Being a big fan of 2D platformers and open-minded about indie games, when Ori and the Blind Forest was announced back in E3 2014, it instantly caught my attention.
From the visuals, to the fast-paced gameplay style, to the similarities to other games such as the Rayman series, to the nice soundtrack used during its reveal, I was utterly entranced by the title.
Despite the soothing vibe that both the visuals and soundtrack gives you, the gameplay shown during its reveal strongly implies that this isn’t for the faint of heart. After playing it for myself, I realized that assumption was kind of right.
When first launching the title, you will be introduced with a prologue that explains the events of the game and the relationship between both Ori and Naru.
By the end, you’ll most likely have already fallen in love with the Ori. The best word to describe it is “heartwarming,” which is a trait not often seen in video games this day and age.
I loved every second of Ori and the Blind Forest‘s story. It was a deeply emotional plot about love and sacrifice, as well as the hope that exists inside all of us. The excellent narrative only served to enhance the story even more and is easily one of the strongest points of the game.
Passing the prologue, the game lets you take control of Ori. At first, you’ll feel the vibe of simplisity, until the real gameplay kicks it up a notch. The moment you start learning your flame and wall climbing abilities is when you realize the game is much harder than you imagined.
There are three types of cells — life cells, energy cells and ability cells. The first one, as the name suggests, is your life meter. Energy cells are what you will be using to create Soul Links and overcome obstacle, such as an explosive to open doors.
Of course, with patience and the right abilities, you should be able to overcome any upcoming obstacle. But there will be spots with plenty of trial and error, in which it is imperative that you save in a nearby spot, else you may find yourself at beginning of the map.
Using your energy cells you will be able to make checkpoints, (also known as Soul Links) which are imperative in the game, considering that you will be dying a lot.
There will be main checkpoints at some points of the map, in which you won’t need to sacrifice your energy. In both check points, you will be able to access the Ability Tree.
Along the way, you’ll learn new skills that aid in slaying foes, as well as new techniques to overcome obstacles. Additionally through the Ability Tree, you’ll gain new abilities that facilitate your adventure, including increasing the strength of your attacks as well as splitting the cost of your flames.
There will be parts where you’ll be torn between using your energy cells to create a Soul Link or using it to overcome the next obstacle. However, you can always go back to a previous point where you collected the energy cell, as they sometimes regenerate.
The game isn’t divided by levels but instead plays out in an enormous scrolling map, which is divided by sections, similar to other classic titles.
Overall, gameplay is really fluid; you can even combine your skills easily, such as wall climbing and using your flames at the same time. There was never a part where I died because of the game’s incompetency but rather my own. Any 2D platformer fan will be satisfied with the tightness of controls and environment designs.
While there will be parts where you will need to jump correctly so you don’t fall into spikes or any obstacle, most of the problem revolves around killing enemies while trying to advance or during boss encounters.
As for any criticisms, I would say this title requires a little bit more of rapid button pressing rather than precision.
For the most part, I truly enjoyed the difficulty of the game, although sometimes the difficulty spikes were a bit too extreme in some sequences — including those close to a boss encounter — to the point that they became quite a bit frustrating. Nothing beats the feeling of satisfaction when you win against such a tough adversary.
Whether you play the game on PC or Xbox One, it is still an incredibly stunning title, with gorgeous hand-painted character and level designs and excellent use of light and color. The designs alone are mesmerizing. It’s easily one of the best looking 2D platformers I have played.
The soundtrack in Ori and the Blind Forest is amazingly soothing and relaxing. In some parts of the game, I just wanted to press pause for the sake of appreciating the soundtrack.
Some of my favorite songs are “The Waters Cleansed,” “The Sacrifice,” and “Approaching the End.” It’s easily on my top list of favorite soundtracks which includes other unique titles like Flower, Flow, and Journey.
Although Ori and the Blind Forest may seem like a simple game, it offers great storytelling, visuals and an amazing soundtrack packed together in one great Metroidvania-style package.
While there are some parts of the game when you are guaranteed to die as the game can get difficult, that simply goes hand in hand with every good action-platformer.
It may be too early into the year, but I honestly believe this title to be more than a good contender for game of the year — it’s certainly worth every penny.