Ori And The Blind Forest
Ori and the Blind Forest is a 2D side scrolling platformer from Moon Studios. It has been 4 years in production and within the natural limitations of the genre they have made a game that is practically perfect. The game is based around the story of Ori, a forest spirit who was orphaned from his family in a disaster that sees the forest slowly die. The death of his foster mother, Naru, drives Ori out of his home in search of a way to save the forest. The story is sweet and works nicely alongside the graphics and the game play to create a cohesive product. It’s not going to win an Oscar any time soon but is satisfying enough and like all aspects of this game you can see that it has been crafted with care.
This level of care means Ori and the Blind Forest is in many ways the opposite of modern AAA titles. It has been 4 years in production (rather than sequels being churned out ever 12-24 months; it has been polished and perfected until it is flawless (rather than having a 3gb update on release) and its embracing its nature as a 2D side scrolling platformer (rather than trying to be all things to all people). Now obviously it’s a lot easier to produce a well polished 2D platformer than an open world 3D game but it’s equally easy to fuck up any type game (Halo Spartan Assault anyone?) and some “features” of open world games (tennis/golf in GTAV springs to mind) are so pointless the game would be better without them so the fact Ori is a 2D platformer is a feature rather than a weakness.
The key strength of Ori is its extremely high production quality. It is a beautiful game with lovely hand rendered screens with almost no repetition. Each area of the map feels different and atmospheric. And whilst you aren’t really going to look around the next corner just to see the view it is very enjoyable to spend time in the world of Nibel. Visually it is perfect and this is the exact reason why Super TIME Force (LINK TO PREVIOUS REVIEW) annoyed me with its pseudo 8bit graphics. The sound is also beautifully done with a genuine orchestral score that occasionally feels a bit pretentious but generally fits quite nicely with the overall feel of the game.
The game play is solid traditional platformer so it’s all run, jump, punch, stab. The controls are comfortable and accessible although the combat aspect is pretty simplistic and the enemies you can destroy really just play a role as removable platforming elements. Apart from killing (or not) the enemies there is really only 1 way to clear most sections of the game. The accuracy required leaves a small margin of error in the timing of actions feels about right, it is challenging without being truly difficult but sadly I just don’t enjoy it. I get frustrated too easily and don’t get enough enjoyment from mastering a particular section to keep me moving forward. Having said that it kept me engaged longer than I expected thanks to the extremely tight level design and how carefully it grows in difficulty as you progress.
The game play expands via some light RPG type character progression that allows Ori to pull off new tricks and explore areas that were previously inaccessible. This progress is extremely natural and well balanced with the key abilities unlocking as you complete the game sections making it impossible to get ahead of the difficulty curve. The new abilities are just enough to keep the game continually fresh which again comes back to the high production values and carefully designed stages that makes re-exploring areas of the map satisfying if not enjoyable.
Unless you are a completionist or, like me, shit at platformers. Ori and the Blind Forest will provide around 10 hours of entertainment and compares extremely favourably to some recent releases like Gat out of Hell. It’s an excellent game for older children (a fair PG rating) and you must be dead inside not to be touched by the story of Ori and the world of NIbel. It’s no Dragon Age: Inquisition but Ori and the Blind Forest is a worthy addition to your gaming collection; either as a break from your usual gaming diet or to plug a gap between AAA releases.
Reviewed on: XBox One
Reviewed by: Aaron