This review is for the Xbox One version of Ori and the Blind Forest.
The tight controls, beautiful presentation and exciting gameplay make Ori and the Blind Forest a must-play. The areas you will explore are diverse and equally gorgeous the entire way through. Returning to old sections is easy and fun due to your nicely designed movement. Spending a good deal of time in this world is easy and rewarding since Ori maintains a wonderful amount of enjoyment throughout.
The world around you is dying after a major light wiped out much of the life. Your goal is to jump, fling and swim your way through various degrees of puzzle-like danger. The world is laid out in a metroidvania setup. That is to say, you will be required to return to previously explored areas, with new abilities, in order to access different sections. This allows for a great deal of exploration to be had. Stages that were too high will be accessible once the double (or triple) jump is unlocked as you progress through the story. Secret areas will require you to increase your platforming and puzzle solving skill. There’s a great amount of hidden content to find and it all adds together to make your character stronger. Exploring every area several times manages to be fun and desirable.
What adds to this thirst for unlocking everything is the smartly designed skill tree. There are three tracks for you to progress your way through. The first focuses on increasing your maneuverability in the world, the second adds more information to the map in order to help you find hidden items, while the last increases your attack damage and range. All three are important and every upgrade feels significant and worthwhile. Exploring the Blind Forest is fun and you are rewarded nicely for doing so.
It will be obvious why you are able to play for so long and repeat so much, with a maintained enjoyment, since the game handles really well. Your character's movement and air controls are tight and the feedback is great. Much like how Super Meat Boy felt just right in its platforming, so too does Ori and the Blind Forest (the wall jumping mechanic is even brought over). Along with this, the unique feature this game employs is a slingshot mechanic. When your character is close to an enemy, or its projectile, you can pause time for a brief moment and point where to launch yourself. This adds another level of speed and movement to the game as well as giving you an additional attack since the object you shoot off of is propelled in the opposite direction. This move allows for a wide range of use throughout the game and offers up a mechanic unique to Ori.
Another interesting design decision is the game save mechanic. Apart from a few stations throughout the map that will replenish yourself and save your progress, you can manually save by using up one of your energy stones. These stones are also used for your more powerful attack, opening specific doors, etc. Forcing you to use an expendable resource when wanting to save makes the action much more stressful than normal. Deciding when to spend it or try and make it through another tough set of obstacles causes your decision to be much more meaningful. This creates a fun risk-reward situation to play with as you move through the campaign.
This is all packaged together in one of the nicest looking games on the Xbox One. The art looks fantastic in a crisp, yet painterly aesthetic. Similar to the Wii’s A Boy and His Blob in design but more vibrant and detailed. When compared to how different each of the environments look it is easy to appreciate this game.
The biggest grievance with Ori comes forward when you complete the story. After finishing the main game you are no longer able to go back into your save file and continue exploring the world - searching for more secrets and unlocking new abilities. The game locks you out; only able to restart a brand new quest (no new game plus). Metroidvania games pride themselves on constant exploration and continuous back travelling for more rewards but Ori and the Blind Forest works completely against that upon completion. This is such a weird decision considering how well it got everything else. I can only hope there will be an update in the future to allow me to continue.
Unfortunately it should be noted that the Xbox One version of the game is a bit buggy. Mainly, there are constant hitches when starting up the game. This may be from the auto-resume feature on the system or not. I repeatedly had to exit the game after launching it, quit the application, and restart it in order to play. It happened almost every time. This annoying bug is easy to work around, happens in the one instance, and luckily the developers are working on a patch at the moment.
Ori and the Blind Forest is an almost perfect game in execution. It handles nicely, looks great, and is exciting and interesting the entire way through. Exploring each of the gorgeous areas is a treat and hunting for every last secret is fun and worthwhile. It is such a major shame that I was denied when wanting to jump back in for more. Apart from an odd decision upon completion, Ori and the Blind Forest is a fantastic metroidvania game.