I just completed Ori and the Blind Forest in the last week. In short, Ori is a painstakingly crafted platformer in the style of classic 2D “Metroidvania” games from Moon Studios. I was first drawn in by the beautiful aesthetic and emotional intro that made me shed a manly tear. But I stuck around for the non-linear platformer gameplay I’ve come to love over the years.
Ori’s gameplay centers around platforming and using your abilities to surpass obstacles and progress in the game. There are RPG elements and an upgrade tree, but the game borrows more from hardcore platformers like Super Meat Boy over grindfests like Castlevania: SOTN.
Like Super Meat Boy, you will die a lot in this game. Fortunately, you can spawn save points on-demand as long as you have enough Energy. It makes for an interesting mechanic. If you see a dangerous platforming section ahead or a tough enemy, you have to weigh whether it’s worth expending Energy to spawn a save point or risk having to backtrack to the last save point if you fail. It makes energy resource management an important decision. And while backtracking can be frustrating if you didn’t save for awhile, it enforces a good habit loop over time that makes saving second nature.
The combat aspect of the game is pretty different from similar games in the genre. Ori’s main attacks are projectiles shot out from his wispy ally. This allows the player to focus on platforming and attacking at the same time.
Later on, you also get an attack that allows you to basically freeze-time and “fire” off of enemies/projectiles which is a blast. Shooting projectiles back at enemies is crucial, as well as using them as jump-off points during precarious platforming sections. The designers really nailed this dynamic and it was probably my favorite.
I didn’t 100% the game, but I tried to clear as much as I could in each area. There is backtracking but not as much as you’d expect. The world is not as large as it appears and many of the later sections can be cleared in one-go.
Despite enjoying the animated movie feel, the more scripted gameplay sequences were probably my least favorite part. In certain sections of the game, you have to clear a section that usually involves something chasing you that will kill you on contact. These involve having to replay the same section over and over until you solve it. I say solve because there isn’t a lot of agency in how you approach these sequences. There are not too many of these and if you do manage to clear them in one-go there is a nice feeling of accomplishment (and relief).
I completed the game in about 7 hours. I’d expect a few more hours would be tacked on if I went back to clear earlier sections but didn’t seem necessary. WARNING: Once you enter the last area, you can’t go back.
At one point, I took a long break from playing the game. Even though I enjoyed Ori when I was playing it, I didn’t feel a strong urgency to go back to it. It was not from a lack of conveyance in the game, which can be a problem sometimes in open-world platformers. There just wasn’t much substance. Not enough mystery to keep me fully engaged.
I’ve started playing Axiom Verge, another Metroid-inspired game, which I’m already much more into. It has more of a retro-vibe and definitely wears its inspiration on its pixelated sleeves, but also has some real surprising elements in terms of gameplay and plot that are keeping me interested. It could be more a preference thing, but I tend to like these games better.
I have to admit, I’m really excited to have options in what has been a very small genre up until recently. I would also love it if an official name would be adopted for this style of game since “Metroidvania” makes me cringe. After completing Axiom Verge, I might craft a love letter to these games to show my appreciation.
Ori makes my short list of games I’ve actually completed this year and would highly recommend it for fans of action platformers. It’s not too pricey since it’s an indie game and if you’re a bargain gamer you can always wait for the inevitable Steam sale to pick it up. I can already see it making it into my top games of 2015.
+Innovative and challenging platforming/combat
+Incredible hand-painted visuals
+Beautiful music score
+Emotional (but light) plot
-Somewhat short game length for the genre
-Not a lot of substance to keep the player fully engaged
-Annoying scripted platforming sequences