Ori and the Blind Forest Game Review
Coming to Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC
Ori and the Blind Forest release date: March 11 Xbox One and PC, Xbox 360 2015
Preview – February 2015 – by Sam Loveridge
We’ve seen Ori and the Blind Forest before and loved every second of this hand-drawn platformer, so I was particularly excited to be given some more hands-on time to adventure with Ori through the forest.
After sessions with the opening Sunken Glades and then the Ginso Tree section, which is available around 3 hours in, this time we got to experience the Forlorn Ruins, which you’ll discover around halfway through the 8-10 hours of total gameplay.
Like your classic platformer, every environment within the game has a unique feature or characteristic that you’ll need to overcome to progress. Forlorn Ruins sees you experiment with gravity.
At the beginning of the section, Ori discovers that there are some sections of the forest that are imbued with an aggressive energy, meaning he can’t walk over them. You’ll then find that there’s a Light Vessel that needs to be put back in its original space, which will restore some of the disorder in the forest.
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You’ll need to physically pick up the Light Vessel and take it back to its home. While you’re holding the orb, you’re weighed down, so you can double jump, but you can’t access a lot of your skills – although you do get some brand-new skills. For example, those previously inaccessible areas are safe when you hold the Light Vessel, plus you can walk up walls and defy gravity, too.
Manipulating the environment while you’re using the Light Vessel to walk on the walls and ceilings makes gameplay a little complicated, because all your controls are reversed. It’s something we’ve seen before in platformers, but it’s a little more complex in Ori and the Blind Forest, because you’ve got this Light Vessel to think about, which you can pick up and put down whenever you need to stabilise the gravitational pull.
Working out how to manipulate gravity and the extremely perilous world takes a lot of hard work and experimentation. In fact, it gets to the point sometimes where I was scratching my head and dying repeatedly while trying to progress through just a small section of the Forlorn Ruins.
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But that’s not a criticism of Ori and the Blind Forest. Developer Moon Studios is walking a very cleverly created line with the game’s difficulty. You never feel cheated, but rather rewarded for logically working out how to bypass the dangers you’ll find.
And as the Ori gameplay requires a lot of trial and error, Moon Studios has implemented a feature that lets you save whenever and wherever you want – as long as you’re not near an attacking enemy.
I strongly recommend saving as often as you can. Press and hold down X to spawn a glowing blue save point that you’ll be transported to when you die – and you will, often.
That’s something that you’ll learn throughout the game, of course. We were plunged deep into Ori and the Blind Forest without the gentle hand-holding that comes with playing a platformer from start to finish.
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Ori and the Blind Forest is challenging, and despite its gorgeous graphics and art style, it isn’t a game that’s entirely directed at casual gamers. It’s frustrating to a point where you feel really stupid for not saving, or missing that jump for the umpteenth time. And for someone who played those old-school platformers like the original Rayman and Metroid, Ori will be a very welcome addition to my Xbox One come March.
What we also learnt during our hands-on time with Ori this February is that Moon Studios has teamed up with the National Symphonic Orchestra for Ori and the Blind Forest’s score. It makes the game even more immersive and alluring, especially as it’s one that features very little dialogue. And the dialogue it does have is in a unique and very musical language that’s only known to the characters within it.
This is one of the more unique-looking games coming to Xbox One this year.
I can’t get enough of Ori’s highly stylised presentation. Combined with the beautiful orchestral score, it’s a treat for eyes and ears throughout every minute you get to experience it.
This is a 2D side-scrolling platformer with a modern twist that I’m so looking forward to sinking hours of time into when it’s released in March.
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GamesCom Preview – August 2014
It’s not as if Sony has needed reasons to buy a PS4, but its stellar line-up of indie titles definitely hasn’t hurt the cause. From Don’t Starve to Transistor to Rogue Legacy, Hohokum and The Road Not Taken, it’s had a stream of cool, quirky, indie stars, with many more on the way. Finally, however, Microsoft is beginning to catch up. Capy Games’ Below is on its way next year, along with Limbo creator’s Playdead’s new game INSIDE, Ghost of a Tale and the fascinating FPS, Superhot.
Leading the charge, however, is Moon Studios’ Ori and the Blind Forest; a stunning-looking 2D platform adventure which marries the hand-painted look of some of Ubisoft’s UbiArt titles with gameplay that mixes Mario-style acrobatic with the structure of a classic Metroid/Castlevania game.
In it you play Ori, a childlike guardian spirit found in a wild, sprawling forest and raised by what appears to be some kind of masked bear thing. All is good until a nasty entity, Kuro, turns up and kidnaps Ori’s unusual adopted parent, forcing Ori to go on the rescue. Like Link, Samus and so many great game characters before Ori starts off weak and fairly helpless, but with the aid of Sein, a miniscule but mighty sprite, Ori starts collecting additional powers, each one helping the little spirit on its quest.
After Rayman Legends and Child of Light, it’s getting harder to impress with a hand-drawn visual style, yet Ori manages to be breathtaking. Its world is brimming with beautiful combinations of shape, light and colour, and when Moon Studios turns on the spectacle, with a giant owl or a speeding upwards torrent, there seem to be endless layers of movement and detail going on. This, combined with some lovely character design and stirring music, make Ori a more magical experience than your average 2D platformer. Apparently, no assets are re-used at any point; each and every screen is unique. With this kind of attention to detail, Ori might be the point where Nintendo and Studio Ghibli meet.
Yet at our Gamescom 2014 demonstration, designers Thomas Mahler and Gennadiy Korol want to talk more about the gameplay. As we said, Ori apes the style of the classic Metroid/Castlevania game, where you’re free to explore the game’s map, but areas will be closed off until you find the ability you need to access them. What’s more, Ori takes on another key idea: introducing a new ability with each area, training the player in how to use it, then asking you to get more skilled in using it to survive the challenges of the level. Mahler and Korol are keen to stress that this doesn’t mean boss battles in the usual sense, but climactic challenges that push your powers to their limits.
In the level we saw demonstrated – a tough, mostly vertical level that takes place inside a giant ‘Ginso Tree’ – the ability in question is Bash. You hold a button to freeze the action and an arrow appears. Point this in the right direction and release the button, and Ori jets forwards, smashing whatever enemies, objects or even projectiles that stand in the little spirit’s way. It’s not just a combat move, but a way of navigating quickly, or of redirecting missiles so that they’ll take out obstacles or clear a path.
The team at Moon has put years of effort into crafting these abilities, and into making the part of a move-set that’s smooth, intuitive and precise. We weren’t able to go hands-on with the game ourselves, but the one fellow journo who did seemed to pick things up quickly, and the controls are designed to be fluid, with a satisfying weight. Ori and the Blind Forest will, we’re told, be challenging, but there’s compensation in a generous checkpoint system, where you can effectively set down your own checkpoints and – within limits – save as and when you please.
Moon Studios is deliberately restricting the flow of info. It wants the game to be mysterious and enchanting, and for players to experience that as they play. We’re not even told what the title actually means. Yet when so many indie titles seem to be quirky for quirky’s sake or content to clothe retro arcade styles in cool, ironic looks, Ori and the Blind Forest seems more intent on captivating the player and crafting some kind of emotional appeal. It’s beauty might be more than just skin-deep.
Sony has a killer line-up of indie titles, but with Ori and the Blind Forest Microsoft looks like it might have a game that can hold up to Sony’s best. It looks amazing and the controls and gameplay appear as refined as the stunning hand-painted visuals. Like Ico, Journey, Rayman, Zelda and Metroid, there’s a very good chance that you might end up liking this.
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