Looks can be deceiving. From the first glimpse of Ori and the Blind Forest you may think this is a cute platformer, but hiding underneath the beautiful surface is a challenging Metroidvania that will test the most skilled out there.
Ori and the Blind Forest is stunning. The gorgeous artwork and the wonderful music will tug on your emotions as much as challenge your hand to eye coordination.
At the start of the game, we’re introduced to Naru. Here’s a lovely creature, almost like a big bear, who lives in the Nibel forest. Naru lives in the forest, eating fruit and generally enjoys life and what the world offers. We’re then introduced to Ori, a bright feline-like sprite of the forest and the two hit it off. Enjoying each other company they spend their days eating, sleeping living out their days in each others company.
Then tragedy. The forest starts to die and Ori is left alone to figure out how to restore the forest to its former glory. It’s a hard-hitting start that will tweak the heartstrings and I’m not afraid to admit, brought a tear to my eye. A Metroidvania game at heart Ori heads out to explore, uncover new areas of the map, power up abilities and save the forest. The environments in the game are gorgeous in art style but full of danger in gameplay. There are moments in the game when you may want to simply look at the beautiful artwork and together with the music the game engages you in and then smacks you in the face with challenging gameplay. It’s a fantastic combination.
As you progress through the game Ori powers up abilities through interactions with sacred trees. There’s a relatively complex skill-tree allowing you to choose your path for Ori and focusing where you want to get more powerful next. You’ll start with a simple weapon, but as you go you’ll transform delicate little Ori into a powerhouse. Opening up new skills allows Ori to traverse the environment in new ways with wall jumps, boosts and ground pounds. The map will open up to you in classic Metroidvania style with areas locked off at first opened through exploration and new abilities unlocked. Ledges maybe just out of reach without a boost or a wall jump.
Controls and character movement in Ori is a wonderful feeling. Fluid, fast and responsive with a great feel only compliments the game design, visuals and audio. Don’t be fooled though, Ori is a challenging game and stands up tall to challengers in the genre. The graphics welcome you in and the gameplay made you sit up straight and pay attention. Soul links are an interesting mechanic in the game. Whereas you may find save points in other games, here you create them with ability points found in the forest. You’ll need them too because the forest is full of nasty things that are out to kill you… over and over again.
It adds in a layer of strategy to the game which makes you stop and think. Early in the game, you won’t have enough resources to create the save points, so you’ll have to pick and choose carefully. Later in the game, as the difficulty ramps up and resources become plentiful you’ll be glad. As you power up your Soul link you can layer abilities on top of it such as recovery, which definitely helps out in the tougher moments when you need it most.
The abilities unlocked in Ori as you progress through the game are immediately used and the game teaches you when it comes to abilities through repetition and urgency. Rather than using a newly learned skill to simply get to a new area, the game will make you repeat the action over and over until the new skill is second nature and it’s this learning-by-doing which trains you to traverse through the forest and avoid the dangers with pinpoint accuracy and skill. Ultimately it leads to a very gratifying experience and one that will leave you flying around the levels with momentum and satisfaction.
The gameplay loop in Ori feels great. It doesn’t set you up like some other games – there’s a freedom, not only in movement but abilities too which feel good. Once you get into the rhythm with Ori you’ll bounce off the top of an enemy – double jump and boost up a wall and then shoot another. It’s a game that will leave a smile on your face and not just because of the art, it’s a feeling.
The set pieces in Ori are heart-pounding and exciting. Getting to the end of an area and running through an escape sequence will challenge you and repetition and learning are the tools that are required to finish off these zones as you bounce up walls, escape rising water levels and use precise timing and abilities to save your skin. These moments are some of the best in the game and will leave you with your heart in your mouth.
There’s an emotive nature to the game with the hard-hitting start, the combination of the amazing orchestral music and character animations found in Ori and the Blind Forest. The developers Moon Studios have done a wonderful job in creating a connection with the main character and the playing and you’ll be rooting for little Ori to figure out what’s happening to the forest, why it’s dying and what you can do to revive the environment and restore the forest back to its lush state.
It’s not all good, however. Yes, it’s beautiful and sounds awesome. Battles with enemies can feel a little cumbersome and fights and abilities can feel a little repetitive and you can fall back on tactics which don’t reward player skill, rather reward button mashing over timing.
Ori and the Blind Forest is a gorgeous game that’s challenging, fun and hooks you with a heartwarming story. There’s enough here to challenge the seasoned pro among you, but doesn’t stop you in your tracks with ridiculous difficulty levels. Satisfying, beautiful to look at and listen to Ori and the Blind Forest is worthy of your hard-earned money and will offer you a rewarding experience. Originally an exclusive to Microsoft platforms the game is also coming to Nintendo Switch on 27th September 2019.