Ori and the Blind Forest Re-Review
Ori and the Blind Forest aims to enamor and hits its mark. Its lavish art style and epic set pieces are of a rich and polished quality rare to the indie scene. Meanwhile, its gameplay and progression format take much from the best of classic exploratory 2D platformers, as well as add some compelling new plaftorming mechanics. There can be some really frustrating moments due to an unforgiving save system, and some of the character designs lack variety, but overall, Ori and the Blind Forest is an excellent hardcore platformer which deserves a spot on any Xbox One owner's hard drive.
The game makes quick work of capturing the heart of the player with a charming, yet heartbreaking interactive prologue. Here, we are introduced to the two main characters of this story for which the game is named. Ori, a sprite-like creature born from the leaves of the Spirit Tree, is tasked with a find-the-pieces collectathon in order to restore life to her home, the Blind Forest. Though you play as Ori, the star of this game is the forest. Cascading waterfalls, massive ancient trees, ominous swamp lands, and many other locales all coalesce to create one of the most memorable and detailed worlds of any platformer.
The center of the forest - the Ancient Tree
The challenge lies in traversing this world. Only capable of running and jumping upon starting the game, the player is forced to learn the bare bones of its platforming physics before introducing any other mechanics. Ori's extended abilities--wall climb, gliding, double jump, triple jump, and some innovative platforming abilities like Bash--are unlocked progressively through the game's six-to-eight hour lifespan. Each new mechanic is introduced through masterfully precise map design, ensuring the player gains a full understanding of how their new powers are used before giving you free rein. Every time I unlocked a new ability, I became compelled to venture back out into the forest, test out my new toys, and revisit areas; remembering that one ability cell sitting just outside my primitive single-jump reach.
Retrospective exploration is a big part of Ori and the Blind Forest's appeal. Like many of its Metroid-inspired predecessors, Ori and the Blind Forest's world is fully rendered and connected from the beginning, though not immediately accessible. Each new traversal ability opens up a wide array of creative possibilities for approaching and exploring areas previously encountered. Ori's most powerful and versatile ability, Bash, enables her to use enemies or enemy projectiles as launch pads mid-jump, allowing Ori to both manipulate enemy attacks as well as keep herself airborne by chaining multiple bashes and double-jumps. Some of the most exhilarating, challenging, and unique portions of the game are dedicated to this ability.
Some of Ori's extreme platforming skills.
Save the forest...and your game
Unfortunately, with challenging gameplay comes frustrating repetition. There are no autosaves in Ori and the Blind Forest; it is entirely left up to the player to choose when to drop a save point. Referred to as Soul Links, these save points can be spawned at most any point in the game for the price of one energy bar. Getting used to this save system caused some frustration; I often found myself going for extended periods without dropping a Soul Link, dying, and then having to replay large portions of the game (bringing back those Game Boy “AAAH, I forgot to save!” moments). Though a somewhat dated and unforgiving format, it's certainly fair. It only took me about an hour (and a few really soul-crushing deaths) to get into the habit of dropping save points every so often.
Though in an excellent world with clever platforming puzzles and masterful level design, Ori's combat can leave much to be desired. While Ori handles all of the traversal, his companion Sein auto-locks to any nearby enemies and spams them with flamestrikes upon a single button mash. After a few hours, I was able to easily manipulate most enemy types, rendering them more of an annoyance than a complex challenge. There are a few boss battles as well, though these encounters suffer from the same simplicity, made all-the-more disappointing by their exclusion.
Don't be fooled by this game's charm
With the recent renaissance 2D platformers have had these past several years, it takes a lot for new entries in the genre to grab gamers' attention. Ori and the Blind Forest manages to do this by offering some of the most compelling challenges of any contemporary Metroidvania within a gorgeous and endearing gameworld. The save system can make for some frustrating replays, and the boss battles are insignificant at best, but overall, Ori and the Blind Forest's world is a joy to experience and a compelling challenge to overcome.