Ori and the Blind Forest by Moon Studios has been out for well over a year and has already seen the release of a Definitive Edition for multiple platforms, but I’ve only now just had the pleasure of playing it. Truthfully, the word pleasure is an understatement, as Ori and the Blind Forest is one of the most mind-bogglingly excellent games I’ve ever played, and is an absolute must-play for anyone with an Xbox One or a decent PC.
The story of Ori and the Blind Forest is simple, but heartfelt. Ori, a glowing white spirit-creature, lives happily in a healthy forest, but disaster strikes when a hostile bird attacks the heart of the forest’s Spirit Tree. As in most Metroidvania games, the player must traverse the landscape, gaining new powers that enable them to travel further and grow more powerful, in order to restore balance to the world. Though the storyline might sound a little typical on the surface, the game’s audio and visual design elevate the experience to another level entirely, and I’d be surprised if even the most hardened cynic didn’t find a tear in their eye during the opening cinematic.
Ori’s gameplay, as with its visuals and audio, is transcendent. As the player gains powers and grows stronger through a simple upgrade tree, Ori’s controls become second-nature. Triple-jumps and complicated combos are no trouble for an upgraded player, and combined with the game’s incredible foley and visual effects, all combos and attacks are extremely satisfying to perform. All the while, gorgeous backdrops and lighting bring the world to life, tied together by a detailed and easily-navigatable 2D map: an essential tool in any Metroidvania, where a great deal of time is spent navigating the complex world maze. Ori moves quickly, so long distances are easy to travel, though there are always plenty of items to pick up along the way.
While the game’s chase-scene challenges prove to be quite difficult, Ori can save the game in any safe area, provided that his Soul Link meter is fully charged. It’s a wonderful addition to the game, and results in the player only needing to backtrack or replay an area if they failed to set a proper checkpoint for themselves. The game’s progression is well-paced and addicting, and while the game can be finished with 100% completion in only a few hours, the entire experience is so memorable and beautiful that the short completion time is completely tolerable.
Ori and the Blind Forest is fantastic, from beginning to end. The controls are spot-on, the sound design is gorgeous and rich, the visuals are striking, charming and varied, and the overall experience is tied together beautifully with a heartfelt story and addicting game progression. If you’re running a decent PC and are a fan of Metroidvanias, 2D platformers or classic action adventure games, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Buy this game.