Review: Ori and the Blind Forest “If you’re willing to put in the occasional harsh grind, you’ll be greatly rewarded”
There are many things a game can demand of a player: time, energy… money. With Ori and the Blind Forest it’s patience, and you’re going to need a surplus. A challenging, yet rewarding 2D platformer, Ori and the Blind Forest is likely to appeal to fans of classic platmormers with its fresh take on the traditional gameplay staple, rewarding ingenuity and punishes obvious solutions. In a beautifully vivid forest world recently plunged into darkness and decay, players take up the role of Ori, the adorable spirit, squirrel/fox creature tasked with re-uniting the elements of water, wind and warmth to breathe life back into the forest of Nibel.
All in all a very noble cause befitting the fairy tale image that Moon Studios presents Ori and the Blind Forest to be with its beautifully hand painted visuals and mesmerising score. Don’t be fooled however, it’s a façade. There are dark undertones to the game, revealed initially in the haunting opening sequence. As a lost orphan, Ori is adopted by the lovable creature (and Miyazaki movie lookalike) Naru. Their idyllic family life is cut short however when a cataclysmic event causes the forest of Nibel to wither and die, taking the life of Naru with it.
After wiping away tears, players soon learn that death by starvation is not the only dark theme lingering in the bowels of Ori and the Blind Forest, as the game also contends with sacrifice, revenge, Ori’s dead ancestors and a forest full of corrupted nasties. What makes Ori and the Blind Forest such a demanding platformer is that Moon Studios throw players into Ori’s newly orphaned shoes and refuses to mother them. Players get no assistance or helpful hints and must advance through puzzles through a brutal cycle of trial and error. You can spend half an hour, and thirty grizzly deaths, before concluding that Ori requires a new skill before advancing in that direction.
There are times when you’ll feel like enough is enough and that a puzzle is unsolvable. Much of your frustration will stem from Ori’s movement, as every motion is fluid and precise, meaning that any and all mistakes are down to the player as Ori never misplaces a step. To add insult to injury, you can view Ori’s death counter to view just how bad you are at solving puzzles. To keep the game fresh, each area is meticulously designed with new environments and abilities for Ori to unlock to enable greater exploration. However each ability comes with the need to master its physics, as the game won’t hesitate to exploit and punish your ineptitude.
One of Ori’s most unique powers is his ability to save the game. While mundane sounding at first, it plays a crucial part to fluidity of the gameplay. By making the player decide when and where to make a save (provided he/she has enough energy to do so) players will soon learn the consequences of too many or too little checkpoint spawns. Whether trapped in an endless loop of fatalities in a tricky puzzle with no energy to re-save, or flinging Ori across the length of the map only to land on some sneaky bramble without saving, players will soon learn the pitfalls of the soul link.
With grim, gruesome deaths in the reflection of Limbo, the cannon fodder style trial and error gameplay of Super Meatboy and the magically fairy tale-esque visuals of Child of Light, Ori and the Blind Forest is set to be one of the strongest indie titles of 2015. If you’re willing to put in the occasional harsh grind, you’ll be greatly rewarded with exquisite presentation and an enormous sense of self accomplishment.