With the Forest of Nibel slowly dying after a terrible storm, Ori is reborn to find the Three Elements and rekindle the light. Travel to many different areas of the forest in a beautiful Metroidvania adventure that will pull on your heart strings and leave you wanting more, which is exactly what the included DLC offers.
Metroidvania’s live and die on their controls and Ori’s movements are very fluent and agile, making traversing the forest nothing but pure joy. If you’re one for speedrunning through metroidvanias, then you’ll be happy to know that Ori and the Blind Forest caters well to this demographic. The game runs at a perfectly smooth 60 frames per second in both docked and handheld mode and not once did I feel it drop. The only technical hiccup I ran into was an initial glitch when first loading the game as the character wouldn’t move. I was forced to close the software and reopen it, but it was smooth sailing after that.
Combat is done through your light companion Sein that is done by repeatedly tapping Y. It’s interesting as it’s not directed like most other combat in Metroidvania games as the energy from your companion is sent out in multiple directions that hones in on the enemy. The Ability Tree allows you to upgrade your attacks, allowing you to attack multiple enemies at once. You can also Stomp when you learn the ability, which causes shockwaves on the ground to damage enemies. All-in-all, the combat feels disconnected and difficult to manage, making deaths feel frustrating and unwarranted.
Speaking of deaths, Ori and the Blind Forest is not an easy game. You can play it on easy mode, but the challenges that the game presents will often find you making a third, fourth and fifth attempt. I like to think that I am somewhat adept at 2D platformers but I was definitely put to the test at normal difficulty.
You can collect Small Spirit Light Containers and Energy Cells which allow you to unlock abilities and increase your stats, these are hidden throughout the world encouraging exploration. Energy Cells also allow you to create Soul Links that can be used to save your game at any moment, therefore creating custom checkpoints, and access the ability tree.
The custom checkpoints is an interesting concept which comes with its own pros and cons. On the positive, the idea of being able to set your own checkpoints after you get through a tough platforming section will often come with a sigh of relief but if you’ve taken damage, that damage will carry over when you die. It makes you consider whether it’s worth setting a a checkpoint there or not and sometimes it seems pointless to even continue and just start from the most previous one that you’d saved.
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HD Rumble is certainly present in Ori and the Blind Forest and is most commonly utilised during combat and opening up Spirit Gates. It certainly makes the game come alive and is a console exclusive feature on the Switch.
Due to how quickly Ori can move, the layout of the forest is vast with platforms that are far away from each other. I often found myself wanting to use the right analogue stick to be able to move the camera in order to see slightly ahead, but the game is amiss of this feature. The camera does do some of this work for you when it comes to difficult side challenges and the like but in order to avoid the rare cheap death, Ori and the Blind Forest could have greatly benefited from this inclusion.
With enough exploration, you will uncover Spirit Wells that act as stationery Save Points and can be used for fast travel, making traversal a lot simpler the more that you uncover. With these spread few and far between each other, they make the ability to save on the spot by use of the Energy Cells that much more valuable. Spirit Wells will also replenish your strength, acting as a safe haven for Ori.
Some areas are closed off by Spirit Gates that can be opened with the required number of Keystones which are scattered throughout the forest. This encourages exploration and to take your time exploring every corner that the world has to offer (or add an extra layer of challenge to speedrunners).
Each world area is designed in such a way that highlights the new ability that you learn. You can also collect each areas Map Stone Fragment and place them in their slot to reveal the remainder of the location’s map – very similar to most other metroidvanias in that aspect.
Prepare to be moved! Ori and the Blind Forest contains such touching moments that prefers to show rather than tell. You’ll find the occasional inclusions of narration from the forest itself that interlocks with gameplay, but it’s done so in a way that provides setting above progression.
Also, prepare to have your heart strings tugged on. Without giving away too much, there are some emotional moments throughout the game that may bring a tear to your eye. Ori and the Blind Forest can also be seen as an anti-deforestation narrative with its themes of the forest’s wellbeing and its effects on wildlife.
Graphics / Art Direction
The Nintendo Switch version runs at a flawless 1080p/60fps in docked mode and 720p/60fps in handheld mode, taking no compromises from its original version on Windows/Xbox One. This was crucial as Ori and the Blind Forest is known for its jaw-droopingly gorgeous presentation which unwaveringly translates across to an experience that can seamlessly be taken on the go.
The layering of the environments work wonders to its artistic presentation where you will notice foliage and objects out of focus to the forefront of the camera. For a strictly 2D game, this provides depth that helps to make the world come alive and feel populated.
On a negative note, there is a particular area in the game that requires precise platforming however the challenge is made that much more difficult due to its choice of dark colours. Rather than it being a challenge, it makes it frustrating any sometimes eye-straining.
Music / Sound Design
The fully orchestrated soundtrack is moving in a way that accompanies each scene with grace. You’ll often find that it focuses primarily on arrangements made up of piano and stringed instruments, resulting in a soft and melodic presence, but we’d be remiss to mention its use of vocal melodies, wind instruments and percussion during more tense moments.
If you plan on playing Ori and the Blind Forest with a decent sound system or headset, whoa Nelly are you going to feel that bass! Whether it’s opening up Spirit Gates or stomping on the ground, you’re going to feel it. Perhaps take down any picture frames you have hanging up… just saying.
Final Score: 90%
Ori and the Blind Forest is a magical experience that fits right at home on Nintendo Switch. Its challenging in occasionally awkward ways but in the end, you’d look back with such fondness that you won’t be able to keep yourself from smiling… and those visuals; absolutely breathtaking!
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- Belinda Cubitt