Ori and the Blind Forest ReviewJacob Howell
In video games today, one can't help but notice that we are an industry which is often lost in a forest of mediocrity. Why do I say this? Well, when you look at the shelves in the local store, your gaze is met by games which seem to all rely on twitch based shooting, linear campaigns and on the surface spectacular, but in reality two dimensional set pieces (not thinking of any game in particular *cough* Call Of Duty *cough*). This saddens me. AAA game makers nowadays seem to rely on this kind of game for their bread and butter, and they ship millions of copies of these every year. But I can't help but feel empty when I play a game of this sort, and I start to wonder why I even like games anymore. Then I play a game like Ori and the Blind Forest, and grin like a Cheshire Cat.
This really is a gorgeous game. It's a pleasure to look at, with the glows of bright colours amidst the darkness of the forest being a really lovely sight. And the score is really good. I mean, really, really good. I would happily listen to it in its own right, and if sometimes I had to go feed the cat or make a cup of tea, rather than pausing the game I'd find a safe area and let the game run so I could still hear the beautiful melodies as I went about my quick chores.
The story is surprisingly touching, and even had me with a little lump in my throat in the beginning sequence. The controls in Ori and the Blind Forest are great. They feel tight. Ori is agile and his jump feels floaty enough that you feel able to make small mid air adjustments, but not so floaty that it slows gameplay and takes away the games raw fun: working through the storyline and feeling at one with Ori as you get to grips with his controls.
Three life sustaining elements must be rescued if light is to be restored to the forest in which we meet Ori for the first time. This means trekking around the simply beautiful 2D world that we are plunged into. Along your way, exploration is rewarded with secrets which allow power ups to allow Ori to become stronger as the game progresses. This sprinkling of almost RPG elements really gives incentive to search every nook and cranny of this intriguing world. The power-ups allow for a really smooth progression, until you feel elegantly powerful as new abilities unlock new areas to explore. Combat in the beginning feels fun if not a little random, but towards the end of your 12 hour adventure you can at times be left feeling like Oriâ€™s powers are a little haphazard, but I still found the combat a blast none the less.
Exploration and backtracking is encouraged and made fun by the intuitive and well laid out map design combined with striking colourful areas, which are memorable and fun to navigate around. Also having new abilities means there's always more secrets to be discovered in a once well explored area. This allows the backtracking to feel a lot less repetitive.
Within the main map there are almost level-esque areas, which require you to put the abilities and skills you've learnt to the test, allowing them to quickly become familiar which too is very rewarding. However, this learning curve steepens harshly towards the end of these â€˜levelsâ€™. The difficulty spikes so heavily and so harshly sometimes that you are just left sitting there thinking â€œI thought I was getting good at thisâ€. This is one of my hang-ups about Ori and the Blind Forest. I feel that at times the game is brutally difficult, but only in patches, which is an issue. In a game such as this, the difficulty level should move in line with the players ability, and while I don't expect a game to be easy, this spiking can lead to infuriating sequences where death seems to be the only outcome. Then you feel like it's just becoming a case of trial and error. For those of us that played Rayman Legends, it's an eerily similar problem, but you feel with Rayman Legends that Ubisoft wanted their game to be reaction based, momentum based, fast platforming. However, I don't get that kind of flavour from Ori and the Blind Forest, but for these kind of moments. Add in the fact that you need an item called a soul-link and to be in a â€˜safeâ€™ area to create a save point (which can be few and far between sometimes), coupled with the aforementioned level spiking, can put a small dent on what is, for the most part, a hugely fun and beautiful platforming adventure game.
In conclusion, Ori and the blind forest is really one of my favourite games of the year. The world is enchanting, the score is beautiful, the raw gameplay mechanics are accurate and the progression of the characters abilities is a real joy to play with. But as I say, a lack of regular save points in some brutal spots on the map just take that tiny bit of polish away from what is a terrific game. If you haven't picked it up yet, I strongly recommend you do, as this is a brilliantly different game, full of character, with beautiful visuals, and an engaging story which leaves a lasting impression. Ori and the Blind Forest will never be forgotten in my forest of mediocrity.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.