Ori and the Blind Forest is a 2D single-player platformer and the debut release from Moon Studios. It was originally released in March 2015 and a definitive edition was recently released on Xbox One and is coming soon to PC.
From the onset Ori and the Blind Forest is just stunningly beautiful, everything appears hand painted similar to the recent Rayman games, and I would say I preferred Ori’s art style over Rayman’s. The game starts with Ori, a white guardian spirit, who falls from the Spirit Tree as essentially a newborn. He is adopted and cared for by Naru, a sort of cute gorilla like creature. Unfortunately the forest begins to wither and die and Ori is left to explore the forest with the aim of restoring it on his own. Like Pixar’s film Up Ori’s intro sequence’s storytelling is so involving and affecting that it really made me care about the characters in only a few minutes. Ori is joined on his adventures by Sein, a ball of light, who guides and helps fight the many enemies encountered.
The world is one big map, progression is generally linear, because the routes ahead are unlocked through gaining of new skills and abilities, such as double jump, wall jumping, swimming, gliding, etc. You can augment your abilities with spirit points to upgrade your powers, e.g. more missiles from Sein to fight the enemies, triple jump, or more health. You can plant soul links on safe flat terrain which are essentially custom player controlled checkpoints. This sounds like a great idea until you do a super amazingly difficult sequence of jumps, glides, zooms and then forget to drop a soul link and die to an embarrassing mistake and then have to re-do the entire sequence again. On the whole, the soul link system is fine and works most of the time, even if I did start obsessively compulsively dropping them as often as I would save my work in a dodgy old Microsoft Office suite.
The only other gripe I have with the game is that because the game is set in one big map, instead of as separate levels, it can become quite arduous to retrace your steps from one side to the other of the map to find the new area or secret that your newly acquired ability gives you access to. From what I understand, this should be addressed in the definitive edition so I would suggest waiting for this version to be released on the PC first.
The level design is pretty fantastic in Ori, the map is split into 3 main areas that you must travel to - water, wind and fire. Each area, and the connecting areas between are so damn beautiful that I just smile looking back at the screenshots - they are even more beautiful in motion. The platforming puzzles ramp up in difficulty as you progress, often showcasing the new abilities as you go, with sections tailored to them which train you how to use gliding/zooming/smashing effectively. You’ll need this training because once you reach for example, the water boss-like sections, you first have to solve some unique puzzles and then are “rewarded” with an escape sequence where you have to use all your skill and wits to escape the flooding tree.
These escape sequences are Ori at its best and most frustrating. As there are no opportunities to drop a soul link you have to complete the sequence flawlessly or start again. I guess these are similar to the Rayman chase sequences of the recent games, and you get the same satisfying buzz from completing a section (after many, many rages!). You’ll be jumping, gliding, zooming, wall jumping, double jumping, zooming off a light, zooming off an enemy missile attack and gliding over an entire section of spiky area in no time.
I really loved Ori and the Blind Forest, I strongly urge you to give it a go, especially with the definitive edition due out so soon.