When I first saw Ori and the Blind Forest at E3 2014, it looked like a really beautiful indie platformer with standard gameplay. Everything pointed to it being one of those games that get by on great presentation and possibly a good story, but no real gameplay. I am happy to say this isn’t the case. Ori and the Blind Forest is a wonderful “Metroidvania” style platformer that is up there with Gaucamelee and Symphony of the Night.
The gameplay starts out as a simple platformer, but very early on you earn spirit powers from a sprite named Sien who also acts as your side kick. You use these powers for attacking, bombs, and other more offensive and combat abilities. Spirit powers are linked to orbs which you start out with one but find more by exploring. Combat feels very satisfying, but a little simplistic when compared to other games in the genre such as Gaucamelee and Shadow Complex. To make up for this, the RPG mechanics are a bit stronger by having ability points you gain by grabbing orbs from finding secrets or just killing enemies.
The platforming is superb. Movement is perfect and the map is set up in a way that jumps seem dangerous but is always possible unless you don’t have right ability yet. Then there is the exploration which is also top notch. The map is made in a way that is big, though not to big so you don’t want to back track or explore. Rarely do I find myself fully exploring maps in games. Ori and the Blind Forest is a real exception. I felt the need to fully explore everything just because it all seemed possible. Some items or areas seemed far away, but not so far away that it was a chore.
If there is one thing I did have an issue with, it is the save system. There are two ways to save your game, the first is to find special save points on the map. These are rare and there are one to two per area. The other way is by using spirit orbs, which later in the game isn’t an issue, but early on it is horrible. Because early in the game you only have one or two, you can’t save often, and since when you die you go back to your last save, it really screws up the difficulty curve. Since it is linked to your offensive abilities it means if you want to save you basically have less resources and if you don’t have one you can’t save unless you go get an orb which admittedly isn’t too hard to find, or back track to a save point. This isn’t a huge complaint, but early on it is obnoxious. Late game, isn’t as much of a problem.
The presentation is delightful. I just want to stare at the art all damn day long. It fits every possible tone, it is varied, and if every frame wasn’t hand drawn it sure as hell looks like it. Music is equally wonderful with big sweeping pieces during the story and cinematic parts, subdued smaller songs during exploration it all just comes together really well. As far as 2D games by small studios, this is as good as it gets when it comes to presentation.
Story is very similar to that of something you would find in a fairy tale. Ori a tiny animal-like creature who appears to be kicked from the tree and found by a dopey creature that decides to raise Ori as its own child. Then something horrible in the forest happened, making Ori an orphan once again. He soon meets Sein the spirit power mentioned earlier. They go on a journey to find out what is going on and restore the forest. The story is simple and to the point but still manages evoke a lot of emotion through solid narration and a good plot.
Ori and the Blind Forest is a fantastic game. The combat isn’t the best, but is still a lot of fun, and save system is totally messed up. Those are minor gripes when everything else is just so good. If you like “Metroidvania” style games, amazing presentation, and a fantastic yet simple story check out Ori and the Blind Forest. You won’t be disappointed.
Final Score: 9.0/10