkour system is in place but falls apart with it being so loose and random.

Combat is the same as traversal. The player is given a few abilities to take down enemies, like a flying head stomp and dodge roll, but becomes too reliant on the crossbow system. Even though aiming is handled through the analog stick, it never feels right or snappy. At times, the game breaks into a tower defense-like scenario where the player must control arrows from a large crossbow, sniping each enemy that spawns in the distance.  Unfortunately, there is no option to invert the camera control so these sections became nearly unplayable for me. While it can be satisfying to nail a moving target from these great distances, it becomes a little ridiculous when it takes multiple arrows to drop a single soldier.

The control and plot might be lacking but the landscapes are a highlight. From sweeping plains/forests to heavily guarded strongholds, each area conveys a different feeling. My complaint is a double-edged sword as the 2.5D perspective can make each area look much more interactive than they really are. Instead of being locked to simple left and right movement, I wanted to explore the elements in the background. Sometimes there are even fake pathways that appear to transition into the background, making them seem explorable when they are not. The soundtrack also isn’t a soundtrack. It is just looping ambient noise that misleads the player they are listen to something much bigger than its appearance.

Ario feels like an early beta or late alpha version of a game that has its heart in the right place but falls apart with its execution. It is too buggy to recommend, too loose controlling to fully enjoy, and the lacking presentation values simple do not respect the player’s time. Also, the name Ario might not have been the best choice because Google searching only yield results from Nintendo’s most popular franchise.

SCORE: 4/10

Not As Good As: the latest Prince of Persia title

Better Than: going back to the original Prince of Persia with its super high difficulty and short timer

Not To Be Confused With: Ayo The Clown

By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief

Twitter: @ZackGaz

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