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Ori and the Blind Forest

by Josh Ennor

Ori, the reason I would buy an xbox one and the blind forest.

Ori and the Blind Forest is a 2D platforming game for the Xbox (360 and One) and PC. With a vast Metroidvania style map and similarities to the ever popular Super Meat Boy, it is a nice package of intense 2D platforming, an absolutely breathtaking scenery and tear-jerking story.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yjc-u8oCYmY]


Setting

Going into Ori, I was expecting a fun little platformer in the vein of the two latest Rayman titles. Little did I know that in a few hours I would be putting the controller down out of frustration because where Rayman never really posed a challenge but was instead a fun and fast-paced platformer, Ori delivers blow after blow to the ego. As you watch this poor little creature (who you become very fond of within the first 20 minutes of gameplay) fall into a pit of blood red thorns over and over again at your own hands, you slowly come to the realisation of “Shit, I am really bad at this.” This is countered by the immense sense of relief that washes over you the second that you find yourself on solid ground, with no enemies to be seen. It’s these parts, where you get to look around at the world Moon Studios has created, listen to the sound conjured from the most wonderful place on earth by the obvious audio wizard who has taken the name Gareth Coker for his mortal self that you realise that this game is a freaking masterpiece.

Still a better love story than Twilight.


Gameplay

The metroidvania style map (which, to those of you who have not had the most experience with this term means, vast “open world” with no distinct separation between levels delivered in a 2D format) can be a little alarming at first, places that are not reachable at the current stage of the game become often lost within the places that you can and should be reaching. A few times I found myself searching for another route, when I decided that this area was not yet that area that I was supposed to be going, only to return much later to discover that I just sucked at the game and that it was exactly where I needed to be going. And to some, who want to get in, play a game and get out, it will be a frustrating element. But if you want an experience, if you want to see this world and find a sense of achievement in exploration, you should absolutely love it.

The similarities to Super Meat Boy that I mentioned in the introduction come in two forms: wall jumping and post-death loading. Ori boasts the ability from very early on to wall jump, and similar to the skinless wonder, these are unlimited. If you feel the need to wall jump in the same spot until the end of time, then you go right ahead. It allows for some intense mid-puzzle planning and is unfathomably exhilarating at times. The loading system is best described as instant. Ori boasts a pretty unique feature in the way of save games. As well as it’s auto-save points, and “save shrines”, both of which are few and far between. Your save resources come in the form of blue “energy spheres” that you gain from many sources throughout the world. And I know that right now you might thinking, “but Josh, save items that need to be collected from around the world have been around forever, you’re a freaking idiot” and if you’d stop interrupting the soothing sound of my voice for five seconds you would know that these “energy spheres” also serve as your mana for more “power-up” attacks, including large area-of-effect explosions from Sein. This causes you to often make the choice between saving before/after a particularly tricky platforming puzzle or using your more powerful attacks on the forest’s “treasure chests”, and the amount of times that I made the wrong choice was… plentiful. As frustrating of a mechanic as this can be, it makes you a) a lot better at the game and b) a hell of a lot better at the game. This is because the loading is instant. After death, you immediately respawn at your last save point, however far back it may be and you get to try again. It really streamlines the restarting process in a game that is already phenomenally fluid. If you are one of the few that does not consider yourself a Super Meat Boy fan, fear not as I think that the biggest thing to take from this is that I, for most intents and purposes, did not like Super Meat Boy. I understand why people did and still do, but it was not a game that I felt compelled to continue. My feelings towards Ori and the Blind Forest are 100% the the opposite.

And here we see a thousands hearts breaking simultaneously.

Story

The story of Ori and the Blind Forest is told in many parts throughout the course of the game. You learn, as Ori does, of the vast and terrible things that have happened over the course of the separation from their kin and is “narrated” by the Sein, a companion that you come across at the beginning of the game and serves as your offense against the many horrors that now plague the forest. It is both captivating and emotional. It is a well known fact that I am a sucker for any narrative-driven adventure, especially ones that involve cute little rabbit beasts. But I believe I am in a pretty good spot to say that Ori and Blind Forest has an absolutely beautiful story-line, commingling loss, fear and hope like an emotional school camp where boys and girls are allowed to sleep in the same hall.


Conclusion

To sum up my feelings towards this game. I once said (whilst aboard the pre-release hype train) that I would buy an Xbox One if that was going to be my only way to play this game. Thank goodness it came out on PC, because I stand by that statement. In fact, to hell with it, I’m gonna say it again! I would buy an Xbox One to play this game! Is it revolutionary? Nope! Is it perfect? No, but it ain’t far off! Is it stunning, challenging and emotional? Hell f#@!ing yes it is.

SCORE: 9/10

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Release Date: Out now
Available from: Steam ($19.99 USD)
XBLA ($26.95 AUD)
Developed by: Moon Studios
Published by: Microsoft Studios

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Josh is one of the four main writers here at OK Games. When he is not working, he is letting his pets on furniture that they’re not allowed on and sometimes he pretends to study so that his Fiancee will get off his back.

You can find him on Twitter, where he usually tweets about the Sacramento Kings and quotes from movies he is watching.

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Twitter @joshennor

As an only child with a single parent, money was tight. But his Mum scrounged and saved to get him his first computer. On it was DOOM, Dungeon Keeper and Take No Prisoners. From then until now, video games have ruled his life. Outside of that, he loves animals, books, a good conversation/discussion/disagreement and the Sacramento Kings.