Arto review for PC

Platform: PC
Publisher: Freedom Games
Developer: Orion Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: Not Rated

Usually one of the first things I do whenever I play a game is I crank up the brightness. No dark or dinginess for me: I want to see everything in bright, vivid detail. So it should tell you something that one of the first things I did when I started playing Arto was to turn the brightness down. While I wouldn’t say the game is an eyesore – it’s absolutely not – it can be a little searing on the old retinas if you’re not careful.

The good news is that once you’ve fixed that issue, Arto is absolutely gorgeous to look at. It’s a game where the basic premise is that you’re restoring colour to a monochromatic world, and it infuses that plot into every step you take in this game. Not only is every level a riot of colour, the game also does a great job of giving you different art styles everywhere where you go. There’s no shortage of games where you’re restoring colour to a world – just off the top of my head, I can think of de Blob, Chicory, Discolored, and Rainbow Billy, and I know there are plenty of others – but Arto must just be the most colourful out of all of them.

It’s a pity, then, that the gameplay is so lacklustre.

Arto is a hack & slash action game where you don’t do much more than hack and slash through wave after wave of enemies. You slowly learn other skills, but none of them seem like major upgrades from the core attacks, and enemies – especially bosses – often feel like sponges, absorbing a tonne of damage without you ever getting any indication that you’re making a huge difference.

It also doesn’t help that Arto explains itself so poorly. The game does a lousy job of explaining how you do what you do, largely because of the fact the font is so incredibly tiny (at least on a Steam Deck). I’m quite certain I missed key bits of info because of the fact I could barely read what was on the screen. Since the controls are fairly intuitive – as I said, there’s a lot of hacking and slashing, and it’s fairly obvious what you do to block and parry – the game is still easy enough to figure out, but it can be a literal headache to try and see what else the game is telling you.

I should also add that the tiny fonts aren’t the only time the game is hard to see. The game will occasionally abruptly shift its style, and while it looks cool – because, again, everything in Arto looks amazing – it’s not as fun to play through. I occasionally lost limited health points because the game drastically changed colours or style just as a boss was charging at me, and there wasn’t anything I could’ve done about it.

It’s all enough to make you wish that you could just look at Arto instead of having to play it. It would probably have worked really well as a visual novel or a walking simulator, where you could luxuriate in its incredible visuals without having to worry too much about how it plays – but in this state, as a hack & slash action game, it’s a lot harder to recommend.

Freedom Games provided us with an Arto PC code for review purposes.

Grade: C-

Tagline: A lot more fun to look at than to play.