Ori and the Blind Forest is Breathtaking… and Frustrating

I love me a good Metroidvania game. The adventure, the exploration, the feeling of growing stronger, they scratch an itch few other games can reach. Games like Symphony of the Night, Hollow Knight, and the Metroid games are some of my favorite pass times.

Now, I can add a new game to that list. That game being, as you may have guessed from the title, Ori and the Blind Forest.

This game took me completely by surprise. It manages to deliver a memorable and powerful story with minimal dialogue, and it’s gorgeous to boot! I can easily see why so many people adore this game.

However, it’s far from perfect. But we’ll get to that later.

Deep in the forest of Nibel, the infant guardian spirit, Ori, is adopted by the kindly Namu. But when the forest begins to wither and Ori is left orphaned once again, the little spirit is sucked along onto a journey to revive the dying land. But with the vicious Kuro, a large and deadly owl, seeking to destroy the light once and for all, will Ori be able to restore it?

Less is more. While Ori and the Blind Forest does still have dialogue, it’s more to give the player information on what to do and where to go. All of the actual plot progression and character development is delivered entirely through character actions, facial expressions, and the music.

And it’s incredible! The first ten minutes alone got me immediately hooked on this world and these characters, getting me emotionally invested without a single word! And the ending! Oh my god, it was amazing!

Of course, silent storytelling requires some strong visuals to make it work. Luckily, Ori and the Blind Forest is one of the most gorgeous games I have ever played! It’s so bright, colorful, vibrant, and detailed! Like a storybook came to life!

All of that in the Unity engine. God damn.

The real star of the show here is the music. Holy hell, this score is genuinely jaw-dropping! Gareth Choker’s score is truly beautiful, with each track perfectly magnifying the sense of wonder, fear, and emotion in the game!

But how about the actual game? Is Ori and the Blind Forest a fun Metroidvania? Or is it just a pretty one?

Honestly, I didn’t care much for the first few hours of the game. Ori’s moves are extremely limited and the controls are clunky; I swear, I’d tap the stick and Ori would just go flying! However, as the game goes on and Ori’s movement options expand, it really hits its stride. Hopping off of enemies, zipping around at high speeds, it feels amazing!

There are also some minor RPG elements here. Throughout your adventure, you’ll gather what is essentially EXP, either from killing enemies or gathering items in the world. With these, you can buy passive buffs or new skills. Don’t worry, you won’t need to grind; I maxed out fairly early on, with plenty of items still left in the game to collect.

Unfortunately, combat is fairly limited in this game. Ori only ever gets four moves with which they can fight, none of them being particularly exciting. In the end, it’s just a whole lot of mashing the attack button.

Then there’s the checkpoint system. See, you can set your own checkpoints and save at any point. However, you’ll need to actually remember to do it. If it slips your mind and you go a while without saving and die, you’ll need to redo that entire segment again.

This is particularly frustrating in the game’s big cinematic escape sequences, when control of the checkpoint system is taken away from you. At first, these set pieces are amazing! The music is amazing, they’re gorgeous, and the tension is incredible! Unfortunately, they’re also full to the brim with ultra-precise platforming and one-hit kills, making it super easy to fail and die. Which means you’ll need to go back and do the whole thing from the beginning over and over again.

Yeah, I got pretty frustrated playing this game.

Even still, I loved Ori and the Blind Forest. It was beautiful and compelling through and through. Not to mention that it’s short. You can finish the whole game in a day, if you set your mind to it.

Which you should. If for no other reason than you get to play the next game afterwards.

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