When Microsoft showed off Ori and the Blind Forest for the first time at E3 2014, I was instantly enamored. I wanted to explore the beautiful world that Moon Studios has created. I’m incredibly happy to report that Ori delivers on every single front. It’s one of the best platformers released in years.
You play as Ori, a glowing, cat-like creature with the powers of light. You’re also accompanied by a small light spirit named Sein who sends Ori on her adventure. Ori and Sein have to save their home, the forest of Nibel, from the dark owl Kuro who seeks to destroy all light. The story is simple but elegantly told. There are multiple heartbreaking scenes that made me shed a tear, and I love the fact that the writer went out of their way to make you feel sympathy for the game’s villain. Also, the story is told with very little dialogue, and that’s always an accomplishment when it works out well.
Ori has, hands down, the most beautiful 2D graphics I’ve ever seen. Everything in the background, foreground, and layer that you interact with has been drawn and animated with absolute top skill. The game feels like an animated film come to life, and it has to be seen to be believed. The amount of detail and love put into every square inch of each area and character is unfathomable. The only issue I had with the graphics is that, at first, it was a bit difficult to figure out the difference between obstacles and the gorgeous scenery, but I found myself getting used to it after the first hour or so. Every new location has jaw-dropping scenery to behold.
Thankfully, the game is in no way style over substance. Ori’s gameplay is just as majestic and wonderful as its graphics. Ori only starts out with a basic jump, but she gets many different moves throughout the adventure. I absolutely adored how smoothly Ori controlled from the very beginning. Ori can also acquire new moves, and every single one feels substantial. Her movement reminded me a good lot of Super Meat Boy which had some of the most challenging but fair platforming of last gen. Her wall jump is very similar to Meat Boy’s, and that’s a good thing. She is very acrobatic with how she controls, and that feeling only improves as the game goes on. Ori is not an easy game, in fact, it is very challenging. Even as a seasoned gamer, I died many times. The game requires that you master every mechanic to get anywhere. There is not one move in the entire game that feels like its usage is optional.
Ori is an open-world platformer in the vein of games like Metroid. To complete the game, you have to find 3 different relics and go through 3 major dungeons. It’s a simple set up, but it works well enough for getting you to each unique location. The level design is excellent and makes use of Ori’s abilities in very creative ways. Some sections of the game will really make you think outside the box. There are enemies to fight, but the game’s main focuses are exploration and the tight platforming. Ori starts out with a basic homing attack, but she also gets very useful throwing and stomp attacks that I found myself using often.
One of the coolest features that Ori has to offer is the fact that you can save the game at nearly any moment at any location, as long as you have an energy orb to do it. This makes the difficult platforming segments less frustrating when you can save at any time, to a limited degree, of course. There are also collectables to find throughout the game’s world that are hidden very well. You can find more health and energy slots to make Ori more powerful, and also ability points which can be used to upgrade Ori’s power. You can access the upgrade tree at any save point, and the upgrades felt significant and helpful enough that I always felt the need to search for more points.
Ori’s soundtrack is powerful and incredibly well composed. The music is moving and emotional and matches the mood of each area perfectly. The game took me around 6 to 7 hours to complete (not 100%), but, when it ended, I didn’t feel like it was too short. Ori is at a perfect length for what it is. Sadly, the game does currently have some issues with glitches. Twice during my playthrough there were crucial objects that I was not able to interact with. At least reseting the game and console let me continue the game. Hopefully these game-haltering glitches are patched soon.
Ori and the Blind Forest is currently my favorite game on the Xbox One. I really hope the Microsoft continues to push well-crafted and unique games like this. I’d highly recommend this game to any fan of platformers. Ori is a near perfect and beautiful game that everyone needs to try.