Aaron Riccio Avatar Image

Aaron Riccio


Favorite Games:
  • Chrono Trigger
  • Virtue's Last Reward
  • The Stanley Parable

207 games reviewed
64.5 average score
70 median score
42.2% of games recommended

Aaron Riccio's Reviews

Aaron Riccio's been arguing over the merits of video games since discovering the merits of 1990's Miracle Piano Teaching System straight through to recent kerfluffles over the value of so-called walking simulators. His sweet spot is the intersection between puzzle, action, and adventure games, though he realistically tries to play just about everything, and is an ardent supporter of any artists attempting to break new ground.

SEASON is a poetic, meditative game, but it often bluntly calls too much attention to its intentions, especially with fussy dialogue like “I feel a dulcet tension in the air.” Then again, it does capture the soothing sensation that comes from immersing oneself in another world and learning about it, and with the exception of the game’s final encounter, it’s nothing if not consistent. In the end, SEASON isn’t about answers so much as it is about coping with loss. As one character puts it, repeating one word like a mantra, time always moves on: flow, flow, flow.

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A Space for the Unbound triumphs in capturing what’s between the lines of the story: the life-and-death emotions of Raya. The game’s not afraid to peer at her faults right alongside everyone else’s, and if, as one character puts it, “The most perfect world is one with imperfection,” then, emotionally speaking, this is a pretty perfect game.

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Dec 19, 2022

Midnight Suns’s biggest payoff comes in its final mission, which ties together all of your efforts at The Abbey and in previous combats. Forcing players to utilize their least played characters is particularly telling of the game’s design philosophy, for the success of your multipart battle proves that Midnight Suns is only as strong as its weakest links—and, consequently, so long as you’ve been paying attention, there are no weak links when it comes to the game’s combat.

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Nov 28, 2022

The game’s eeriest moment is attuned to the politics of denial and unresolved emotions. The final boss, a manifestation of the existential crisis that faces the planet, is extremely hard. It’s far easier to accept The Knight Witch’s offer for Rayne to just walk away from this battle and enjoy the next few years, hoping that maybe one of her allies can stop the world from ending. But that leads to an unsatisfying ending, with Rayne haunted by the question: “Was there more that I could have done?” This narrative beat is a bleak and brutal reminder that if we all keep blithely enjoying our lives instead of fighting the toughest of battles, we may come to regret it.

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Oct 20, 2022

It shouldn’t feel like a chore to be Batman, or his successor, and yet that’s precisely what winds up happening in Gotham Knights. Instead of cracking cases, players are stuck mopping up random crimes, and doing so with a combat system that feels more brutish and banal than that of the Arkham games. Considering how well the game understands Batman’s sometimes complicated lore, that’s a disappointing legacy for the World’s Greatest Detective.

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Sparks of Hope’s flaws are more accurately described as missed opportunities. The wardens of each realm are vibrant, funny characters who deserve better than having their backgrounds conveyed through static and lifeless murals. And given his thunderous personality, you’d think Bowser would speak up at least as often as newcomer rabbids Edge and Rosalina; it’s too easy to forget that he’s even in your party. But these things don’t matter in the heat of combat—does Bowser’s Bowzooka cannon really need a backstory?—nor do they apply to exploration (which is better off not explaining the physics of the Wiggler Express and its floral tracks, actually), but in a game overflowing with sparks of joy, it doesn’t seem unfair to hope for even more.

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Sep 23, 2022

So far as the library of songs goes, it’s perfect for novices willing to play anything, but probably less so for experts who may be disappointed that the specific song they want to learn isn’t there. New songs are added regularly, as part of the base subscription fee, and there are enough genres there that you shouldn’t ever feel pressured to play a track from, say, the Wiggles or NSYNC (unless you want to), but you don’t need to be a math expert to know that even with over 5,000-plus tracks, there are bound to be some major omissions. Still, the game’s adaptive method ensures that on every track, whether it’s the Circle Jerks’s “Beverly Hills” or Boston’s “More Than a Feeling,” it’s still possible to learn something new and have a good time in the process.

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You’d think that the bigger an enemy is, the harder it would fall, but because the only determining factor of difficulty is the gap between your level and theirs, there’s no sense of scale to combat. The only tactic you need is that of attrition: The longer a battle drags on, the more meters you’ll fill, and the flashier the attacks that you’ll be able to unleash, like interlinking with allies to briefly enter a more powerful form, or executing a chain attack that laboriously unleashes a series of uninterruptible commands. Your sword-sponge enemies have millions of hit points not because it makes for interesting combat, but because it stretches things out long enough to make players feel as if they’re more than cogs in the system. These flashy combos are a good way to illustrate the importance of teamwork to the plot, but in terms of gameplay, they only continue to demonstrate how overly engineered every inch of the conflict is.

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Aug 3, 2022

“I’ll hack the machine and you’ll destroy some stuff,” says B-12 at one point in the final act. With that line, the game unintentionally reveals what it thinks of its cat protagonist. Despite being flesh and blood, the cat never needs food, water, or sleep; never hisses in anger at having to undertake a task; never bristles at the sight of a Zurk horde, at least not outside of one cutscene; and, aside from a few seconds of slower-than-usual animation, never seems injured by any major falls. Which is to say that if Stray had made even more room for moments that were alive to what it’s like to be a cat but also feel as one, then it might not have left us with the nagging feeling that the critter at its center is a calculated means to an end.

