Ori and the Blind Forest is a 2D Metroidvania style game with light RPG elements, developed by Moon Studios and published by Microsoft for Xbox One and PC. The game tells the story of the titular character, a forest spirit attempting to restore balance to the world he calls home whilst escaping the clutches of Kuro, the dark owl. In essence this game is a platformer which focuses on puzzle solving in order to teach players its core mechanics, but there is so much more to it than that.
Ori and the Blind Forest follows magnificent independently developed games such as Valiant Hearts and Child of Light by telling a heart wrenching story with extremely sparse dialogue, focusing instead on packing an emotive punch through a distinctive art style. The game begins by introducing its characters and story in all of ten minutes, tugging at the heartstrings and immediately getting the player invested in the tale that is about to be told. This cinematic opening reminded me of the soul-destroying beginning of Pixar’s Up, because it demonstrated the love that the characters felt for one another and followed this by shattering that affection, just as life inevitably does.
The game’s visual impact is incredible; Ori’s light shines in the midst of a dying and vicious world as his bright frame flashes over a colour palette of dark blue and black. Each section of the forest is layered and striking with a level of detail that most games can only dream of. The mechanics are familiar, as you jump, jump and jump some more in order to traverse the treacherous landscape. Movements are accurate and leave you satisfied that each death is your fault and not the result of poor execution on the part of the developers. This is extremely important in Ori and the Blind Forest because its punishing difficulty means that you will die many times, and repetition is required in order to achieve perfection.
The game’s wonderful environments and solid mechanics are exquisitely complemented by a harrowing orchestral score which constantly whispers in the background. As Ori’s situation becomes more dire the tempo of the music increases and becomes frantic, letting the player know that speed and accuracy is required in order to clear each section. This feature is reminiscent of platforming legends such as Rayman and Sonic the Hedgehog, particularly in some of Ori’s most memorable moments, such as a race for your life against rising water.
Ori and the Blind Forest is a well thought out and fluid experience with a level of detail that is second to none. The hand-drawn art style immediately strikes you with its contrast of colours and great character design, making the game as fun to watch as it is to play. In my opinion this is one of the best platformers to be released in the last ten years, and for £16 on Xbox One it’s an absolute steal; addictive, beautiful and visually stunning, it’s a truly special experience.