Ori and the Blind Forest is a story-driven game brought to us by Moon Studios. It was released in March of this year and presents to players a beautiful soundtrack paired with elegant and magical scenes to delight and intrigue. This game is a 2D platformer that is said to have a very ‘Metroidvania’ feel, focusing on very light elements of an RPG.
This game follows the story of Ori, a young and orphaned creature left alone in a forest after losing not only his family, but a close companion who treated him like his own. The game opens with these emotional scenes, and we hear Ori’s father speaking in a foreign language, telling the tale of how Ori was swept away and lost in the dying forest of Nibel. As the opening scenes of the game progress, the player is given context and is allowed to interact in certain sections of the cutscenes, moving the story along willingly.
The underlying themes of this game are themes of love, sacrifice and the hope within us, that there’s always a way to turn things around and yield a positive result in the end. The story is emotionally gripping, and within the first five minutes of the game I actually found myself tearing up because emotion had been conveyed in such a powerful way. When a game has the ability to convey emotion simply through fluid animation, you know you’ve hit a gold mine – if you’re a sucker for story-driven games, of course.
The sound design in this game is phenomenal – the soundtrack rivals that of games like Final Fantasy. I haven’t heard a game that sounds this good in terms of soundtrack for a very long time, and FF games are hard to top. The tracks that play as you go through levels range from cheerful to very haunting, and each track fits perfectly, creating a mysterious and wondrous atmosphere as you explore levels from head to toe.
The sounds of enemies attacking and lunging at you are sometimes a little overpowering and can destroy the atmosphere and the mood that the game is shooting for, however this can easily be remedied by turning down the volume of the sound effects in Settings. In general, the sound effects are overpowering when it comes to fighting enemies, so it’s probably best to keep the sound at around the halfway mark, as it’s much better to enjoy the gorgeous music that has been composed.
The man behind this beautiful soundtrack is Gareth Coker, a well-travelled composer who produced sounds that match those of a full professional orchestra. He was worked in film and TV as well, and I don’t think that anyone could have captured the mysterious nature of a forest pulsing with ancient magic better than he did. Each track makes you feel as if you have wandered straight into an unknown and foreign world, and when coupled with en emotional story such as this, it’s successful at pulling your heartstrings.
Ori and the Blind Forest behaves like most 2D platformers that we know and love, so the controls are very easy to get used to and everything runs smoothly in terms of being able to control the directional movement of your jumps. It’s a good thing that the controls are fluid, as there are some difficult jumps to make in this game, and you need to have as much control as possible in order to pull them off. I have been playing this game with a controller, as I feel platformers are a lot easier to play if I have a controller in my hands. I have tried using the keyboard, but it just doesn’t feel anywhere near as natural, but it’s an added challenge if you like to make things difficult on yourself.
The light RPG elements are introduced in the form of levelling up Ori and giving him access to more abilities as you progress through the game. At the bottom-centre of the screen, you can see how far away from levelling up you are. It is vitally important that you don’t ignore the ability points, as the game seems to suffer from sudden difficulty spikes in some areas. There is no difficulty selection upon starting up the game, and for some players this might turn them off when the game gets to the point where it takes half an hour to make a specific jump, or get past a certain puzzle where your life is on the line.
Although the gameplay runs fluidly and everything feels natural to a seasoned player, I think that players who are relatively unfamiliar with the platforming genre will find themselves struggling, as this game does not hold your hand and tell you how to do everything, and this is where puzzles come into play. While these puzzles don’t come in the form of finding notes and figuring out cryptic riddles, they will often entail something along the lines of getting to a specific area and passing multiple obstacles, or leading an enemy into a certain area so they can break open a new one. The puzzles just require a small amount of brain power and trial and error to eventually figure out.
Ori and the Blind Forest is a visually impressive game. Each area has been hand-painted to perfection, and you’ll find yourself sitting back and enjoying the scenery sometimes, watching as creatures scurry about in the foreground and leaves blow gently in the background. The graphics have been done in such a way that it makes the forest feel alive, despite it on the verge of dying.
I would have to say that the graphics in this game are probably the best part, next to the gripping storyline. 2D platformers have a lot of freedom when it comes to creating backdrops that seem alive and thriving, they have the opportunity to communicate life and hope, even in the darkest of places. It seems that a lot of 2D platformers do not really have that atmospheric world behind the player, but Ori and the Blind Forest does this fantastically.
If you find yourself often delving into 2D platforming games full of puzzles and excitement, then this game will probably interest you as well. Although the price of this relatively short game might put some people off (19.99 USD), it is well worth the small fortune. This game was put together by developers and designers from Microsoft and Moon Studios, and you won’t be disappointed with the entertainment that it provides.