Every once in a while a game comes along that really sticks out in the sea of releases. Moon Studios Ori and the Blind Forest had always felt like it would be one of those titles. The gorgeous artwork, the ravings from people who played it; it all felt like something special was coming. Now that the game is out and I have had time to spend wandering around this world, there is definitely something special here. This is the kind of game everyone needs to experience. It truly is a memorable endeavor.
A lot of games attempt to force emotion down our throats with minimal success. The first 30 minutes of Ori delivers hope, dread, and eventually sadness, all with little dialogue. Think of it as the opening moments of Disney’s UP and players will get the idea. It conveys all of these things through fantastic direction, achieving something most games with inflated budgets fail to accomplish.
Platforms: XB1, 360, PC
Price I’d Pay: $19.99
The entire story really fleshes out over the course of the game, and the sheer lack of voice work really drives home how art direction can tell a great story.
At its heart Ori is an action platformer with hints of Metroid tossed in to keep things interesting. The map is broken down much like games of this style, with markers showcasing objects not yet accessible due to lack of abilities. The progression is fantastic. Each new item sparks that gamer instinct to go back and collect things previously unattainable. That itch is performed flawlessly here, and it made the lengthy adventure feel far less cumbersome and repetitive.
Ori is no saint though. The game has a death counter, and it will be abused. I died…a lot. This is a punishing game, but not in the sense that the enemies are challenging (although some certainly are). It has more to do with the twitch-reaction platforming. There is one section that literally doubled my death count, and almost caused me to quit the game entirely. It is frustrating, but when achieved, the satisfaction is unmatched.
These platforming segments only grew more complicated as I gained powers. Double-jumping added precise platforms that required pinpoint timing. Being able to propel myself off of enemies led to some insane sections that tested every ounce of patience I had. This game is brutal, but never in a way that feels unfair. Sure it is trial and error most of the time, but it also went a long way in teaching me how the nuances of the traversal worked. By the end I was moving across the world like a pro…with a death counter in the few hundreds.
The save system is also unforgiving. The majority of them are manual, and limited. Ori has an energy meter in addition to a health meter. This is used to create checkpoints, and also to level up skills with points. It has to recharge, and there are also a limited number of them. Players can collect orbs to upgrade the slots, but this meter is also used for charge attacks, so spending that energy wisely is a must.
Ori is a gorgeous game. There is no other way to put it. The visuals and world are stunning, and the visual effects the team has implemented are unlike anything I have ever seen. The style is reminiscent of Dust, but with layers of animation thrown on top of it. It does hiccup from time to time when loading or saving, but for the most part it runs relatively smoothly. Also worth noting is that I installed Ori on my external HD, but it still requires space on my internal. I am not sure this is like that for all games that have a dedicated space file, but this was the first time I had encountered it.
The music and atmosphere resonated with me long after I stopped playing. The main theme is memorable, and although the dialogue is limited, it really resonates with the world. The ambience is outstanding. The production values of this game are simply fantastic.
Ori and the Blind Forest is a beautiful, punishing game that harkens back to the classic side-scrolling titles of the SNES. It will beat you down and test every ounce of patience, but not without reward. This is one of those games people will be talking about down the road, not unlike Shadow Complex or Geometry Wars. It once again showcases that there are so many games and so many ways to deliver and experience them; and this is one experience you can’t afford to miss.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.