Ori and the Blind Forest is a truly beautiful game. The layered, watercolour backdrops, flora that subtlety sway as you pass by them, and superb use of lighting, all combine to form a visual treat on par with the recent Rayman titles. Furthermore a captivating score, intrinsically woven into the game and acting as a companion on this lonely journey, strikes all the right chords for evoking adrenaline, fear, and sorrow. It’s a stunning audio and visual experience.
Fortunately the level design and mechanics are constructed with the same quality, providing an intriguing, dangerous, and rewarding forest to explore, with precisely the right abilities and pacing you’d expect from a high calibre, 2D Metroidvania platformer.
After a heart wrenching opening, which wonderfully sets the scene and introduces the world, you take control of Ori, a fox type creature encapsulated by light, who must return the three elements of water, wind and warmth to the Spirit Tree in order to restore balance to the forest and prevent everything withering away. Meanwhile, Kuro, a sinister looking owl, means to stop you, and Sein, an orb of light from the Spirit Tree, means to guide and protect you.
To find the three elements you must move through the forest, defeating enemies, exploring different areas, and acquiring new abilities that help you access paths that were previously closed to you. Sein fights for you, homing in on nearby enemies and striking them at the press of a button. Meanwhile, you collect green orbs for health, blue to power some of your abilities, and gold orbs to purchase skills. It’s a very traditional 2D platformer at heart, right down to its stiff challenge.
Enemies can very quickly drain you of your health and in order for Sein to lock-on to them, you have to position yourself fairly close to danger. You’re highly acrobatic though and thanks to the lock-on you can concentrate on dodging rather than attacking. It’s unfortunate that the enemies show such a lack of variety. You’ll fight the odd frog type creature and charging beast, but the majority are pulsating blobs.
Additionally, saving is down to you. For the cost of blue orbs you can create save points; an extremely useful ability if you’re about to face a dangerous section. However, it’s not always easy to foresee dangers, and with the aforementioned strong hitting enemies, a slight lapse in concentration can leave you vulnerable. It’s very frustrating to lose significant progress because you haven’t saved often enough and getting into the habit of creating save points takes some getting used to. Fortunately it’s not long before you’re inundated with blue orb energy and can save frequently without compromising the use of other energy dependent abilities.
There’s also a sprinkling of collectables to find on your journey for the three elements and mastering the mechanics to fetch them all is hugely satisfying. The Dash ability in particular is very interesting to use. Dash freezes time and gives you the chance to leap significant distances, reflect a projectile back at an enemy and maintain multiple jumps in such a way that it’s as if you’re flying. As you acquire a new ability you’re very quickly presented with obstacles that require you to use that ability to overcome them, the collectables ask you to fully master them, and doing so treats you to some spectacular acrobatics from Ori, all presented with fantastic animation.
Certainly Ori and the Blind Forest is a beautiful looking and sounding game, and thanks to strong level design and superb mechanics, the platforming and combat provides a fun and impressive experience. It can get very frustrating during the particularly difficult sections, and remembering to create save points is an important lesson to learn, but you shouldn’t hesitate to experience Ori’s well-told and charming story in this spectacular setting.
Thanks to Microsoft for supplying TiX with a download code
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