Lexi’s review: Ori and the Blind Forest

I picked up Ori after ABG was about halfway thru his play through. I was told the game was a true gem that hit all the right notes. I picked up the game and can say it was beyond impressive and definitely has a full recommendation for anyone to buy and enjoy. It has a lovely story that is both portrayed in a really cute way and still retains a large amount of heft. The way the narrative is laid out is fun and intuitive. It’s also very clear a vast amount of effort went into tuning the experience so it always felt alive and progresses naturally.

I played Ori and the Blind Forest on PC with a series X controller. Booting up the game I hit the only issue I had with the entire experience, the screen resolution was set to some strange cap that was not on the list of possible resolutions. A quick online search and I found it was related to a bug conflicting with my high DPI settings on my mouse, I went into the local files and told windows to let the game handle DPI scaling and the issue was resolved. It was easy enough to find the solution and fix it so it didn’t affect the experience at all, at the same time I share this in case anyone reading this runs into a similar issue.

So into the game, It starts with the basic plot set up needed for you to understand everything you need to know which isn’t much at all, I’m not going to go into even the basic details because it’s just a fun game to experience. So the game starts and you are immediately hit with some music and the artwork in the game and both achieve exactly what they are supposed to do, instantly drag you into this world and not let go. From the opening walk sequence there is a small pond you walk by while it rains and it caused me to stop and just enjoy the incredible visual art of it. This is a trend that continued throughout my play through, the foreground and background are just flawlessly animated. The game is worth it on just the visuals, walking through all the different areas in the map itself gives an experience I will remember for a long time and, due to the nature of it’s animated look, this game will hold up with time no matter how far forward tech goes. I’m very excited to start the sequel, but that’s for a different time. Right now I’m just going to fondly remember the visuals of this first game.

From visuals to audio, as mentioned earlier the music is fantastic. There is never a point in this game where the music doesn’t bring a layer of extra dimension to the experience. Though I will call out particular moments that where highs for me with the music and that’s all the escape sequences. I’ll touch on this more later but this game does not have boss fights, it has well tuned escape sequences. In these sequences the music that plays is just special. I’m not sure exactly why it’s so right for the moment but failing and restarting the sequence is almost more preferable over a perfect escape because you get to listen to these tracks longer. All of the escapes could have been copy pastes of repeating patterns to drag out the runtime of those tracks and it would still be fun because I genuinely love the music. I can’t say if the music or art pulls more weight in those crucial moments, so I won’t. But this is just music, we are talking audio, I’d hate to gloss over the fact the general sounds in this game are gorgeous. Every sound is where it should be and watching Ori traverse through this world, all adorable noises included, hits you deep in your heart. I’d very much recommend not rushing through this game and trying to experience as much of the atmosphere as possible. Really try to look at, and listen to, as much of the details as possible. Extreme props to the entire design team for bringing together such a perfect experience. This game would be a definite must buy at this point even if the gameplay was simple or dull.

Luckily the gameplay is as polished as everything else. The controls are tight and responsive. It expects you to understand and be skilled with the controls. There is a “story” difficulty which I didn’t play which may be much more forgiving on sloppy controls and I’ll try to give those kinds of difficulties a shot in the future as well to see how the experiences change. for this game, Ori is a platformer and platformer puzzles are the heart of this game. if you read ABG’s review then you got the Forlorn Ruins alluded to as the gravity puzzle, and the entire sequence is a fantastic gravity puzzle. It forces you to think of the direction of gravity, or down traditionally, as any possible direction. I won’t give away anymore because it’s too much fun to play and figure out. The Forlorn Ruins is the second main sequence you have to accomplish in the plot and by the time you get there you should have already progressed enough to start to define your person style. As you progress through the game you have two methods for getting stronger, a skill tree, and literal trees you find that grant a special skill. You do not need to find all of these unique skills to beat this game and the required skills are all along your path so they are hard to miss. There are also health and Energy pick ups that increase both stats, and experience pick ups that vastly increase your experience gains. Now many of these are easy to miss. If you read ABG’s review, he noted that he didn’t get many of these and he only got he required skills. I took the opposite route and competed this game with 100% completion. Though we played on the same difficulty, our experiences were, at times, crushingly different. there were many sequences that were make or break for him that I would have struggled to fail with my 400% larger health pool. The disparity in our experiences shows how meaningful the upgrades in this game are. They can make up for mistakes and give you far more breathing room. That said, there are still quite a few hazards that are 1 hit loses, no matter your upgrades. and in these moments you really do have to either be very tight with movement, or extremely creative with your movements. That second part, Creative, calls back to those optional special skills as well. In particular you have one that lets you throw a ball of energy. Initially it’s purpose is lighting lanterns from afar, but you get another skill that allows you to launch yourself off enemies and projectiles and it’s that projectile part that opens up creatively. Launching yourself off your own projectile allows you to reach heights far out of traditional reach and I used that trick to brute force multiple puzzles where charged jump was the intended solution. This allowed me to collect about 80% of all collectibles before I was halfway through the game. That alone made my play through very comfortable and easy, aside from instant deaths. My advice for this game is look around everywhere and Try to follow the paths that appear to be one way treks, normally they will lead to a skill that allow you to traverse back to the start. That’s a little counter to traditional game exploring where you always go down paths you can back track from first. If you play with usual exploring tactics, you most likely will accidentally go the “correct” way and advance the plot. if you do this you can always back track and reach all previous places at any time so it’s not a big deal. But stacking up multiple upgrades early drastically changes the experience. Beyond that tip, explore anyway you desire till your heart’s content. The only time you can’t back track is during those earlier mentioned escape sequences. These are all relatively short sequences that take up the usual spot for boss fights. You are a small adorable floofball, you’re not gearing up for boss fights so escape is your goal. During these sequences there are common hazards that will one shot you, there is normally some dynamic changing circumstance that acts as a time limit and these sequences consistently ask you to demonstrate deeper layers off mechanical mastery compared to the more relaxed pace of the usual game. They are all fun, but can be very challenging if you are either “only ok” at platformers, or you have not been on top of collecting skills. Dash, triple jump, infinite underwater breathing, and health upgrades are all extremely useful in these moments and can turn a messed up run into a clear. But without them you may find yourself in a sequence where you have to pull off a series of well timed movements without a mistake and that can become very difficult as the game moves forward. I love these escape sequences but you can’t brute force your way through them so really try to learn skills as you find them. The deeper you understand the mechanics, the easier and more relaxing the ride. Though, easy or not, I believe it’s a ride everyone should try.

To wrap this up, Ori and the Blind Forest is a special game, with a lot of heart, a world that will drag you in, a narrative that is cute and still hits you, and gameplay that will challenge you in a rewarding and addicting way. I’m not sure about giving games a rating like X/10 in reviews, but I can say resoundingly that Ori and the Blind Forest is a 10/10 game.

Extra readings. A few things, first, when you unlock a map door, if you stand all the way against it then Ori stands at the foot of the door, hands on the door looking up at it as it opens and it is too damn cute. Literally too damn cute. All of Ori’s animations are way too maddeningly cute but that one is just too much. Second, this game has the best swimming I’ve ever seen in a game. The swimming is mind bendingly pretty and you should go experience it. Third, ABG also turned me onto Hades in the same way as Ori a while back, Hades is a 10/10 game for many of the same reasons, though not a platformer and instead an isometric roguelike, and you should definitely, definitely go buy Hades, It’s amazing, buy it. A review for Hades will be in the future, until then, buy it.

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