Ori and the Blind Forest

Introduction

While flipping through one of the Game Informers we have lying around the apartment, I saw a small feature for Ori and the Blind Forest. I’m always on the lookout for games with a strong focus on the art, and even from the small stills in the article, it was clear that Ori would fit that bill.
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A Focus on Art and Atmosphere

Ori is all about visual impact. Every single frame of the game is stunning, and I took more screenshots than my poor Steam account knew how to handle. (That’s an exaggeration. I’m actually super-impressed with how Steam handled my barrage of screenshots.) The entire world is a painting come to life with seamless transitions from gameplay to cut-scenes and back again, and no load screens between areas to break the flow of the game. It’s a game that is easy to get lost in. A game I spent many happy hours simply running through and exploring.

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I’ve played other beautifully atmospheric games  (here’s looking at you Journey), but Ori stands apart. It’s so beautiful that while playing, I felt some of the beauty rubbing off on me. Everything was so seamless that, once I mastered the controls, moving through the forest became an act of creative participation. It’s difficult to explain, but once I would hit these states of flow — of perfect forest-creature parkour — I began to feel beautiful. The closest comparison I can make is the feeling that floods my body after a particularly good yoga session.

Gameplay and Control

The controls of Ori are fundamental to its sense of beauty. If things weren’t so tight, the flow of movement that makes the game so enjoyable would never occur. That’s not to say that the whole thing was a big art-fest with no focus on the gameplay. Ori is hard. Its beautiful exterior and story of love and restoration act as a somewhat misleading exterior to a fiendishly tricky puzzle-platformer.

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While the puzzles (mostly levers and block-pushing) are clever and challenging, the platforming is what really gave me trouble during my run-through. I play a lot of puzzle games, but platformers are fewer and further (farther?) between, so I had to work hard for my progress. The feeling of knowing what to do but being not quite able to pull it off was a familiar friend throughout Ori, which was frustrating, but did lead to a lot of moments of pure triumph. Having to really earn progress makes Ori an immensely satisfying game — not just the cute escape that you see in advertisements and features.

But it’s not all rainbows and butterflies — I do have a major complaint. I played Ori on a controller, since I find platforming with mouse and keyboard to be an exercise in needless frustration. And the game boasts its “full controller support.” It has full controller support, but only if you have the right controller. Trying to get things up and running on both the PS3 and PS4 controllers was futile, despite hours wasted trying. I scoured the Steam forums and downloaded all the programs that would supposedly allow me to use equipment I already owned to play the game, all for naught. Nothing worked, no matter how many times I mapped the buttons.

My husband and I had been tossing around the idea of buying a Steam controller anyway, so off we went to the GameStop down the road and bought their last one (because I’m too impatient for online ordering). Less than five minutes after opening the box, I was up and running, no problems at all. Once paired with the controller it wanted, Ori’s mechanics never got in the way.

Story and Characters

Last, but certainly not least, there’s the story. Without giving any spoilers, the story is simple and sweet with a dark underbelly. It’s sad, but in a way that softens the heart, not hardens it like many others. It is a story of love and kindness, despite the violence and anger present within the world.
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This bittersweet tale only works because the characters are so lovable. Though none of them speak, they’re easy to get attached to. Adorable and/or stunning character models have a lot to do with this, but their interactions with each other impart a lot of sympathy as well.

Recommendation

If you have any interest in Ori, but something has been keeping you from pulling the trigger, go ahead and buy it. It’s a great game that’s well worth your time and money.

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