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Jun 26, 2022

That misstep is surprising considering how perfectly calibrated the rest of the game is. Though Neon White’s heavenly setting encourages perfection and players are required to earn a certain number of Gold medals to advance the plot, those are attainable even with the occasional mid-run mistake. (Ace medals, and a spot atop the global leaderboard, are reserved for pros.) It takes a bit of time to get used to playing at the game’s frenetic pace, but once you understand that each enemy and obstacle has been deliberately placed, it gets easier to read how the game wants you to move between them, and that’s a blissful experience.

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At the end of the day, players truly are Stanley, deriving pleasure and purpose from pressing buttons as prompted by the Narrator. This is a game that borrows a scene from Firewatch just to mock the concept of an open world and which sends up Steam user reviews—er, “Pressurized Gas” comments—and the idea of expectations and entitlement. Funny, right? But even if you’re not laughing with this exceedingly well-written game, it’s definitely laughing at you, and that’s as it should be for taking your entertainment so seriously.

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The Forgotten Land may not nail the world-building or plotting, but it’s not snoozing when it comes to Kirby’s transformations. In fact, the new optional Treasure Road activities highlight his absorptive arsenal better than in any previous game. These short stages help players learn how to maximize the various functions of each copy ability, whether that’s for light environmental puzzles—such as the Drill ability to burrow under barriers—or to do battle armed with chakrams, axes, flames, and more. Between the Road and the relatively lengthy main quest—six zones with five stages each and a post-game area that remixes harder versions of earlier levels—The Forgotten Land really gives Kirby’s powers a workout.

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Mar 14, 2022

That these abilities are purchased with the “kudos” earned from an efficiently fought battle shows yet again how Triangle Strategy always follows through on consequences—even good ones. In the world of this game, even something as casual as a thank you becomes a test of your character, and in the player’s hands, the fruits of such gratitude can become yet another weapon with which to win an exceedingly bloody war by any means.

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In the end, this is a fundamentally a grind-heavy game, as players rerun the same 12 mission types over and over again in various locations, slowly unlocking new lore about the alien forces. But by introducing difficulty “mutation” modifiers and offering a wide variety of team compositions, Rainbow Six Extraction is able to mask its most routine elements and continue, even at lower difficulties, to keep players excitedly on their toes.

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Vanguard, then, feels more like a tasting menu than a balanced meal. You get to sneak through ducts, scramble up walls in a decrepit department store, commandeer a dive bomber, and wield a flamethrower in order to clear out some anti-aircraft bunkers. It’s high-quality stuff, but it’s unlikely that it’ll all be to any one player’s satisfaction, and there’s no option to skip through chapters of the campaign or to get more time as Lady Nightingale. But in fairness, that’s what the very customizable multiplayer modes and offerings are for.

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Nov 2, 2021

A sports bike has two wheels, and wisely, instead of trying to reinvent those, Riders Republic provides players with iconic courses on which to ride its perfectly tuned bikes—and skis and jetpacks to boot. If anything, the developers at Ubisoft Annecy have gone to admirable lengths to make sure that nothing mechanically gets in the way of that fun. How odd, then, that so much of Riders Republic’s gameplay ends up bogged down under onerous checklists and thankless grinds that are the very antithesis of the game’s YOLO mentality.

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Oct 18, 2021

It’s true that the game’s card-based randomness may allow some players to stumble through boss encounters without properly solving them. But what is the proper way to come at most things is a social construct. Allowing players to find their own, occasionally lucky, way through the game is a brilliant way to demonstrate Inscryption’s cards-as-life theme. There’s no one right way to live, and despite all your preparation, sometimes you may draw an unlucky hand.

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Oct 7, 2021

The game doesn’t fail—you’ll remember the hits far more than the swings and misses—but it’s easy to imagine the better one that isn’t too big for its britches.

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The randomness of WarioWare: Get It Together! is a clear demonstration of the old adage that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. You never know what game or character you’ll see next, only that whether you’re temporarily playing as a hover-cab driver who can only shoot to the left or an overgrown kid who can only move by grappling between objects, you can make it something sweet, either in against-the-odds triumph or comic failure. Managing such chaos has always been a core tenet of the WarioWare experience, and in doubling down on the randomness of its microgames, the series has at last gotten its shtick together.

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Bridge of Spirits is an old-fashioned adventure game, one that sets you on a very curated, puzzle-marked path. Which is to say that it lacks for the trailblazing go-anywhere spirit of Breath of the Wild. But Kena is, after all, a spirit guide, so you can trust that you’re not missing out on much by sticking to the missions that she calls out on the map. What you’ll get by following that path that she puts you on are the tightest, most compelling pieces of gameplay, those rooted in plot. In fact, seeing as what happens to those spirits who lose themselves along the way, the purest form of Bridge of Spirits is the one that doesn’t wander off.

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