The side-scrolling platformer is a video game genre that seems as transcendent as video games themselves. No matter how many times I sit down to one, the subversive nostalgia is immersive and instantly accessible. With the indie title landscape rapidly filling with creative titles like Guacamelee, Shiftlings, and Ori and the Blind Forest, those who enjoy this style of game have plenty to choose from. Fans of classic platformers like Metroid and even a newer title like Rayman Legends will gladly find a rich and innovative home in Ori and the Blind Forest.
Beautiful and Brassy
If there is a deserving compliment that has been paid to this title ten times over it is for the beautiful and spectacular graphics. The bright and colorful environments are complimented by the smooth movement, layered scrolling, and dynamic lighting. And the use of color is brilliantly executed to give the different areas their own unique feel and identity. In fact, one of my favorite things is how distinct each area feels, and how effectively they created intensity or calm with the lush movement of foliage in the foreground or bubbling lava and rippling water. All of the pristine graphics and landscapes are encapsulated and held together by the perfect music accompaniment and sound effects. I have absolutely nothing negative to say about the graphics, sound, or music. And all the top notch graphical and musical delivery helps weave a beautiful and creative story full of tragedy, fear, and hope.
Sleek, Smooth, and Severe
The movement, skills, and abilities are accessible, simple, varied, and fun. But do not be fooled, there is a ridiculous amount of depth and difficulty beneath the apparent simplicity. Something I continually appreciated was how it reminded me of Super Metroid in that I would see areas and barriers I couldn’t get past until I unlocked a new ability. And unlocked abilities continued to have depth and difficulty tied to them as I had to string multiple together or use them in more unique or challenging ways. It also created a good level of replayability as I had to retread old ground now able to jump higher or break through previously impassible obstacles.
Now, something I’ve consistently seen said as a warning, and even some have said it’s a mark against the game, is that it is a hard game. It became abundantly true that this game is not for the faint of heart or weak of thumbs within the first ten minutes. In a previous post I said the saving mechanic in Rayman Legends allowed them to ratchet up the difficulty to create an “I’ve almost got it” mentality with an abundance and consistency of checkpoints. Ori and the Blind Forest does something similar by allowing the player to save checkpoints anytime and almost anywhere you want, enabling the player to minimize the exhaustion that can come from the more challenging parts. And believe me, there are parts that are very, very challenging. The level of difficulty, however, is probably going to frustrate many people as the look and feel of the game does not communicate the brutal and unforgiving challenges that await you. When I was streaming the game on my twitch I kept warning people that it was not a kids game even though it looks like a living cartoon. But as a self-professed rager, I’ve already managed to beat the game (I honestly think streaming on twitch kept me more calm and focused). Now full disclosure, I’ve sunk a lot of hours into many difficult levels in Rayman Legends and I definitely felt that gave me a leg up on many of the quick-reflex- stay-on-your-toes areas. So proceed with caution, patience, and I can’t say this enough, save save save save… SAVE.
Even though I have almost nothing but praise for this game, I do have two gripes. The first is the “learn by dying” mechanic that shows up periodically. Thankfully this only started really happening around the midway point of the game, which means you should have already established the habit of saving it frequently. Even still, there were a few “run as fast as you can” levels that became slightly annoying because the only way to figure it out was by dying numerous times from things that drop or fly out of nowhere. I like the difficulty and how it stretches me to my limits of reflexes and awareness, but I didn’t like feeling ripped off and sent back to the start. My second gripe literally just became a gripe, because after beating the game I booted it up the following day hoping to snag all the remaining collectibles and challenges. To my great disappointment, however, I learned that once you beat the game you cannot open your saved game ever again. The absence of replayability is completely and utterly baffling to me. Especially in a game that is so reminiscent of Super Metroid with the need to revisit old ground with new abilities. And if you are going to do this then at least warn the player they are about to seal their game shut like a vault. Hopefully there is enough fan outcry that they decide to patch this as I don’t think it would be that difficult to let players back into their games. Just in case they never do, just a heads up, if you get to a level where the ground is too hot to stand on and you are going in different doors to clog and stop lava from flowing, turn back to get all your challenges and collectibles because you are very close to the end of the game.
Everyone Should Buy It
This game is probably more for fans of classic and more challenging platformers from the days of the NES and SNES. Having said that, I think for the $20, everyone should give it a try. If you get stuck watch some of my clips when I make a video review to pick up on some tips and movement strategies. And if enough people ask I can do some how to videos since I’ve managed to get past the toughest gauntlets the game could throw at me. So don’t pass on this incredibly creative, immersive, and beautiful game just because it’s difficult. Like climbing a mountain, the view is worth the work.
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