Ori and the Blind Forest Review

Alluringly beautiful and rich in thoughtful metaphors, Ori is important but it fails to see itself as such.

Let us speak of a video game, articulate, beautiful, and endearing. A video game, smart and intellectual. A game which is all of this and still accessible.

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But it has not been made in this game, for Ori is only some of those things.

Ori and the Blind Forest is well composed.

Its landscapes are breathtaking, its use of light evocative. The animation has an exotic touch, and the resulting motion is consistently emotive. Somehow, this is for naught. A pretty background, with exquisite brush strokes and alluring colors, is lifeless if no one sees it – a painting worthy to hang in the halls of a museum, but in a corner without illumination and located where few ever go.

A pretty background, with exquisite brush strokes and alluring colors, is lifeless if no one sees it

Ori is difficult, needlessly so. There are many who would play Ori, or would want to rather, but they would become dejected. This is what is unfair, not only the difficulty itself. Nothing would be better than an Ori reachable by all; if only Ori were almost the same as Disney masterworks being approachable by all ages putting a disc in a machine or clicking a button on the internet.

For as much as Ori is an expressive work, it is too clingy to tradition and overtly conventional. The forest world of Nibel is glorious, freeing, and considered. Stories of redemption and the value in death – yes, it finds some – are aggressively covered up by controller-bound dexterity. Few will see its end, and fewer still will ingest the fable’s ultimate metaphors.

Try, die, repeat. Punishment prevails over expressionism.

Few will see its end, and fewer still will ingest the fable’s ultimate metaphors.

Challenge is not without purpose. Ori, an unspecified forest sprite, is resurrecting the dying forest of Nibel; Ori’s success will yet again instill life on these sectioned off lands. Nature is unfriendly, one of Ori’s many pieces of broad symbolism.

Sight Seeing

But there are more things to see. So many more: The wide patches of color which sensibly spill over to appropriately represent mood and tone. Soaking in the eloquent and where appropriate, desperate orchestration. The increasing elegance of Ori’s mystical offense, a vivid imagining of literal light versus dark without any physical violence. Profit in understanding and sacrifice. When united, it is potent material formed by distinctive philosophy.

Hours pass without notable progression in the ideology.

Yet, the principles are back-loaded or often hidden. Hours pass without notable progression in the ideology. Most will quit before the next chapter, before piecing together Nibel’s necessary tragedy.

On the underside, Ori is disproportionately traditional. What it projects – contemporary grandeur – is sadly something stuck and immobile in the old guard, unwilling to experiment lest it unseat a familiar heritage. Ori strengthens abilities in an admirable vision of evolution (and even restoration) as this 2D adventure moves closer to conclusion. There are found secret spaces, and gained access to previously locked zones of Nibel.

The pathway through the genre checklist is wholly complacent.

Lacking St-Ori

In the prologue chapter, Ori tells a complete story, a self-sustaining short about motherhood, friendship, and eventually, death. Emotions spill over… and then they don’t. Ori becomes complicit, astounding with contrast and that meaningful attention to color, while forgetting a set up which insinuated something powerful.

Merit dissolves because it is time to leap and play – for eight hours – before Ori returns full-scale to its initial backdrop of sensationally visualized tale. Therein is the mistake.

Dissonance Between Difficulty and Emotional Impact

To be clear, Ori is exemplary in the ways video games are typically considered. Smooth, responsive – “polished,” if such a word carries any tangible need. Yet, Ori exhibits more and wants more, but is frustratingly burdened by reckless hardship. Hardship adds nothing – the connecting story is ultimately absent. Were the narrative present, ever pushing Ori onward, maybe this could be different. Instead, Ori repulses rather than invites.

Concluding set-piece moments hide Ori’s poignancy.

Scenarios find Ori reflecting seeds in mid-air to stay airborne, glancing over fire or lava, escaping monsters, and evading rising floods. They’re spectacular, but many require timing and placement too severe for all but the most experienced. Concluding set-piece moments, even for their admitted heart-pounding capacity and fear, are relentlessly fierce. They hide the poignancy.

The art of a video game is often the art of play – that of examining rules, timing button presses, and employing logic to overcome the scripted challenges. Some of the best are outright combative toward their audience. There are times for such an attitude. For others, as has become normalcy in the freeing nature of present independent design, it is blending mere snippets of those classical forms with enriching fiction/non-fiction flair. Oddly, Ori wants to be a part of everything.

Thus, Ori is a fantasy that appeals to the young, the old, and the inexperienced, yet is only attainable by a shallow pool of accomplished veterans. Ori feels like it missed the mark, where gameplay may be a barrier to its ideal audience. 

That’s a shame.

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Ori and the Blind Forest Review
Alluringly beautiful and rich in thoughtful metaphors, Ori is important but it fails to see itself as such.

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Author
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Matt_Paprocki
Freelance critic seen on Playboy, GameSkinny, and others. Passionate vintage game collector. Fervent physical media supporter and consumerism devotee.