Ario (Xbox Series) Review

Ario telling me that’s all there is?

In a land plagued by nightmares, an unscrupulous sorcerer uses the people’s desperation to gain power. Those who dissent are disposed of. Now the titular “Ario”, a young lad seeking the thrill of adventure, returns home to find his mother missing. And with only one possible explanation, he heads to the city to find her. Thus begins your journey in Artax Labs latest game, Ario, an ambitious action-platformer with more than a passing resemblance to the likes of Prince of Persia and PS1-era platformers. But are Ario’s lofty ambitions realised by its small development team and budget?

Ario‘s classic inspirations are obvious as the side-on camera follows Ario as he runs along a 2D path. It orbits and re-focuses as the paths wrap around the scenery, giving the world great depth to beyond the obvious layered elements in the foreground and backgrounds. It’s a neat visual trick to add some dynamism to the traditional 2D platforming gameplay, while also using that depth to break up the platforming with simple puzzles and shooting gallery sections.

Ario Story Cutscenes

The story is told through motion comic-style 2D movies, some of which are fully voiced in Persian. The art style is fine enough but, unfortunately, this marks the beginnings of Ario’s many problems. That Ario is a budget game goes without saying, but there’s a near complete lack of polish that brings just about every aspect of the game down.

As an example, after the opening, Ario doesn’t attempt to make any logical sense or provide you with a sense of narrative progression. Characters are quickly met, left unnamed, and then disappear – only to re-emerge in the game’s final cut scene as though they were travelling with Ario throughout the entire journey.

Ario Visuals

It doesn’t help that Ario also suffers from some pretty terrible voice acting. That I could forgive as an indie game but then the audio cut out about halfway through the game, leaving me with some annoying ambient sounds only, before the last cutscene played without any audio. On top of that, the English translation felt poor with plenty of misspelt words.

The aforementioned lack of story progression also has an impact on level design. Ario’s journey is meant to take you across a country, with each level beginning from the last. In the beginning, that design works perfectly, but near the end of the game, it felt as though the developers either ran out of time or budget, and just decided to bring the game to a quick close. A journey to the game’s first boss is followed up by a non-voiced cutscene, then the game’s final level and boss fight. The anticlimactic ending, scored only by ambient sounds, sees the bad guy fall and the screen pans down to the games title screen and credits. There are no explanations, no plot resolutions, no character arcs – it just ends.

It might have been easier to ignore these issues if Ario’s journey was a fun one. Unfortunately, even the few solid moments of inspiration are let down by the game’s biggest offender: unresponsive controls and poor collision detection.

Starting with the good, Ario has some nifty movement skills for a supposedly average lad. He can roll to dodge attacks or environmental dangers, and wall jump like a professional to reach those hard-to-find areas. Initially, Ario has no attack skills beyond a death-from-above drop that can K.O. enemies instantly. But, in true platformer fashion, two extra skills are unlocked during the campaign. These manifest in the form of a crossbow that can shoot regular arrows or explosive bombs, and a strange set of steampunk boots that give him dashing attacks that are governed by a stamina metre (or steam metre) that allows three attacks in a row before needing to recharge.

Ario’s move set is simple, but it plays well with the level design which is, ultimately, simple as well. There is plenty of running, jumping, and wall-jumping, with just enough enemies and death-dealing traps spaced across the levels to break up the flow.

Ario Traps

The biggest problem is that Ario’s attacks and rolls suffer from serious input issues. Sometimes they work, more often than not, they don’t. As an example, having to press the attack button multiple times before Ario would even aim his wrist mounted bow became frustrating in the few moments that I needed it quickly – so eventually I just decided to ignore the enemies by jumping over them whenever I could. Ario’s roll – a big part of the move-set used to avoid enemy swords, giant saws, and the like – is very unresponsive. It often didn’t work at all, leaving me smacking into enemies or objects; or it registered too late and left me open to enemy attacks.

When you couple those issues with one-hit-kills, enemies that can’t be vaulted over, and hazards that need to be avoided, you’re left with a very frustrating time indeed. There are a bunch of other issues too, such as collision detection problems and first-person sections that run on too long, but none of them vex as much as the unresponsive controls.

So, while I admire Artax Labs’ attempt at creating a Persian-inspired action-platformer, and despite having enjoyed a few of Ario‘s fun platforming sections, it’s hard to recommend. Between its abrupt ending and frustratingly unresponsive controls, Ario feels more like a proof-of-concept in desperate need of more content and polish.

Ario was reviewed on Xbox Series S|X using a code provided to gameblur by the publisher. It is also available on PC and PS5.

Ario (Xbox Series) Review

Ario (Xbox Series) Review
4 10 0 1
Total Score

The Good

  • Rare, inspired moments of classic platforming
  • Some nice use of the camera to give the world more depth

The Bad

  • Frustrating, unresponsive controls
  • An abrupt ending
  • Terrible voice acting
  • Poor writing and translation
  • Audio elements cut out frequently
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