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Spirits and adventure ablaze in 'Ori and the Blind Forest'

Matt Daniels
Staff Writer

“Ori and the Blind Forest” is a platformer-adventure game by indie developer Moon Studios, and is meant to be an homage to classic side scrolling adventure games such as the “Metroid” and “Castlevania” series. Despite having a few problems, the game does quite a good job of being both a great platformer and an aesthetic treat.

After the short, emotional prologue that may require some tissues on standby, the game begins as you guide the cute forest spirit Ori through a grand forest to bring life back to the Spirit Tree. Meanwhile, a giant, demonic bird called Koru stalks Ori throughout the game, with the intention of destroying him and the Spirit Tree. The game features a sprawling, interconnected world filled with secrets like powerups that increase your health and trees that grant you new abilities.

"Ori and the Blind Forest" is a platform adventure video game designed by Moon Studios, an independent developer. (Photo courtesy of kotaku.co.uk)
“Ori and the Blind Forest” is a platformer-adventure video game designed by Moon Studios, an independent developer. (Photo courtesy of kotaku.co.uk)

You attack enemies with a fairy buddy who will hit enemies who are closeby. Defeating enemies gives you experience that after earning enough gives you points you can spend in a skill tree to expand your abilities even further. Experience orbs can also be found that will level you up even quicker, giving you more incentive to explore.

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One of the first things you’ll notice are the fantastic visuals. The game’s art style is akin to Disney cartoons, with lots of colors and beautiful environments and animations. It’s truly a beautiful game, and it’s definitely impressive compared to many other indie games that instead go for the retro look with 8-bit or 16-bit pixel graphics. Unfortunately the game does suffer from some performance issues at times like sudden stuttering and lag. However, they’re generally negligible, and rarely do hiccups happen in vital gameplay segments.

The level design is extremely well done and does a good job of directing you where to go without holding your hand. Gaining new abilities and new ways to traverse the different areas and opening up new paths you couldn’t reach before gives you a nice feeling of progression and is very rewarding. The only parts of the game where the level design gets a little iffy are the dungeon areas. Each of the three dungeons in the game, after completion, ends with an escape segment that puts your platforming skills to the test. While difficulty is definitely appreciated in this era of overly accessible, dull games, the problem is that it’s very uneven. For example, the first dungeon’s escape portion is easily the hardest part of the game, with the second and third sequences being much shorter and easier.

The player is stalked by a demonic owl throughout the game. (Photo courtesy of bleedingcool.com)
The player is stalked by a demonic bird throughout the game. (Photo courtesy of bleedingcool.com)

Alongside that, dying at these sections forces you to restart from the very beginning, which can get extremely frustrating. This is also where the art style becomes more of a nuisance. Due to how many things are going on and how easily certain parts of the environment can blend in with the background, it can be hard to tell exactly what you’re supposed to do or where you’re supposed to go, making some deaths feel a bit unfair. Fortunately, these are the only parts of the game that are designed that way, with the rest of the game having a natural feeling difficulty curve.

As far as controls go, they’re overall nice and smooth. Ori’s movements and animations feel very in-sync with your button presses. You can execute some crazy stuff as you accumulate more abilities which is extremely satisfying to pull off. If there’s any other issues, there’s no fast travel system. Something like the teleporters in “Super Metroid” that allowed you to quickly access areas to explore them more for more secrets, instead of having to spend a few minutes going across the entire map, would have been appreciated.

Overall, “Ori and the Blind Forest” is a beautiful game that would be near perfection if it weren’t for a few frustrating sections, and is definitely worth a shot.

Score: 4/5