Ori and the Blind Forest has a charm unlike no other game in the Metroidvania genre. Its music and plot is enchanting and accompanies the beautifully artistic visuals. Despite its occasionally frustrating platforming mechanics, Ori and the Blind Forest is a colourful journey, both in its environments and character movement, and soundtrack inspired by Disney and Studio Ghibli.
Ori and the Blind Forest follows small tree spirit Ori, and his coming-of-age quest to restore light from the three pillars of the Nibel Forest and save the world from the darkness that is slowly consuming it. There’s not much to say about Ori’s story without ruining the first five minutes of the game, but the game’s plot is a kin to the sequence of events in a Legend of Zelda game. Ori travels to each “temple”, solves puzzles in the given temple and restores the temple and its surroundings to its original form. Much like other platforming adventure games of the past, Ori’s journey takes him to various well-designed and stunningly diverse environments.
The environments are creative and beautiful to look at. Particle effects are also very well done in Ori and the Blind Forest, greatening the cleverly constructed environments. Rays of light shining through parts of a lake like ‘God’s fingers’ enhance the visually appealing ground below and subtly reveal the chance of discovering a point of interest below. The contrasting light and dark themes are also powerfully captured by the game’s use of colour. Ori fires balls of light at bestial creatures clearly emphasised by their purple outline, as slimes and balls of spikes erupt and multiply from their death. Seeing this come to life is stunning despite the grotesque imagery.
Each time Ori frees an area, the world changes and the player must escape the area before they are caught in-between its transformation. Water gushes out of a tree’s roots as Ori scurries upwards for an exit in the Ginso Tree, while recovering the light of Forlorn Ruins raises wind speed to cataclysmic levels as Ori flees from the monstrous bird, Kuro.
The experience of playing Ori and the Blind Forest is much like watching a Studio Ghibli or Disney film. Without spoiling the plot of the game, Ori’s relationship with his adoptive mother, Naru, is a magical heartbreaking tale of a parent accepting their child’s readiness for the real world. The characters are amazingly characterised by their movement animation and actions, despite their lack of an active voice. Naru drags her arms against the ground and sways as she walks while Ori scurries across the ground and nimbly climbs up walls.
The music is also as echoingly enchanting as films such as My Neighbour Totoro and Mulan. The clash of vibrant percussive sounds and delicate melodies played by strings, wind instruments and a piano is a blissful harmony, visualising Ori’s journey. Each track feels heavily inspired by Disney and Studio Ghibli films alike. Climbing the Ginso Tree’s sense of discovery is a kin toPochahauntas and Mulan while Naru, Embracing the Light’s lighthearted sense of joy is comparable to anything from the My Neighbour Totoro soundtrack.
The gameplay is also engaging. Ori discovers a ball of light named Sein, and with her help is able to unlock his powers as a tree spirit. As Ori journeys in the world, he comes across new and dynamic puzzles in each temple – and as expected of a “Metroidvania” game, unlocks a new ability in each temple to solve these puzzles. Each ability can be used for platforming and combat, normalising the mechanics instead of making them a one-off thing. The game also encourages the player to create their own combinations in combat and to use the environment to their advantage. For instance, Ori can use the ball of light to throw an enemy in a direction (gaining a boosted jump towards the opposite direction), allowing the player to throw the enemy towards a pool of lava or spikes hidden in the walls.
There is also a role-playing level up system in the game, as the player can gain passive abilities or improved forms of powers unlocked in temples by specialising in one of the three skill trees. Players can unlock these skills by finding balls of orange, purple or cyan light, each giving the player a skill point in the respective tree. The cyan tree specialises in platforming, passive abilities are unlocked in the purple tree and the orange tree is used for combat. Orbs are scattered in the world map and at times can only be unlocked once the player masters each ability near the end of the game, providing an incentive to explore to reveal points of interest for later.
Ori and the Blind Forest is a very fun game. Its production value is of a very high quality, both in its rich and diverse soundtrack and sense of world-building. The combat is surprisingly engaging for a charming platform game, offering an incentive to create your own fighting style and interact with the environment in battle. The platforming can be painstakingly difficult during escape sequences but is overall entertaining. Although Ori and the Blind Forest’s charm had me hooked, its story and sense of exploration was what sustained my interest until the very end.