A vibrant painting come to life...
I've been playing Ori and the Blind Forest now for a few days, it's one of those games where you can't help but be impressed. From the gorgeous soundtrack, mesmerising animations and beautiful graphics, Ori could be described in the same breath as PSN's Journey, with one word: mesmerising. The adventures of the brave, titular forest spirit against overwhelming odds are the stuff of fable and legend, with lavish storytelling and wonderful locations to explore.
Ori might be one of the best, hardest and most addictive platformers I've played in a long time.
It features devilish traps, lite-puzzles and sections that evoke a Souls level of 'try and try again until you learn why you died' mentality. Fortunately Ori can be improved as you kill monsters and find xp orbs. Ori has 3 skill trees that can be accessed when you create a Soul Link (using a portion of Ori's energy) as a save point and upgrade station in the game world. This can be done anywhere as long as there's no enemies within range, a boss battle is in the offing or you're balanced on an unstable surface.
Dying in Ori isn't bad thanks to the Soul Link mechanic, energy that powers it can come from various battles, shards of coalesced Spirit Energy lying around that you break and other sources.
You'll unlock various upgrades that let you gain health back when you Soul Link, dish out more damage with Ori's offensive abilities and swim in clean water. Some of the early skills require only one ability point, whereas further down the tree you'll be shelling out two points to get the better upgrades.
Adding these RPG-lite mechanics to the game puts a spin on the traditional platformer, encourages exploration to nab those secrets that lead to more xp, health and spirit energy upgrades. It basically layers a nice change of pace onto the normal platform game style, pushing you to return to previously explored areas and seek out everything that was denied to you the first time you passed through there.
Warning: as far as we know, you need to get everything in one run through the game.
Ori is a great little character, full of personality and charm. He controls extremely well and Moon Studios have done a stellar job on his movement. There hasn't been one moment where the controls have become clunky, a new mechanic has become annoying or a jump has been failed due to a unread button press. Add to this the various unlockable abilities as you progress further into the gorgeous forest, and you're now mixing things up with new puzzles and traversal challenges.
Learn the double jump for example and now Ori can get to places where he couldn't before, wall jumping lets you bound up walls and combining both of them sees you bouncing and leaping into tight spots over sharp thorn-like spikes that threaten to puncture our little hero in several places.
Ori can also perform a flame attack that damages enemies, his primary form of attack, and later on a charge ability that blasts minor obstructions and deals heavy damage to foes.
It's the combination of these elements, the gradual escalation of mechanics and utter simplicity of design that really makes Ori and the Blind Forest shine as a platformer. Adding in the other bells and whistles over the top of it, layering that cake with visual, audio and animation icing so thick you need a chisel to even hope to cut it just pushes it into superb territory.
It is a truly superb game and one that delights as well as challenges.
Ori's journey becomes a deeply emotional one from the first five minutes of the game, and from then on you are invested in that little guy - rooting for him every leap, bound, step and shuffle of the way.
Special mention must go to the composer Gareth Coker and his evocative, gorgeous, beautiful soundtrack to this game. Gareth's work stands alongside that of Austin Wintory in creating a soundtrack so hauntingly perfect that it's worth picking up alongside the game.
I really wasn't sure what to think of Ori when I saw the videos, I feared that we'd have a game that was beautiful, but ultimately shallow. One that looked gorgeous, sounded fantastic and in practice felt like a total let-down. It's not the case with Ori and the Blind Forest though, it's worth every penny I paid for it and I'm excited to see what Moon come up with down the line - they made something really brilliant.