Game Review: Ori and The Blind Forest

I enjoy platformers but typically only those that provide a moderate level of challenge.
Super Meatboy and Spelunky! are fun but get frustrating for me very quickly. When evaulating whether I want to play a particular platformer or not, I lean towards the games that offer something a little different. It could be a bigger focus on story, unique game play mechanics, or an artstyle that stands out for me. Ori and the Blind Forest seemed to hit on all of those. I happened to catch in on sale so I finally decided to jump in and was pleasantly suprised.You play as Ori, a white guardian spirit, who fell from The Spirit Tree as a newborn. You are accompanied by Nien, and spirit of some kind tied to the Spirit Tree. The game itself is a 2D platform-adventure game in which you make your way through Nibel solving puzzled and collecting powers which you use to restore light to The Blind Forest.

Ori gives you some feels…
The game opens beautifully, offering a spectacular look at the world you will be traversing in the game. The prologue sets the stage for the story of the game and that opening act is very sad. Many games seem to begin in a similar manner, with the main character suffering some kind of loss, but Ori does it better than most.

While the story doesn’t do too much more than give you some minor motivation to work your way through the game, it does add to the experience. It feels well thought out, albeit a little shallow, and it’s delivered in short narrations/explanations as you traverse the world of Nibel. It’s more than I expect from your standard platformer, but doesn’t hit the narrative heights of a AAA story-driven game like Bioshock or Tomb Raider.

Just keep playing, just keep playing…
The platforming feels good. The controls can be a little loose to begin with and, at least for me, took some time to adjust to – how far/high you’re jumping, landing/catching onto small platforms. Sometimes they feel a little unforgiving, but that may just be because I’m old and suck at video games.

The powers you gain throughout your journey are, for the most part, cool and varied. With each new power, you’re encouraged to go back to an area you already explored in order to access new areas to get all of the collectables. In its later stages the game does a nice job of making you link your various powers together in order to get through to various areas. There is a skill tree system so you have some say in how you build out your Ori, which is a nice touch.

The enemies are varied and interesting to interact with. They do get regenerated if you backtrack which can be both good and bad. Good, because on occasion you need said enemy in order to keep moving forward in the game. Bad, because if you’re low on health when backtracking to leave an area, you may have to face an enemy you’ve already defeated.

My only complaint is that the game can be a bit unforgiving at times and, if you die before getting all the way through a challenging task, you have to do the whole thing again. Maybe if I were an expert in all things platformers, it wouldn’t be a problem, but as it stands there were a few times where I spent 20 minutes attempting the exact same string of button-pushes in order to move forward in the game. It was by no means experience ruining, but it was some unwanted frustration in an otherwise chill platformer.

Technically speaking…
Visually, this game is gorgeous. It has a level of polish that is almost stunning, especially considering it’s 2 years old. There is also a great feeling of depth in the world, with movement happening both in front of and behind the plane on which Ori does his thing.

The various areas you explore throughout your journey are varied and wonderful. Each has its own style and challenges presented that are often times unique to that area. This is where the lighting effects and colors are used to great effect. Sections that take you through the tree tops look and feel very different than those that have you traversing through lava-filled caverns of the underworld. The music and sound really help to set the tone of the game, making the overall experience more immersive. I simply cannot say enough about the sound and art direction in this game.

Verdict: 8 (Good)
After spending a year or so thinking about playing this game, I finally dove in when the price dropped into my no-risk zone ($10 or below). I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked Ori and The Blind Forest. So much so that I actually put off starting Prey to finish it.

The game play mechanics are fun and the various abilities invite the player to experiment with them throughout the game. Traversing the world was fun and while a few particular sections felt unforgiving, Ori provided a fair, challenging, and rewarding experience. Technically, the game has no flaws. It’s gorgeous to look at, the music and sound are great, and I didn’t run into any glitches or issues at all.

Overall I had a great time exploring Nibel and while I did get the game at a discount, I ended up getting at least the full-retail value ($20) out of it. I’d definitely recommend playing this game.

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