Review: Ori and the Blind Forest (Xbox One)
When the first trailer for Ori and the Blind Forest was shown there was a unanimous feeling of awe. It looked amazing, special even, and a game that was not to be missed. This was emphasized by the sadness that was experienced when the game was delayed. That delay meant we only got it this month and left us wondering if the wait was worth it, well was it?
When I booted up Ori and the Blind Forest for the first time it took me about 30 minutes to actually pick up the control and play. The beauty that was emanating from my screen had me instantly attracted. There is something about the design and the music that almost puts you in a trance. I almost didn’t want to play the game, concerned that I had to leave the visuals I was staring at.
Eventually I managed though, picked up the control to take control of Naru, a fat creature that looks like she is always smiling. Naru discovers Ori, a cat-like creature, saves Ori and the two of them spend many days hanging out like family. Until… something happens and Ori decides to venture out of his comfort zone into the Blind Forest, Nibel.
It’s at this point that you take control of Ori, and where the games real magic comes to life. Ori runs on its hind legs for the most part. You start off with just basic skills of running and jumping until you shortly meet up with Sein, a light from the destroyed Forest that inspires you to save the Forest. Sein has the ability to attack enemies and will partner Ori along the entire journey.
Ori’s main task is to bring the forest back to life by finding certain stones in the forest and reviving the Spirit Tree to make this happen. It isn’t so easy though as there is a massive bird lurking that is intent on nothing but destruction. That and there are lots of enemies and puzzles to be solved in order to get what you need.
Ori and the Blind Forest takes you back to the 2D platformers of old. There are all the elements of a fine platformer that make you realise just how few games manage to create that same sense of brilliant level design and gameplay. Ori may start with just standard abilities, but the more you progress and level up the more in-depth the game becomes and the more it changes.
While discovering the world of Nibel, Ori upgrades his abilities by earning ability points, and another set of skills through finding Spirit Trees that can be revived. Eventually you will be able to do more damaging attacks with Sein. You will be able to climb walls, break through objects, glide and even do power jumps and double jumps. Through acquiring these skills the game will test you at every corner on how adept you are at using them.
Ori may appear to be your standard platformer but it executes every aspect so well that it’s honestly near perfection. The array of puzzles to get through the levels is amazing, the enemies are as diverse as your options for dealing with them. Precise timing is needed at some points, while at others you can breathe a bit and take in the beautiful scenery. The boss battles are well balanced and never too inconvenient.
Everything in Ori and the Blind Forest just fits so well together that you have to make sure you take it all in. There are just so many things that work in the game that putting them into words would take forever. The platforming is some of the best I have ever played and it is all in one seamless world that has you moving through so many different environmental elements that you literally feel Ori’s exhaustion by the time you reach the end.
There are of course collectibles too if you want to get them, and they are not pointless either as you can locate ability points, health upgrades and energy upgrades to improve your character. The great thing is that if you decide not to go for the collectibles you will still be able to continue at a good pace.
As solid as the gameplay is I have to just mention the beauty again. The visuals from start to end, no matter what area you are at in the game, are just breathtaking. It’s the same style as the recent Rayman games, but I think that it somehow tops it with powers unbeknown to us. The level of detail that goes into each section in the foreground and the background, plus the changing elements on-screen are just unbelievable to behold. I don’t think I have ever been so taken with what I have seen in a game. I am never sure where I sit on the whole “games are art” thing, but looking at Ori and the Blind Forest that stance is made easy. It’s pure art.
It’s also aided by a stellar soundtrack that accentuates the on-screen happenings. It’s wonderfully orchestrated into what is nothing short of whole emotion. It’s almost as though the developers knew that they could reach any gamer through more than just a brilliant game.
While Ori and the Blind Forest is mostly brilliant there are a couple of hiccups in the game. More than once I experienced some pretty awful frame rate drops, when there was a lot happening on the screen. It wasn’t frequent but did result in a death or two. The second thing is that the automatic saves are not very common and only happen after big events. You can manually save whenever you want though but remembering to do so at times is a pain and you can end up replaying a huge section if you do forget.
The game is based on the old-school platform model, which means you will die plenty of times. Particularly so during the boss battle/escape sections which are far more difficult than the rest of the game and requires lots of patience and good timing. There are also respawning enemies which can get a bit annoying when you are trying to figure out where to go. It’s not too serious and certainly doesn’t ruin the game, but worth noting.
Ori and the Blind Forest is quite easily one of the greatest platformers, if not games, I have ever played. Its visual beauty is one defining aspect but at no point does it outshine the rest of what the game does. It has emotional moments, happy moments, frustrating moments and mind blowing moments. It’s a combination of all that you would want in a game and not for one second through the 7.5 hour experience did I feel like I had enough.
I know we live in a world where AAA games rule the market, but if you are going to play one game this year, Ori and the Blind Forest should definitely be considered. If you dislike 2D platformers then you might find it frustrating, but still worth trying. If you are a fan of the genre then be aware that you are in for something incredibly special. A journey worth taking in what is one of the best balanced platformers of all time.