If there's one genre of game that's been around the block a few times it's the old platformer, tried, tested, reinvented, repainted and resurrected more times than Bill Murray. When 3D environments were staring to become possible there were those who foretold the demise of the humble 'side on' platformer. It was a fair assumption, who would want 2D when 3D offered so much more? Yet platform games are still around and in actual fact are having something of a renaissance. Isn't hindsight great.
So what has Ori and the Blind Forest got going for itself? Read on to find out.
Ori is by far the best looking platform game I've ever seen, it's just so eye meltingly stunning that it's looks have to to be considered as a real and tangible part of why I found this game so enjoyable. From the vivid colour pallet, stupendously organic levels and jaw dropping scenes, it just pops and each area looks like it's been hand painted. One element used in many visually impressive platformers in recent times and is adding depth through a multitude of tricks and techniques. In Ori the art team have accomplished new highs in this area by not only making every seen from multiple layers but then saturating each one with beautiful details that really complement the whole scene from top to bottom. So while the game is on paper a side on platform game it very often feels like a three dimensional world.
Those who know me know I'm a sucker for water in games, if there's a body of water you will invariably see me hurtling towards it doffing off my cloths to explore the sunken secrets. While fairly sparse the swimming in Ori is a lovely thing. You feel almost as nimble under the surface as you do among the trees, as mentioned before there is also a wonderful sense of depth as the water almost seems to be pressed up to your monitor waiting to burst out. Of course static visuals would be nothing if the game world wasn't animated with equal skill and thankfully Moon studios did an excellent job. I cannot convey in words how the animations and movement just flow across the screen, it's like they digitised oil paint and gave it life. It's easy to compare this game is a Pixar film but one in which you take control and guide our hero on her epic journey.
The story of Ori starts which an emotional wallop, she is the child of a great tree which has gone into a deep sleep. This in turn has plummeted the forest into a state of winter and decimated the food supplies. With little food Ori loses her friend and guardian to starvation and so she sets out to set things right and seek answers. While this story isn't the most complicated the way it is delivered makes this an unforgettable tale that will stay with you hours after you've put down the controller.
The narrative is intrinsically linked to the musical score which is quite simply stunning. The music you hear as you play Ori is not just melody, it is a character in the game that speaks to you as events transpire. From the soothing echoes of water caverns to the dramatic race to survive in the games three 'end of area' escape sequences, the music shifts, roars and expertly carries you through the emotional highs and lows like a friend who has been here before.
Not just a pretty face
Okay enough about the visuals and sound, how does Ori actually play? I'm really happy to say this game plays as good as it looks, the platforming is precise, challenging and very satisfying. When you first set out you have the basics, run and jump. However in true Metroid fashion you pick up new skills along the way that then allow you to access previously inaccessible areas. Often it's up to the player to decide if you wish to return to areas in order to collect all the secrets but it's certainly not required. This is because the skill level of the game is in a really good place for most of the ride, with the odd puzzle or reflex challenge that will have your shouting 'come on!' at the screen in true platforming tradition. So collecting every health boost or ability bubble is totally at the players discretion.
Some of the new skills are right out of the platformer handbook, double jump, ground stomp and so on. However some skills are quite unique and really force to you think about what you're doing, the slingshot skill for instance uses any enemy, projectile or lamp to catapult you in the direction of your choosing. This is quite cool as the projectile or enemy gets flung in the opposite direction opening up some great possibilities. There are other gameplay mechanics that unfold later in the game which are also fairly clever and really can have you scratching your head as to what to do. Like trying to describe the visuals, this is best seen in action so please check out my game footage montage below.
Is it PC?
Not much to say here guys, Ori and the Blind Forest works beautifully on PC and with the extra zing of a HD monitor your eyes will be having pixelgasms (new word TM). The graphical settings are a little sparse but in all honesty it works so well out if the box you really don't need to fiddle. As for controls this is also an easy one, some games are just made to be played with analogue thumb sticks and this is one such game. I use a normal 360 controller but I'm sure most pads will do the job just fine, you can play with mouse and keyboard but I would not recommend it
One question that seems to have been fired around the interweb forums, is Ori a girl or a boy? While the developers have said Ori has no gender distinction the name Ori (which in Hebrew means 'my light') is female in origin. My own personal feelings are that Ori is a girl, I cannot say exactly why or qualify this with any real evidence: that's just how she comes across to me.
While Ori isn't an indi game I do think the current indi scene being so healthy helps developers justify the existence of games like Ori. On paper or in a pre-development pitch I suspect this game sounds pretty generic, in fact in many ways Ori isn't doing anything that hasn't been done before. However as a very famous comedian used to say, "it's the way you tell em" and this is true of video games. Every single part of this game feels like it was cared for and placed with love and attention to detail. We have just heard that Ori will be getting an expansion of sorts which is great but I'm also hoping for a fully fledged sequel as this is one new IP that has certainly picked up a lot of fans very quickly.
Whatever comes in the future I do know I will play through this game many times as it's got such fantastic replay value and can be beaten in an afternoon once you've become proficient with the controls. I can't imagine many gamers who wouldn't enjoy this title and so I can happily recommend you play it as soon as you can. Just make sure you pack a box of tissues for the opening sequence.